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Defence Minister Wants Cooperation to Secure Baltic Sea

Minister of Defence Jyri Häkämies says that more cooperation is needed among countries with shoreline on the Baltic Sea in monitoring maritime security.

Speaking at the opening of the latest National Defence Course, Häkämies said that the rising importance of energy supplies has an influence on the stability of the Baltic Sea and the Arctic Ocean. As examples, he noted the increasing oil transports through the Gulf of Finland and the underwater gas pipeline project between Germany and Russia.

Häkämies also said that the Nordic countries need to draw up plans to protect shipping in the Baltic Sea during crisis situations.

The minister also proposes developing readiness to form a maritime crisis management unit that could be deployed in international operations, if necessary.

As a precursor to such an arrangement, he mentions the Amphibious Task Unit (ATU) set up in cooperation with Sweden, which is to be ready for international tasks this year.

According to Häkämies, Finland, Sweden, and Norway are to begin discussions soon on aerial surveillance cooperation. If the negotiations are successful, the activities will probably be based on the exchange of information on air space status. Cooperative partners could also include the three Baltic states, as well as Poland, Germany and Denmark.

Häkämies also wants improvements in the performance capacity of the Finnish Navy and in cooperation among officials. He notes that there has already been cooperation with the Swedish Navy in activities such as maritime searches and fighting oil spills.

The Finnish Defence Minister also feels that getting a commitment by Russia to the establishment of common rules and participation in joint activities is important for the development of the stability of the region.