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German Navy’s flagship boats Hamburg and Mecklenburg Vorpommern visited Helsinki on 30 May.FINLAND must prepare for both the scenario that it is no longer guaranteed a membership in NATO and the scenario that the nature of its partnership with the military alliance may change after the completion of the ISAF operation in Afghanistan, views Carl Haglund (SFP), the Minister of Defence.

"My concern is that steps back are being taken in terms of the partnership," Haglund said on Monday, while participating in a debate on Finnish foreign and security policy in Naantali.

"When the ISAF operation in Afghanistan ends, Finland and Sweden will no longer have a seat at the NATO table. We'll be forced to take a back seat."

Finland estimated prior to the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine that the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP) of NATO would be on the agenda of the 2014 NATO Summit to be held in Wales in September. In anticipation of the summit, Finland and Sweden have drawn up a joint proposal expressing their desire to continue and develop their co-operation with the military alliance.

"The Ukraine crisis changed the situation dramatically. There is now a risk that the future of the partnerships of Finland and Sweden will be dwarfed by the crisis. It is evident that NATO countries are closing their ranks and that the Ukraine crisis will be the main talking point of the summit. Everything else will be of secondary importance," Haglund estimated.

Niinistö hosts second Kultaranta talks

• President Sauli Niinistö on Sunday and Monday hosted the second debate on foreign and security policy at Kultaranta, his official summer residence, in Naantali.

• The main talking points of the so-called Kultaranta talks were the recent developments in Ukraine and Russia.

• In addition, the talks broached on the situation in Europe and cyber-security.

• The new chairperson of the National Coalition Party will be elected in Lahti on 13—15 June.

• The new chairperson will also succeed Jyrki Katainen as Prime Minister.

According to the Minister of Defence, the partnership has been significant for the operations of the Finnish Defence Forces in a number of ways. "It is important for the development of the Defence Forces. Finland should therefore have the opportunity to sit down also with high-level officials of NATO countries.

In their joint proposal, Finland and Sweden assess several measures that would guarantee them the same access to meetings and information as they have had due to their participation in the ISAF operation. Finland has announced its objective of continuing the partnership with the military alliance at least in its current scope.

However, it now appears unlikely that the IPCP will be discussed more than cursorily, Haglund gauged.

"It would be good for the future of the partnership, if a specific amount of time was allocated for the topic. If the decision-makers of NATO countries discussed the topic thoroughly, everyone, also in Finland, could develop an understanding of the added value brought by partner countries. For Finland, it is important that the partnership programme is maintained and developed."

Anna-Liina Kauhanen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT
LEHTIKUVA - Jussi Nukari

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