Finland, U.S. conclude Defense Cooperation Agreement talks

(Xinhua) 13:19, November 03, 2023

HELSINKI, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- Finland and the United States have concluded the fifth round of negotiations for a Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA), the Finnish Foreign Ministry announced this week.

On Tuesday, Finland's chief negotiator Mikael Antell said that the draft agreement would proceed to the political process.

The text of the agreement will not be considered final until both parties have signed it. Subsequently, it will be published, but its entry into force is contingent on approval by the parliament.

According to Finnish media, parliamentary approval is not expected by the end of 2023.

In the Norwegian capital Oslo on Tuesday, Finland's Prime Minister Petteri Orpo emphasized the significance of the agreement to Finland and other Nordic countries.

"When we joined NATO, we recognized the United States as a key power in the alliance. It is, therefore, crucial to establish an agreement with the United States outlining the rules for acting as an ally, collaboration terms, and conditions," Orpo told the daily news outlet Helsingin Sanomat.

The push for this defense collaboration began after a meeting between Presidents Sauli Niinisto of Finland and Joe Biden of the United States in March 2022, following the Ukraine crisis. Negotiations commenced in August 2022, with Finland's delegation led by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. A total of five rounds of negotiations were conducted.

According to Finnish national broadcaster Yle, the primary objective of the agreement is to grant U.S. military personnel access to facilities and areas within Finland for training, weapons storage, and equipment maintenance. This includes the potential use of airports, harbors, and designated training zones.

The Finnish daily Iltalehti reported that there will not be a permanent presence of American military units in Finland, at least in the initial stages, but units with various types of weapons will train in Finland more frequently than before.

The agreement excludes nuclear weapons, the hosting of which is forbidden under Finnish law, according to Yle.

Matti Pesu, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, told Finnish online news service Uusi Suomi that the DCA "creates a legal-technical framework for U.S. military activities in Finland, both during peacetime and during a crisis."

Nevertheless, some political leaders in Finland do not support the agreement due to concerns over the country's sovereignty.

"I am most pessimistic about legal jurisdiction on Finnish soil. In any case, we are going to give up some of our sovereignty regarding U.S. (military) people who are here," said Jussi Saramo, the chairman of the parliamentary group of the opposition party Left Alliance, in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday.

Saramo added that his party is not yet ready to support the agreement based on the information it currently has.

In an interview with Yle on Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Finland Douglas Hickey expressed his hope that the details of the negotiations will be made public soon.

"The Finnish parliament and all Finns should be informed of what the agreement will contain," Hickey told Yle.

The United States has signed similar bilateral agreements with several other NATO countries, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Norway. Negotiations on such an agreement are also underway with Denmark and Sweden.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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