Europe has always been an important part of my life. Both in politics and academia, I have focused on European integration. In my student days in Finland I was active in European youth and student cooperation. Prior to that, I followed with great interest the negotiations on the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. Its Final Act, which was signed in Helsinki in 1975, laid a foundation for subsequent enlargements of the EU – though no-one could of course foresee it at the time. The human rights articles in this historic document gave the citizens of Central and Eastern Europe tools that eventually helped dismantle the Iron Curtain.
Inspired by that same spirit of Helsinki, I went on to study economics, international relations and journalism at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1982-83. Later on, I received a Master's degree in political science from the University of Helsinki in 1989 and completed my Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Oxford in 1996. Reading history and political economy remain close to my heart.
In the 1990s, as part of my parliamentary activity, I was the Chairman of the Finnish Delegation to the Council of Europe and Vice-President of the Liberal Group in the European Parliament. I have also been Vice-President of the European Movement in Finland.
Between 2002 and 2003, before taking up a post as the economic policy adviser to the Prime Minister of Finland, I pursued my academic interests as professor and research director at the Department of Political Science and Centre for European Studies at the University of Helsinki.
Before being appointed Commissioner for enlargement in autumn 2004, I served for some months as Commissioner for enterprise and information society in the Prodi Commission. In 1998–2002, I worked as the Head of Cabinet of the first Finnish Commissioner.
My special interests include football, reading, rock and jazz