Decision On NATO Response Force Expected In Autumn

Posted in NATO | 18-Jun-07 | Source: YLE

The Finnish government is to make a decision this autumn on Finland's possible participation in the NATO Response Force NRF.

A report released Friday by the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee says that Finland would be able to use the know-how and readiness it has developed for the EU's Rapid Deployment Forces to take part in NRF operations at times when Finnish troops are not on active standby for EU operations.

The committee did stress, however, that this will require a political decision, and that not has yet been made.

Finland and Sweden announced in April that in principle they were interested in participating in NRF activities. An actual decision will become urgent in the autumn as there is a November deadline for announcing participation in NRF exercises.

The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Conservative MP Pertti Salolainen, says that Finland should make a decision sometime in late September or early October. Sweden is also preparing for the same type of decision.

Salolainen and his party are already prepared to take Finland into the NATO Reaction Force now.

"This will depend entirely on the government this autumn. If I were asked my position, I believe that Finland, in association with Sweden should take part in NRF operations. If only Sweden were to participate, it would be fairly big news. If we take part together, it can be viewed as a completely normal reorientation of crisis management. This is my personal stand and the stand of the group that I represent," said Salolainen.

Centre and SDP dampening Conservative enthusiasm

There was an effort by both the Centre and the opposition Social Democratic Party to damper Conservative enthusiasm for joining in NRF operations. As a result, the committee report stressed the political decision-making aspect of the issue. According to SDP Chairman Eero Heinäluoma it is important that if the cabinet and the President decide on participation that the matter be brought before Parliament as a decision in principle.

Left Alliance MP Annika Lapintie filed a dissenting opinion on the report. She said that at this time there is good cause to focus on gaining experience of EU crisis management and to relinquish any intention of taking part in NRF operations.

The report does not examine the level or type of possible Finnish involvement in the NATO force. However, it does emphasize the supplementary role of NATO partner countries in the NRF. Finland could refrain from taking part in specific operations without endangering the implementation of such an operation.

The Foreign Affairs Committee also wants the government to provide a separate clarification of the Afghan situation.