February 1999                  

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Blair assures Finland of role for non-aligned countries

The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made it clear that non-aligned European countries can take active part in shaping the European Common Foreign and Security Policy.

After a meeting with Blair at 10 Downing Street on Monday (1 February 1999), the Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen told reporters that his British counterpart had reassured him that non-aligned countries have an equal place in this process. In other words the process is not limited to those EU countries which are also NATO members.

According to observers, it is important for Blair to gain European consensus on the common foreign and security policy. In this endeavour, also the non-aligned countries are seen as important contributors.

In their recent meeting in St. Malo, Britain and France made some progress in outlining the European security profile. In discussions about the current situation, Britain and Finland agreed that it is important to maintain Euro-Atlantic co-operation and include the United States in the development of European security.

Finland has not seen any problems in participating in European military co-operation as long as it has to do with crisis management.

Lipponen was asked by journalists whether this more active participation in European security arrangements would bring Finland closer to NATO membership. The Prime Minister answered that he doesn’t see any signs that such conditions would be put to Finland. The present non-alignment is in Finland’s interests, while the country preserves the right to reconsider this policy. At the moment there is no such reconsideration in process, Lipponen said.

In a major speech in the City Guildhall – City Europe Lecture – on Tuesday (2 February 1999) Lipponen welcomed "the intiative and leadership of the UK government in the field of CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy) and defence policy".

"We fully agree with the need to enhance the crisis-management capability of the Union. Europe must be able to respond to crises even in situations where the United States is not willing to provide ground troops. In fact, at the initiative of Finland and Sweden the idea of developing a European capacity in co-operation between the Union and the Western European Union was adopted in Amsterdam. We look forward to the practical implementation of this co-operation with the full participation of all member states, including the non-allied ones."

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