Heidi is well-known in Europe as an efficient, versatile and expert player in Green politics. She is focused on human rights, transparency, global justice and environmentally responsible legislation.
‘I am at my best when looking for solutions to problems both great and small, from my own street block to the global scale’, she has noted. Read more on Human rights diary.
A professional at making the world a better place
Heidi has been elected to the European parliament for a third time in the 2014-2019 term. She was formerly an MEP from 1995-2003 and 2009-2011. She is the only Finn to have chaired a European parliament political group or committee. As chair of the parliament’s subcommittee on human rights she had the unique opportunity to influence the human rights situation all over the world.
In Finland she was the minister for international development from June 2011 to October 2013. She was responsible for development cooperation in the ministry for foreign affairs and for state ownership steering in the prime minister’s office. She sat as a member of the Finnish parliament from 1991-1995 and 2003-2009, and chaired its legal affairs committee from 2007-2009.
She served as a member of the Helsinki city council 1985-1994 and 2008-2014.
Before her political career, Heidi was active in many areas; she helped to found the legendary Kasvis vegetarian restaurant, completed her master’s degree in agriculture and forestry and worked for a number of alternative culture magazines.
She proved her ability in various positions of political responsibility. In 1988 she became the young chair of the green league of Finland. In 1998 the European parliament’s committee on women’s rights and equal opportunities elected her as its chair. In Finland she was also chair of the council for gender equality (TANE). She was elected chair of the European parliament’s greens/EFA group from 1999-2001.
In 2000 and 2006 she was the greens’ candidate in the Finnish presidential elections.
Highlights in career as an MEP
In 1998 Heidi was asked to draft the report on the quality of petrol and diesel fuels (emissions from motor vehicles). Parliament adopted her draft report by a large majority, but tough negotiations were needed with the member states, as the oil industry strongly opposed parliament’s proposals. The result, however, was an historic directive, thanks to which atmospheric pollution from motor vehicles has been significantly reduced in the EU.
One of the highest-profile topics Heidi had to handle in the parliamentary terms from 1995-2003 was the stricter supervision of MEP’s allowances. To begin with many opposed this, but gradually Parliament began to clean up its act. When Heidi return to parliament in 2009, the situation had already improved.
Heidi also went to court in the interest of transparency and justice. When the council withheld from her a document concerning the EU member States’ criteria for arms exports, she took the matter to the EU court of justice and won. In its 2001 judgement, the court of justice found that the ministers should have considered at least disclosing part of the document. The ‘Hautala Case’ became an important precedent in transparency law.
Heidi also gained prominence in promoting binding referendums and citizens’ initiatives. In 2001 she was involved in the foundation of the Initiative and referendum institute Europe (IRIE). From 2007 she was a founding member and honorary vice-president of the EU-Russia centre, based in Brussels. In 2008 she was invited to be chair of the green European foundation, which is close to the European green party. Before becoming the minister for international development, Heidi chaired the European parliament subcommittee on human rights, which has the task of monitoring and promoting human rights throughout the world.
A restaurant founded by a horticulturist
Heidi studied horticulture at the university of Helsinki. She translated books on world famine and became convinced of the unfairness of the poor population of the planet having neither soil to cultivate nor money for food. She has promoted development policy as chair of KEPA (the Finnish service centre for development cooperation) from 2002-2007.
She was involved in the foundation of the legendary vegetarian restaurant Kasvis, which operated in Helsinki for over 25 years. It was founded to offer an alternative to the competitive society. The aim was to combine job creation with the search for an alternative lifestyle.
In the 1980s environmental protection began to interest Heidi ever more. The winds of the European green movement began to blow in Finland too. Heidi became interested in journalism and was involved first in the foundation of the magazine Uuden Ajan Aura (New Age Aura) and later in Finland, which were important opinion-forming and cultural magazines of their time.
Politics was not a career Heidi chose consciously, but she has always wanted to promote the things she believes in. At the same time she has an open mind.
‘When I encounter an opinion that is better justified, I am prepared to modify my own views.’