Minister of Defence Antti Häkkänen (NCP) reacted at a news conference in the foyer of the Parliament House in Helsinki on Friday, 17 May 2024. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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A SUBSTANTIAL REVISION to Finland’s military service act is being devised at the request of the Finnish Border Guard.

Helsingin Sanomat last Wednesday revealed that the revision would make it possible to call up reservists to assist in border supervision in circumstances where border security has eroded to the extent that it cannot be upheld by professional border guards.

The call-ups, the newspaper wrote, would take the form of refreshers, albeit with the key difference that they would not entail training but the provision of assistance in urgent real-life situations. Such situations could include the outbreak of a communicable disease or a hostile foreign influence operation that brings scores of migrants to the border.

“If our core staff don’t have the manpower to contain the situation at the eastern border this measure would be at our disposal,” Minister of Defence Antti Häkkänen (NCP) outlined at a news conference in Helsinki on Wednesday, 15 May.

Fundamentally, he added, the revision will define upholding border security as grounds for calling up reservists to refreshers.

Both the Finnish Border Guard and Finnish government view that the revision is needed because Russia has demonstrated its readiness to experiment with activities that cannot be regarded as military operations but that, regardless, place a substantial burden on border officials. The revision was published for comments last week, with the government looking to present it to parliament before the summer recess.

The revision would only apply to about one per cent of the military reserve, specifically reservists who completed their military service with the Border Guard.

Reservists, who make up about three-quarters of the strength of the Finnish Border Guard, could be called up to the border at a short notice for a period of up to 30 days. The threshold for doing so, however, would be high.

A decision to invoke the revision would be made by the government at the proposal of the president.

They would be tasked primarily with support duties and would not carry firearms, although they would have the authority to use forcible measures under the supervision of a regular border official.

“Reservists can be ordered to perform lighter tasks, such as logistics and monitoring, so that the core staff can focus on harder mandate,” outlined Häkkänen. “A border guard could authorise a reservist who has undergone training to use forcible measures not including the use of firearms in situations where the subject of the measures poses a threat of violence in a situation overseen by the border guard.”

“In principle the tasks couldn’t be tasks where firearms are needed in the first place.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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