Foreign Minister Kanerva: Finland should not delay decision on NRF forces
Nordic and Baltic ministers meet in Turku
Minister for Foreign Affairs Ilkka Kanerva (Nat. Coalition Party) feels that Finland has no reason to delay a decision on whether or not to take part in the activities of the NATO Reaction Force (NRF).
"It is possible that a decision will be made this autumn", he said in Turku in connection with a meeting of ministers of the Nordic Countries and the Baltic Countries.
Kanerva added that there is no particular hurry to make a decision, and that Finland can decide on the matter according to its own schedules.
Sweden is also considering participation in the NRF forces. Both Kanerva Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt feel that it would be good for Finland and Sweden to proceed at the same pace in their decision-making, as they have done so far. The countries announced last spring to NATO that they are ready to consider taking part in the forces.
Bildt said that Sweden continues to take a positive view of participation, and he believes that the decision is very likely to emerge in a couple of months.
Some politicians in Finland have called for a decision on the NRF question during the autumn, because Denmark is currently preparing for when it is on call in 2010. This would suit Finland as well.
Finland's Chief of Defence Juhani Kaskeala said recently that the NRF decision can be made in connection with the drafting of a government report on defence policy. Kanerva said that a decision will emerge well when the NATO report linked with the national defence report is ready.
"The report must be initiated quickly. It will be ready, possibly in the autumn", Kanerva said. The aim of the report will be to analyse the benefits and disadvantages of possible NATO membership.
Finland has already decided to take part in NRF exercises. Kanerva feels that taking part in the actual activities would also be appropriate.
"Why practice if we aren't ready to do our part when the situation in the world demands it?" Kanerva asked.
Foreign Minister Bildt said that it is too early to say if a Swedish-led battle group will go to Chad and the Central African Republic next year. The Nordic group has 221 Finns. The other 2,200 soldiers are from Sweden, Norway, Estonia, and Ireland.
"The operation and its form will be discussed in the EU in September. By that time, there will hopefully be a decision by the UN Security Council on the operation", Bildt said.
The planned EU crisis management operation in Chad involving 3,000 soldiers would be the EU's biggest investment into military crisis management. It would support the massive United Nations and African Union peacekeeping operation in the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan.
Finland is not sending forces to Sudan, at least not yet. Sweden and Norway have offered to send soldiers to the operation, to take part in reconstruction work, and Bildt says that Sweden is waiting for a response from the UN.
Bildt says that Sweden does not plan to send any more forces to the crisis management operation in Afghanistan, where the country now has about 350 peacekeepers.
Kanerva feels that the most important goal of the ongoing meeting is to clarify how cooperation among countries of the Baltic Sea area could be improved, and how the visibility of the area could be increased in the EU.
Taking part in the Turku meeting are the foreign ministers of Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, and Estonia, as well as the Danish Secretary of State.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Kaskeala: no increase needed in Finnish force in Afghanistan for at least a year (16.8.2007)
President says not enough peacekeepers for Darfur operation (15.8.2007)
Finnish rapid deployment forces could go to Chad under Swedish command (14.8.2007)