Finnish professional soldiers may in the future have to participate in dangerous missions, including armed conflicts, abroad.

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The Parliament’s Defence Committee on Thursday approved a government proposal to increase the responsibilities of the Finnish Defence Forces.

The decision came immediately under fierce criticism from opposition parties and trade unions alike, as it will oblige all professional soldiers to participate in dangerous missions, including armed conflicts, abroad upon an order from the Defence Forces.

The Defence Forces’ current responsibilities are to defend the country against military attacks, provide assistance to other authorities and participate in international crisis management operations.

The Defence Committee on Thursday agreed unanimously that the responsibilities must be expanded to ensure they are in line with the obligations set forth in the Lisbon Treaty. It called attention to the necessity of removing any legislative obstacles preventing the country from participating in assisting other member states and requesting assistance in the event of a crisis.

Finland, it stressed, would nevertheless continue to determine its security policy and make decisions on whether to provide or request assistance independently.

No agreement was, on the other hand, reached on the requisite amendments’ impact on personnel.

“We disapprove of the government’s decision to retroactively oblige personnel to participate in international, life-threatening missions outside the borders of Finland. The terms of collective agreements mustn’t be revised retroactively,” Mika Kari (SDP), a deputy chairperson of the committee, commented to Helsingin Sanomat.

The Finnish Union for Non-Commissioned Officers was similarly disappointed with the decision and argued that military personnel should not be required to participate in such missions without their consent.

The decision would effectively oblige professional soldiers to participate in warfare abroad in peacetime, Mika Oranen, the chairperson of the Union for Non-Commissioned Officers, summarised to Helsingin Sanomat.

“The decision would unilaterally expand the terms and conditions of service for professional soldiers in an ultra-radical way, in a way that may even pose a threat to their life and well-being. It should inevitably also have an impact on our wages,” he added.

Jari Rantala, the chairperson of the Finnish Officers’ Union, estimated that the obligation is unwarranted also because there should be no shortage of soldiers willing to take part in such missions voluntarily. He added that if the proposal wins the requisite parliamentary support the obligation should only apply to new employees.

His demands were rejected by Jussi Niinistö (PS), the Minister of Defence. Niinistö affirmed that the legislation will be applied to all military and civilian personnel employed by the Defence Command.

“The Defence Forces’ personnel turnover rate is 300 per year. The transitional period would therefore be 30 years,” he stated to Helsingin Sanomat.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Hanna-Kaisa Sadwinski – Handout
Source: Uusi Suomi

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