The Finnish Border Guard is set to receive expanded powers to combat hybrid threats both independently and in collaboration with other security authorities.
The Ministry of the Interior has drafted a bill that would grant border officers the same powers as police officers under normal circumstances to uphold order and security at border-crossing points, their immediate vicinity, and other areas and facilities controlled by the Finnish Border Guard.
Border officers would, for example, be allowed to use both technical and forcible measures to disable unmanned aerial vehicles flown in the vicinity of border-crossing points as well as locate the operators of such vehicles. They would also be able request assistance from military personnel in conducting traffic control and security checks under special circumstances.
The powers have been designed to effectively allow border officers to respond to serious disturbances in border regions and bring the situation under control until the arrival of law enforcement authorities.
“This means [that the officers would have] the right to carry out clandestine information gathering operations in, for example, hostage situations. The police currently have to lead the response in such situations,” Pekka Koivisto, the head of the legal division at the Finnish Border Guard, commented to Helsingin Sanomat in June.
The newspaper also wrote that the number of border officers is to be stepped up considerably on the eastern border of Finland. The Border Guard has almost doubled the number of applicants to be admitted to its one-year training programme in January and June of 2018 – from 62 to 120.
“The government decided in its mid-term review session in April that surveillance along the eastern border will be stepped up, and now we need more border guards to perform the duties,” Päivi Nerg, the permanent state secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, said to Helsingin Sanomat.
She also reminded that the number of border officers will effectively be restored to its previous levels.
The Ministry of the Interior in its press release defines hybrid threats as any operations designed to exert pressure, inflict damage or cause insecurity or instability. Such operations – which include information campaigns, covert military operations and operations to disturb data networks and other critical infrastructure – may be carried out by unmarked agents who cannot be reliably identified as foreign military personnel.
“The unmarked, so-called green men first took control of border crossing points in Crimea. They had no country patches, but they were very well equipped,” Koivisto said to YLE on Tuesday.
Koivisto was a member of the task force assigned to draft the bill, which is currently being circulated for comments. The Finnish Parliament is expected to discuss the bill this autumn, while the new legislation is to be enacted next spring.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Handout – Finnish Defence Forces