Tarja Halonen life and biography

Tarja Halonen picture, image, poster

Tarja Halonen biography

Date of birth : 1943-12-24
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Helsinki, Finland
Nationality : Finnish
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-07-22
Credited as : Politician, President of Finland, World's political leader

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Tarja Halonen, also known as Tarja Kaarina Halonen born December 24, 1943 in Helsinki, Finland is a Finnish politician and lawyer and the current President of Finland. The first female to hold the office, Halonen had previously been a member of the parliament from 1979 to 2000 when she resigned after her election to the presidency. In addition to her political career she had a long and extensive career in trade unions and different non-governmental organizations.

Halonen is a graduate of the University of Helsinki, where she studied law from 1963 to 1968. She was active in student politics and served as the Social Affairs Secretary and Organization Secretary of the National Union of Students from 1969 to 1970. In 1971 she joined the Social Democratic Party and worked as a lawyer in the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions until she was elected to parliament in 1979.

For nearly thirty years Tarja Halonen has exemplified the indomitable and democratic spirit of Finland's left. In February 2000, that spirit was rewarded when she became Finland's first female president. She was reelected in 2006.

Halonen was born on December 24, 1943 in Helsinki, Finland. As were many young people during the 1960s she was drawn to leftist causes, and her devotion to such causes only deepened over the years. She graduated from Helsinki University in 1968 with a law degree. While a student she had been the social affairs secretary and then (in 1969-70) general secretary of Finland's Student Alliance. During her final year at Helsinki University (1967-68) she worked in the law department of Lainvalvonta Ltd. In 1970 she became a labor lawyer with the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions SAK.

Supported Social Justice

Through her movement work during the ensuing years she tirelessly sought to expand workers' rights and civil rights and promote social justice in Finland, while always looking outward to the international aspects of her politics. Her seemingly tireless efforts are almost too numerous to recount. She was a member of the International Solidarity Foundation, the Iberian-American Foundation, the Finland-Nicaragua Association, and the Finland-Chile Association.

Halonen has also been a member of the Finnish Romany Association and the Sexual Equality Alliance. She was a member of the contingent against racism, Finland's Settlement Alliance, an alliance for the elderly and neighborhood services, as well as the Central Alliance for leaseholders.

Made Political Advances

Halonen's political career moved into another phase in 1974 when Prime Minister Kalevi Sorsa appointed her as his parliamentary secretary. She served in this post until 1975. In 1977 she was elected to the Helsinki City Council; she remained on the council until 1996. In 1979 Halonen was also elected to the Finnish parliament, where she remained until 2000.

After five years in parliament Halonen was named to chair the Social Affairs Committee, a post she held until 1987. She relinquished it after her old mentor, Sorsa, helped her secure a government position as minister of social affairs. She held this post until 1990 and then became justice minister. She remained in the justice ministry until 1991. Almost simultaneous with these two ministry posts she served as minister for Nordic cooperation.

In 1991 President Mauno Koivisto appointed Esko Aho as prime minister and Halonen found herself out of the government, though she still retained her seats on the Helsinki City Council and in Parliament where she bided her time.

Her next big political moment came in 1995 after Paavo Lipponen was appointed prime minister (Matti Ahtisaari was now the country's president) and he in turn named Halonen as his foreign minister. In April 1996 she and her Swedish counterpart, Lena Hjelm-Wallen, worked up a joint position paper redefining neutrality through a stance that sought "to develop the potential of the EU [European Union] as a peace project." The two foreign ministers then published the paper in leading newspapers of their countries and sent it on to the various EU states. The paper also called for all military action to be sanctioned by the United Nations.

The next year, as NATO was making initial rumblings about expanding into eastern Europe, Halonen urged caution. She also declared Finland's nonaligned status and its neutrality. A month after her declaration, in March 1997, Finland was abuzz when Russian president Boris Yeltsin warned Finland against joining NATO, prior to his arrival in Helsinki for a summit meeting with U.S. president Bill Clinton. Various Finnish politicians were upset by Yeltsin's heavy-handed ploy, but Halonen and Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen confirmed their two countries' commitment to neutrality: "Finland and Sweden have not abandoned their policy of military nonalignment," they wrote in a joint statement.

In 1999, when Lipponen formed his second cabinet, he reappointed Halonen as his foreign minister. That same year, as EU Council president, she came out in favor of Russia's, China's, and Vietnam's entry into the World Trade Organization. In December she led an EU delegation to India to discuss nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and to set the stage for a summit meeting between India and the EU.

Inaugurated as President

Her announcement that she was seeking the office of Finland's president as a Social Democrat, after Ahtisaari declined to run for another term, surprised very few, but in the early days of the campaign she lagged behind her old rival, Esko Aho of the Center Party. Then suddenly a mid-January 2000 poll placed her even with Aho, with each receiving 38 percent of the vote (there were five other candidates) and the race was on. In the January 16 election Halonen had forged ahead of Aho: 39.9 percent to 34.6 percent, which meant the two were headed for a February 6, 2000 runoff election. Halonen won that election with 51.6 percent to Aho's 48.4 percent. She was inaugurated for a six-year term on March 1, 2000.

In May she was again pressing her now five-year-old plan of the EU's involvement in establishing a crisis-management system for maintaining peace in Europe. As the head of a nonaligned state she was calling for NATO cooperation as she sought to make the EU independent of the U.S.-dominated organization in terms of peacekeeping matters.

In 2005, Halonen was reelected for another term, which will last until 2012. Nora Boustany of CNN interviewed Halonen when the latter made a visit to the United States seven weeks after her inauguration. Regarding her being Finland's first woman president, Halonen said she had succeeded, "In spite of my background [and] social status, I had no money for one campaign--I was too radical; I was never married. You may have had dreams when you were young, but you must make the best out of what you have, and you must live as well as you can, even if you have broken dreams. And society should support you."

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