BREAKING NEWS: Finland decides to take part in NATO Response Force
Finland has decided to take part in the NATO Response Force. The decision came on Friday afternoon at a joint meeting of President Tarja Halonen and the government's ministerial committee on foreign and security policy.
The government is to give the Parliament a report on the parameters of Finnish participation in the NRF.
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) emphasised that the decision does not change Finland's relationship with NATO in any way. He characterised the move as a natural part of Finland's cooperation with NATO. He also reiterated that the move would not change Finland's relationship with NATO.
Finland is not a member of NATO, and public opinion is sharply opposed to joining the alliance
It remains to be decided how Finland will take part in the activities of the NRF forces. Finland's role should be clarified talks to be held with the alliance. It was make clear at the outset that Finland will not take turns being on call.
Both Vanhanen and Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva emphasised that the decision was reached in good cooperation with the President.
In Brussels, NATO praised Finland's decision to take part in the NRF.
NATO spokesman James Appathurai noted that Finland has long been an important partner of NATO, so the decision is most welcome.
Finland and NATO still need to hold discussions on exactly how Finland will take part in the NRF's activities. Appathurai said in an interview with the Finnish News Agency STT that the schedule remains open.
In Finland, the opposition Left Alliance criticised the government's decision on participation in the NATO Response Force. The party's chairman Matti Korhonen said that the danger is that the government will continue its policy of small steps aimed at bringing Finland into the alliance.
"If the government feels that we can afford to take part in the expensive operations of the NATO Response Force, Finland should also be able to afford taking part in UN crisis management operations, and to see to it that our development cooperation funding rises to the 0.7 per cent of GDP, that has been agreed on nationally."
Korhonen adds that the decision is in conflict with public opinion, which is critical of involvement in NATO.
"According to NATO, participation in the actions of the NRF forces would not require authorisation from the UN. Finland has no reason to try to be in a situation in which it might have to take part in military actions that go against international law", Korhonen warned.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Parliament debates Afghanistan and NATO Response Force (14.11.2007)
Finland and Sweden to stay out of core of Nato Response Force (26.10.2007)