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Halonen: Finland Not Awaiting NATO Membership

President Tarja Halonen says that Finland is not in the hallway awaiting NATO membership. Speaking at the third presidential forum on foreign and security policy on Tuesday, Halonen stressed that Finland is NATO's partner and that this cooperation benefits Finland's national defence.

The President said that Finland is among the partners of NATO that can themselves decide if they want to move into the "waiting room" for membership in the western alliance.

Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva said the views of the government and the President regarding relations with NATO are very similar.

Halonen also said that she would like to see a review of coverage by the Finnish media of the events in Iraq and the dispute in Estonia over a Red Army memorial. She expressed interest in seeing if Finnish media coverage and the questions presented to Finnish politicians deviated from those of the press in other countries.

Commenting on the President's criticism, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said on Wednesday the Finnish press had done its job properly on the story. He was speaking during a visit to Stockholm.

Kanerva: Involve organizations in foreign policy debate Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva would like to get NGOs and the corporate sector more closely involved in the debate on foreign and security policy affairs. Speaking at the same presidential forum, Kanerva proposed the expansion of a group reviewing government reports on foreign and security policy. Up to now, the group has been comprised of representatives of the parties in parliament and civil servants from the ministries of foreign affairs and defence. According to Kanervan, the government also wants to get more young people involved in thinking about the nation's foreign and security policies. YLE

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