Government partners lash out at Häkämies NATO speech
National Coalition Party accused of going against government platform
Green League chairwoman, Minister of Labour Tarja Cronberg on Wednesday sharply criticised a speech by Minister of Defence Jyri Häkämies (Nat. Coalition Party) on Tuesday, in which Häkämies spoke on behalf of Finnish and Swedish membership in NATO.
Cronberg said that the Defence Minister's comments betrayed perfect ignorance of the interests of the Nordic Countries.
"Häkämies' idea of common Nordic interests within NATO is a completely incorrect assessment."
"Norway and Denmark are close to US interests, Sweden's tradition is being non-allied, with an emphasis on crisis management. Finland emphasises its own credible defence. Only Finland is looking for security guarantees from NATO - not the other Nordic Countries", said Cronberg in Helsinki on Wednesday.
She felt that it was especially strange for Häkämies to take issue with Sweden's possible NATO membership, "even though there is no NATO debate there at all".
President Tarja Halonen was unwilling to comment on the Defence minister's speech. "Let's let it go. Surely the Swedes know what to answer", she said.
Cronberg feels that Häkämies' comments were confusing, because the government programme emphasises a non-allied status, and the majority of the people are against joining NATO. Now that the government's next defence policy report is under preparation, Cronberg feels that everyone is trying to influence it.
She also dismisses as a "populist self-evident fact" the stand taken by opposition Social Democratic Party chairman Eero Heinäluoma that Finland should not rush in to join NATO in the next government term, if the people do not want it. She also emphasised that the Greens are opposed to joining NATO.
Centre Party Secretary Jarmo Korhonen finds the constant NATO speculation by the Minister of Defence to be "unsettling".
"Vanhanen's second government is, under its own programme, committed to military non-alignment, which has been agreed by broad consensus as a basis of the report that is being drawn up. The government partners have the right to know if the National Coalition Party is behind the line that has been agreed on, or not", Korhonen said.
"We have no reason to make any new decisions with respect to NATO membership", says Juha Korkeaoja (Centre), Chairman of Parliament's Defence Committee.
Social Democratic MP Kimmo Kiljunen also called on the government to say if Häkämies' view, that Finland and Sweden should join NATO, is also the view of the Finnish government.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Defence Minister says Nordic NATO membership would strengthen cooperation (7.5.2008)