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Finland takes up aviation as national interest in Brexit

Staff Writer |
Efforts to secure the position of Helsinki as an international air transit hub emerged as a distinct national aim of Finland as Prime Minister Juha Sipila on Thursday met the main EU negotiator Michel Barnier in Helsinki.

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Barnier is visiting Finland and meeting an extensive array of political, business and trade union representatives, including also President Sauli Niinisto.

At a joint press conference with Sipila, Barnier underlined the importance of parliaments in the process.

The negotiation result must be accepted in all the 27 parliaments of the EU area. "Therefore it is important that the negotiations are transparent, and they are," Barnier said.

Sipila told the press conference that Finland wants to avoid a situation that the new agreements only cover flights between the EU and the UK, without taking into account transit flights via EU member countries.

On Friday morning Barnier is to meet the aviation authority and the management of Finnair. Barnier did not comment on the aviation issue in the press conference, but mentioned aviation cooperation between the EU and the UK after Brexit.

Air traffic between Helsinki and UK airports is covered currently by the EU Open Skies agreements that allow EU carriers free access o EU airports. As UK leaves the Open Skies, new agreement structure has to be built.

The core strategy of the Finnish state-majority owned carrier Finnair is to offer connections to Asia from Europe via Helsinki. The Finnish government wants to ensure that these services would not suffer when the UK leaves the Union.

The position of Finnair in the air line alliances enhances the importance of the UK. Finnair belongs to the OneWorld alliance where British Airways is a key member and therefore London is a major transfer point for Finnair passengers.

Discussing the Brexit talks in general, Sipila said it is most important to Finland that the union remains united in the talks, "and it has been united". Maintaining free trade is the second Finnish vision and continued security cooperation with the UK is the third.

Sipila said he had learned from Barnier that progress in the talks in security sector has been rapid.

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