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Brownlee clears the air with Finland

Thursday 22 May 2014 8:44 a.m.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee (Photo: Simon Wong)

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee (Photo: Simon Wong)

No jokes about Finland now, we've signed an aviation agreement with them.

Just two years after mocking Finland's economy in parliament and sparking a diplomatic tiff, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee is praising an aviation agreement with the Nordic country.

"This agreement will rank among the most liberal air services agreements in the world," Mr Brownlee said today.

"It sets a high standard which New Zealand hopes to emulate in agreements with other states."

Mr Brownlee hasn't actually flown to Finland, but made it as far as Germany to sign the agreement with his Finnish counterpart Minna Kivimaki.

He said negotiations were swift because of the countries' similar views on aviation rules.

In 2012, Mr Brownlee prompted a letter of complaint from Finland's embassy in Australia when in a parliamentary debate he said they were no economic example for New Zealand.

"Finland has worse unemployment than us, has less growth than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates their people and has no respect for women," he said.

He later said his remarks were intended to be humorous and satirical but they were widely reported on in Finland and sparked at least one sharp retort from a local comedian.

Prime Minister John Key was called in to "express his regrets" to the Finnish president and the spat died down.

The aviation agreement will allow airlines to carry domestic passengers within the territory of the other country.

Finnair has already applied, and has been approved, to use the new agreement and is now offering code-share services to New Zealand via Hong Kong, with Cathay Pacific operating the Auckland-Hong Kong sector and Finnair operating the Hong Kong-Helsinki sector, Mr Brownlee said.

NZN

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