HELSINKI — The Finnish government is preparing new legislation that will permit the Armed Forces (FAF) to provide more direct forms of support to the overseas military operations of partner nations. The legislative reform initiative was triggered by a request for armed assistance from France in that country’s fight against ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Under Finland’s existing laws, the FAF’s overseas military operations are restricted to participation in crisis management missions.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) was tasked to lead the legislation reform project. Under proposed amendments, the Finnish government will be able to authorize direct military assistance, including combat units and equipment, to support the military operations of European Union (EU) and other partner nations.
Finland is militarily non-aligned, although it continues to build stronger defense cooperation regionally, through Nordic-Baltic collaboration and under the Partnership for Peace program with NATO.
The restrictive nature of Finland’s present laws relating to overseas military support meant that the country was unable to deliver an immediate response to France, even after the French government invoked the EU’s mutual defense clause, which is backed by Finland.
The same restrictions also prevented Finland from offering direct military support to neighboring Sweden in 2015 when Swedish forces were engaged in "hunting" one or more suspected foreign submarines in areas of the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland.
The preparation of new legislation has reached the white paper stage at the MoFA. The related draft bill is expected to reach the Finnish national parliament, the Eduskunta, in April or May of 2016.
"Our legislation in this area needed to be updated, and especially in light of France’s request for armed assistance after the attacks in Paris. We realized that our existing legislation was not flexible enough. We live in a fast changing world, and our laws on overseas military support must reflect new realities," said Timo Soini, Finland’s foreign minister.
The strengthening of Finland’s laws on overseas military support will enable the government, together with the office of the president, who is the FAF’s commander in chief, to evaluate requests for armed support on a case-by-case basis.
The new law will have direct manpower and capabilities consequences for the FAF. The military is about to benefit from legislative changes to the Conscription Act that will enable the defense command to immediately call-up 25,000 reservists for "refresher training and courses" to bolster force readiness.
The present maximum time limits for refresher training are to be doubled under the proposed law. For servicemen, the maximum amount of refresher days is set to rise to 80 days, and for reservists with specialized skills to 150 days.
For NCOs, warrant and commissioned officers, the new maximum number of "refresher" days is set to reach 200.