13 July 1999

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Non-aligned countries face problems with EU defence

The emergence of a more pronounced EU defence policy may create headaches for a non-aligned country like Finland. According to Tuomas Forsberg, Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, many Finns fear that their country has to choose between a pro-active European defence policy and traditional non-alignment.

In an article published in the Finnish national daily, Helsingin Sanomat (18 June 1999), Forsberg points out that in order to have a proper debate about the question, one has to tease out the suppositions behind the different choices.

"It is not sensible to emphasise fundamental Finnish interests which demand either military non-alignment or commitment to EU development, whatever its direction. In the former case one has found an anchoring place where one must stay; in the latter case one has arrived at a stream which one must follow. Both doctrines are blind to the changes in conditions and diplomatic imagination which can establish regional stability and find solutions conducive to European co-operation."

"Finns must consider carefully the principles used by the EU in crisis management. The question of mandate is one such principle. The Cologne Declaration [from the EU summit in June] states that crisis management capability will be developed in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter. In the light of the Kosovo war, one may be excused the suspicion that this does not mean a Security Council mandate.  EU crisis management does not have definite rules which would make it clear whether the Union can mandate itself to action."

"Secondly, one must consider how one can bring Russia into EU crisis management operations. Since Russia is wary of NATO, it could be easier for Moscow to support EU crisis management tasks. If the EU aims to manage crises without a US input, it can hardly act in defiance of Russian views."

"The endeavour to develop an EU defence dimension is obvious. The questions of rapprochement which are difficult for Finland are often discussed unofficially. These questions have to do with membership in security organisations, the size of the defence budget and the compatibility of arms systems."

"There is no unavoidable development which would dictate a course of action for the Finns. It is a genuine political choice, whether one wants to apply brakes to the emerging direction, stay clear of it or participate in defining it."

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