Finland, Sweden agree to assist NATO in patrolling Icelandic airspace

The Swedish and Finnish governments have agreed to take part in a NATO-backed effort to patrol airspace surrounding Iceland. Iceland, which has no air force, asked its Scandinavian neighbours to provide assistance in the programme. The two governments approached the issue cautiously for diplomatic reasons. This was particularly true of Finland, which was wary of upsetting the country’s neutrality and its close ties with Russia.

However, Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainenn told the media on Monday following negotiations in Helsinki, “Finland will inform Iceland’s government that we are willing to participate in Iceland’s air space surveillance in 2014, together with Sweden,” The Chicago Tribune reports.

Likewise, Swedish premier Fredrik Reinfeldt said that Swedes were “positive” about the scheme.

However, opposition remains strong in Finland. Recent polls show that 42 percent of Finns are against cooperating in the programme, whist ministers representing the Centre Party and those further left have spoken out against the decision.

Kimmo Tiilikainen said on behalf of the Centre Party, “Participating in the air surveillance of a NATO member country absolutely does not concern non-allied Finland.”

However, experts say that PM Kinnunen and the National Coalition are looking to increase ties with NATO to boost the country’s national security.

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