NATO Response Force splits both government and opposition parties
Centre and National Coalition Party MPs want Finland to take turns in NRF rotation
A number of Members of Parliament representing the two main government parties, the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party, both want Finland to take part in the rotation system of the NATO Response Force.
On Friday, the government and President Tarja Halonen agreed on Finnish participation in the NRF, but not in the rotation.
The dissatisfaction of the Centre and National Coalition parties came out during Parliamentary debate on the government's NRF report.
Speaking on behalf of the Centre Party's Parliamentary group, MP Markku Laukkanen said that the policy chosen by the government brings the Finns little military added value. Laukkanen said that the Centre Party expects that the possibilities of taking part in the rotation should be examined closely when the matter is discussed in the Parliamentary committees.
Laukkanen asked the government if Finland really plans to restrict itself to taking part in NRF exercises and conferences.
Speaking for the National Coalition Party's MPs, Pertti Salolainen took a softer tone, saying that it would be natural for Finland to take part in the rotation, as it would strengthen the know-how, skills, and development of the country's Defence Forces.
Participation in the NRF rotation was ruled out on Friday at the insistence of President Halonen and the Green League. MP Johanna Sumuvuori (Green) made it clear that the Greens continue to take a reserved view of the NRF.
Some Centre and the National Coalition Party parliamentarians were so adamant in disowning the proposal that Päivi Räsänen (Christian Democrats) asked if the government can actually adhere to its decision.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Ilkka Kanerva (Nat. Coalition Party) insisted that taking part in the rotation does is not seen to be possible "at least at this stage".
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) said that the decision is in force. "If it changes some day, it will change."
The NRF issue also split the ranks of opposition parties.
Only the Left Alliance was adamantly opposed to joining the NATO force.
The party sees the NRF as NATO's "strike force", saying that participation means a new step in the direction of NATO membership. This led to a lengthy clash with the Social Democrats.
The SDP is in favour of the compromise reached on Friday, although there is some dissent within that opposition party as well. Liisa Jaakonsaari spoke out in favour of taking part in the rotation, which had also been supported by military staff who had been interviewed by the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Previously in HS International Edition:
BREAKING NEWS: Finland decides to take part in NATO Response Force (7.3.2008)
Foreign Minister Kanerva: Finland should not delay decision on NRF forces (17.8.2007)
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)
NATO disputes over rapid deployment strategies delaying Finland´s decision on taking part in NRF operations (29.8.2007)
NATO Response Force