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Mar 31 2017

Security Providers in the Baltic Sea Region

On 24th and 29th of March the Headquarters Multinational Corps Northeast (HQ MNC NE) was visited by the Ambassadors of Finland and Sweden to the Republic of Poland. Both Finnish and Swedish officers have been serving in Szczecin building upon the strong bonds within the NATO Partnership for Peace programme. Their Excellencies, Ms Hanna Lehtinen (Finland) and Ms Inga Eriksson-Fogh (Sweden) have been updated on the current status of the Corps, co-operation of Finland and Sweden with MNC NE as well as plans ahead. It was also a great opportunity for a short interview.

Finland and Sweden are non-NATO MNC NE members. Having that in the perspective, how would you describe the co-operation and gains resulting from being in Szczecin?

Ms Hanna Lehtinen: Finland is a part of Baltic Sea Region, we are not a member of NATO, we have our partnership with NATO and of course it is of great interest to be a part of the NATO activities in this region. It is also a great opportunity for us to have military officers here, to work here, to learn and to get some experience from this work. As Sweden, Finland is a security provider in the Baltic Sea Region, so it is quite natural for us also to be contributing to MNC NE.

Ms Inga Eriksson-Fogh: Sweden is a partner country to NATO and to be an active partner it is very important to us to have an active presence in Szczecin. We get to know how you work, and we can also give something in return. The location is very close to Sweden, close to the Baltic Sea. The Area of Operations for Headquarters is also the Baltic countries which are very important to Sweden and all the Nordic Countries.
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Ms Inga Eriksson-Fogh (Sweden) visited Multinational Corps Northeast.

Recently Finnish Brigadier Esa Pulkkinen, who is Head of EU Military Staff said that the possibility of making existing security and defence elements more binding should be explored. Does Finland plan to enhance its presence in MNC NE?

Ms Hanna Lehtinen: Since 1.5 years we have here one officer and we are certainly considering how to make most of our possibility to contribute also in the future. We are quite open to this. This is for us a very important opportunity to be a part of MNC NE. It is also a reflection of our partnership with NATO, which has changed very much in nature since joint missions in Afghanistan; now the focus is more also on cooperation such as here in Szczecin.

Due to current security situation in the region there is a lively debate in Sweden regarding new defence policy from 2021; also the draft has been re-introduced. Will Sweden be more involved in regional security arrangements?

Ms Inga Eriksson-Fogh: We are concerned about the security situation in this part of the world. And of course the Swedish Government has decided to increase our spending in the defence area and to intensify our international cooperation with other countries and organizations. This is a signal of course that we want to be more engaged, more prepared.

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Ms Hanna Lehtinen (Ambassador of Finland to Poland) and BG Krzysztof Krol (DCOM MNC NE)

According to December poll conducted by Finnish Advisory Board for Defence Information the support for Finnish membership of NATO has remained stable at 25 percent while 61 percent of those asked said that they oppose NATO membership. Why Finnish public believes so strongly in the non-alignment posture?

Ms Hanna Lehtinen: This is a good question because unlike in some other countries the opinion poll has been quite fairly stable over the past two, three years. I think it is a sort of habit. We are used to take care of ourselves, of our national defence, we trust very much in national defence and there is a strong will to defend our country. So, I think it is somehow in the mentality of Finnish people. And I think that also the fact that we are member of the EU, our partnership with NATO is very active, we are privileged partner as we like to describe it, and the feeling that we are already part of the western community adds to the feeling of security. So in a way it is a good thing perhaps, in a way it is also important to make people aware of different dimension of security.

In 2014, during the visit to MNC NE your predecessor H.E. Mr Staffan Herrstrom, said that NATO membership is not on the political agenda in Sweden. Did anything change in this matter?

Ms Inga Eriksson-Fogh: The discussion is ongoing and it is very lively. The position of the government is that yes we are partner to NATO, we want to be an active partner, but that is where the borderline is. We have increased our funding in the defence area, and we are concentrating very much on our national defence. Some years ago it was more focused on international operations like Afghanistan. But now the focus is more on the region.

Story by Multinational Corps Northeast Public Affairs Office

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