Helsinki — Finland’s Committee on Foreign And Security Policy (CFSP) has declared that Defense Minister Stefan Wallin was within his rights to “provide ministerial guidance” in support of the retention of the Uusimaa Brigade, whose future came under close scrutiny as part of the National Defense Reorganization Plan (NDRP).
The CFSP’s declaration validates Wallin’s role in recommending the retention of the brigade, which serves as the primary military training installation and garrison for Finland’s minority Swedish-speaking community.
Wallin is chairman of Svenska Folkpartiet, the party that represents Swedish-language speakers in Finland. This community accounts for 6 percent of the country’s population.
Earlier, the defense minister survived demands for his resignation and a no-confidence vote in parliament over his alleged bias in the affair. That vote was tabled jointly by the opposition True Finns, Social Democrats and Leftist parties in mid-March.
However, the CFSP found that Wallin’s “guidance” was sought by, and not forced upon, the independent panel of security and military experts appointed to oversee the drafting of the new NDRP. The panel was headed by the armed forces chief, Gen. Ari Puheloinen.
The CFSP became directly involved in the dispute in advance of the no-confidence vote when opposition parties accused Wallin of supporting the Uusimaa Brigade not only to protect the military base, but to bolster his political popularity, and that of the Svenska Folkpartiet, in Finland’s Swedish-language constituency.
Moreover, the opposition argued that Wallin did not show the same loyalty to the five Finnish-language military bases earmarked for closure in the NDRP.
The CFSP’s ruling followed a close examination of documentation pertaining to the NDRP’s work, as well as verbal submissions to the committee from senior members of the expert panel, including Puheloinen. The committee concluded that no evidence existed to prove bias on the defense minister’s part, or suggest that a conflict of interest existed in the “guidance” Wallin provided “on request” to the NDRP.
“The matter is now closed. Stefan Wallin has apologized for the way he handled the issue. Importantly, no impropriety has been found against him,” said President Sauli Niinistö, a member of the CFSP.