March 2001

Hägglund, EU and non-alignment

General Gustav Hägglund's appointment as head the EU Military Committee has provoked many comments in the Finnish press. One question which has been posed is what his role as the EU's highest military official means for Finnish non-alignment policy.

The Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet (27 March 2001) asks whether one can speak any more about non-alignment, when Finland's defence forces' former commander becomes the head of the EU Military Committee. The paper emphasises in an editorial that the EU is not a military alliance where an attack against one member will be seen as an attack against all.

"But the so-called NATO option in Finnish security policy — i.e. that Finland retains the right to later apply for NATO membership — will not be weakened by Hagglund holding chairmanship of the EU generals in Brussels."

Hufvudstadsbladet reminds readers that it was on Finland and Sweden's initiative that the EU approved the so-called Petersberg principles, which included humanitarian contributions and crisis management. The two countries wanted to oppose France and Germany's idea of turning the EU into a fully-fledged defence alliance.

The national daily, Helsingin Sanomat (27 March 2001), points out that non-aligned countries had feared that the post would be given to a general from a NATO country. Appointing a representative of a non-aligned country "was a remarkable decision, the importance of which was emphasised by the tough political in-fighting before the decision and the closeness of [Hägglund's] victory".

Helsingin Sanomat sees Hägglund's appointment as recognition of Finland's active contribution to international peace-keeping.

The left-wing Kansan Uutiset (28 March 2001) sees the EU's crisis management role as a way to weaken the Union's dependence on NATO.

"This is in the interests of countries like Finland which want to stay outside military alliances. Creating crisis management forces does not turn the EU into a military alliance; military forces will remain a part of national defence forces and the use of them will be decided by each country on each occasion. Co-operation with NATO will also be needed in the future, to secure transport, communication and equipment. This, however, makes sense already for economic reasons."

Kansan Uutiset also points out that like almost all European countries, Finland, too, has been coming closer to NATO. "No conspiracy to achieve this has been necessary, no matter how fascinating the conspiracy theories may be", the paper says.

See also:

From the archive:

NATO: Finland's membership "non-problematic"

8 February 2001

European security integration - the Nordic dimension

10 January 2001

Sweden in the militarisation of EU

12 December 2000

Non-aligned countries face European security turmoil

12 May 2000

Ahtisaari warns against doctrine of humanitarian intervention

24 March 2000

Military non-alignment backed by majority

3 December 1999

Aftermath of Kosovo: Europe takes military route to security

October 1999

Non-aligned countries watch warily as NATO sidelines UN

May 1999

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