The Security Policy Significance of EU Membership for Finland
I. The European Union and Finnish Security
Finland’s membership in the European Union is a pragmatic line of action
in security policy. EU membership gives Finland new opportunities for
influencing change and stability in its security environment. The
importance of membership for Finnish security depends on Finland’s own
contribution. Finland’s military security remains its own
As a member of the EU, Finland has full powers and opportunities for
influencing the decisions taken in a community of democratic states
aiming to build lasting security.
Since the end of the East West division, the policy of neutrality that
Finland followed in the Cold War is no longer a viable line of action.
During the Cold War, Finland tried to avoid making political, and
especially military, commitments that might have drawn it into conflicts
between the great powers. In the new situation, Finland’s strategy is an
active participation in international political and security cooperation
for prevention and resolution of security problems.
Finland has not made any security policy reservations concerning its
obligations under its founding treaties or the Maastricht Treaty.
Finland has joined the Union as a militarily nonaligned country which
wishes to play an active and constructive role in creating and
implementing a common foreign and security policy.
The EU is not a military alliance, nor is it an independent actor in the
field of defence. Those EU Member States that also belong to NATO manage
their defence through the collective defence offered by NATO, while the
militarily nonaligned member states rely on an independent defence.
Despite the provisions of its founding charter, the WEU is not a
fullscale military alliance; the common defence of its members is
managed in coordination with NATO and in practice relies on NATO’s
military structures and resources.
Military nonalignment is no obstacle to Finland’s pursuit of its
membership objectives, or to the fulfilment of its undertakings. No such
conflict can be found either in the clauses of the Maastricht Treaty or
in Finland’s experiences or prospects as a member.
Finland’s contribution to conflict prevention and crisis management
strengthens the Union’s capacity to promote cooperative security in
Europe. Finland’s credible independent defence capability is an
important contribution to the Union’s common security. Finland will play
a constructive role in consideration of the defence issue within the
Union, decisions concerning which will be made unanimously among the
member states. Finland is convinced that its own interests and those of
the other member states can be reconciled on this issue.
It is by remaining outside military alliances that Finland under the
present circumstances can best support stability in northern Europe and
thus more widely on the continent as a whole. Considering the special
historical relationship between Sweden and Finland and the similar
interests in their vicinity, Sweden’s security policy has always been an
extremely important factor in Finnish security.
The European Union’s goal is to safeguard the common values and
interests and independence of the Union, and to strengthen the security
of the Union and all its member states in all ways. A capable and
unified European Union in which the interests of all member states are
taken equally into account will strengthen Finnish security. Union
membership will help Finland repel any military threats and prevent
attempts to exert political pressure.
As an independent state, Finland will defend its political sovereignty
and territorial integrity. Under the UN Charter, Finland can request the
assistance and support of other countries if it becomes the object of
II. The Security Policy Significance of EU Membership for Finland
1. Finland and the Development of a Common Foreign and Security Policy
The European Union pursues a common foreign and security policy in order
to attain the common objectives of its members. Under the Maastricht
Treaty, the common foreign and security policy shall include all
questions related to the security of the European Union. Within the
Union’s second intergovernmental pillar, the member states have enhanced
and expanded the foreign policy cooperation begun during the Community
era. In the longer term, the Treaty allows the EU a common defence
policy and a common defence.
The common defence adopted as the Union’s longterm goal in the
Maastricht Treaty continues to generate public debate, but there are as
yet in sight no prospects of it coming about. The primary task of the
Union’s defence dimension in the short term is to develop a capability
for crisis management. The means to this are the strengthening of the
WEU’s operational and structural capabilities.
2. Finland’s Experiences
The security policy solutions made by Finland provide an adequate
foundation for involvement in international cooperation for crisis
management. The framework for Finnish action comprises its EU
membership, its observer status in the WEU its Partnership for Peace
with NATO, and its OSCE and UN membership. Finland’s actual contribution
in practice will depend on its own decisions and the country’s
determination and capacity.
Finland’s security policy derives from a national security assessment
and national decisionmaking. The national policies extend to all issues
of foreign relations.
Through the Union, the member states pursue a systematic policy of
taking stands on international disputes and conflicts, and of
coordination and collaboration in international organizations. The
objects of a joint Union action include the Pact on Stability in Europe
and election monitoring, in arms control the extension of the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, and OSCE projects such as strengthening
cooperation between the OSCE and the UN.
Foreign and security policy cooperation within the Union is an
intergovernmental matter which is normally implemented by unanimous
decisions and solutions of the member states. Their common values and
similar goals and interests in building up a European security order are
the basis for unity and mutual solidarity between the member states. By
sharing in these collective efforts, Finland can expect support from
other members for its own aspirations and for its position.
Finland’s experiences as a member of the Union show that Finnish
security interests can be reconciled with the Union’s common interests.
Finland has had no difficulty in concurring with the common stands and
joint measures on which the members of the Union have attained
unanimity. Finland has made an active contribution to the Union’s joint
strategy on Russia, which aims at building a lasting partnership between
the EU and a democratic Russia. Finland has been able to participate in
and concur with the Union’s action in the Chechen crisis, where the
Union has called upon Russia to observe the norms and obligations it has
endorsed, as a condition for putting into force the partnership and
cooperation agreement with the Union. Finland has won support from the
Union for its own, and the Nordic, line of action in consolidating the
independence of the Baltic states, in supporting their political and
economic reforms and in opening for them the perspective of Union
The security policy significance of EU membership for Finland depends
not only on the Union’s capability but also, and crucially, on Finland’s
own capability and activeness as a Union member. In terms of Finnish
security, strategically important objects for cooperation in the future
will be to enhance the capabilities of the OSCE and to build a
cooperative security order in Europe, to create an EU strategy on
Russia, and to expand the Union into Central Europe and the Baltics.
Finland supports consolidation of the EU’s crisis management capacity.
Finland is preparing to contribute constructively to debate on the
future of the Union’s and WEU’s institutional relations.
3. Defence Planning, Doctrine and Personnel Policy
The goal of Finland’s defence is to guarantee the country’s
independence, secure the livelihood of its citizens, prevent Finnish
territory from being seized and secure the functioning of the state
leadership. Finland’s defence solution is based on territorial defence
and a large reserve army founded on general conscription.
Credible national defence is the best way to guarantee that Finnish
territory will not become the object of military speculation, or that a
war will not result from the threat of military force in even minor
crises. The entire territory of the country will be defended. The
creation of capabilities for receiving assistance in a crisis situation
is taken into consideration in developing Finland’s defence.
The President of the Republic is the Supreme Commander of the Defence
Forces. The Government Committee on Foreign and Security Policy is the
highest consultative and planning body on defence matters. Its members
are the ministers responsible for national security, the Prime Minister
acting as its chairman. The President may attend the meetings. As a part
of the Council of State, the Ministry of Defence is responsible for
national defence policy, as well as international defence cooperation.
The Chief of Defence leads the Defence Forces, which are responsible for
securing the territorial integrity of the country, and the defence of
the nation and its military preparedness in general. Administratively,
the Defence Forces are under the Ministry of Defence. In respect to
operational orders, the Chief of Defence is directly responsible to the
In addition to military defence, the concept of total defence includes
measures concerning national economy, civil defence, the media, social
welfare, communications and civil order. In accordance with the 1991
State of Readiness Act, the defence of the nation is shared among
several different administrative sectors.
The country is divided into three commands and 12 military provinces, a
structure that ensures the whole territory is defended. The most
important tasks of the Defence Forces are surveillance of the nation’s
land, sea and air spaces, securing territorial integrity and, if
necessary, the defence of the country.
According to Finnish law, all male citizens between the ages of 18 and
60 are under obligation to carry out military service. The conscripts
serve either a period of twelve (12), nine (9) or six (6) months. Each
year more than 80% of those called up complete their national service.
An essential part of national service is military training of
reservists. In accordance with a law passed in 1995, it is possible for
women to volunteer for military service, and 400-500 women do so
Finland’s wartime defence is based on mobilised forces. The general
development in Europe, including the environs of Finland, has made a
reduction in the strength of Defence Forces possible, provided the
technical level of the remaining forces is raised. The reductions in the
Defence Forces wartime strength will be continued, bringing the maximum
strength down to 350,000 men by the end of 2008.
In developing Finland’s defence system, priority will be given to the
command and control system, the Army’s readiness formations, military
crisis management capacity and the wartime economy arrangements in the
4. The Finnish Defence Forces
Finland spends about 1.4 % of its GDP on military defence. An essential
part of the Defence Forces’ capability is its materiel preparedness, and
about one third of defence expenditure is spent on procurement.
Finland’s military crisis management capacity is developed to meet the
crisis management objectives of the European Union and the UN, the
primary tool being the NATO Planning and Review Process (PARP).
Development of the troops and systems of the Finnish Defence Forces for
crisis management purposes will be of benefit to national defence.
Finland can participate in military crisis management operations
implemented by the UN, the OSCE, the EU or NATO, provided these
operations are under a UN or OSCE mandate consistent with the provisions
of the Finnish Act on Peace Support Operations. Finland may have up to
2,000 peacekeepers in operations at any one time.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence are
responsible for military crisis management preparations, guidance and
supervision. The Defence Forces are responsible for practical
Finland’s first priority is to take part in EU-led Peace Support
Operations in the Nordic framework. The Nordic Countries have developed
the concept of a common pool of forces for military crisis management
within the framework of the Nordic Coordinated Arrangement for Military
Peace Support (NORDCAPS). ?Our common Nordic aim is to create, by the
year 2003, a Nordic force package up to brigade level for Peace Support
Operations. These troops could be used in both EU and NATO-led
operations, as well as UN and possible OSCE-led operations?.
Finland cooperates with NATO in numerous ways. Finland signed the
Partnership for Peace (PfP) Framework Document in May 1994 and joined
the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in June 1997. Finland
supports the strengthening of the PfP and the participation of Partners
in the planning of crisis management operations.
Within the PfP Finland has taken part in the Planning and Review Process
(PARP) since February 1995. The Planning and Review Process is for
Finland the central tool for developing military interoperability and it
helps to facilitate the evaluation and development of the capabilities
of forces to cooperate in crisis management operations.
Finland’s participation in PARP and in other cooperative efforts with
NATO has two conditions: in the prevailing politico-security situation
Finland remains militarily non-allied and maintains a credible national
defence. Through cooperation, the preconditions for international crisis
management are created, as well as the possibility of influencing
European security structures in the national interest.
Today, Finland is not aspiring to NATO membership. However, close and
constructive cooperation with the Alliance is high on the Finnish
agenda. While such cooperation promotes European crisis management
capabilities, it also enhances Finland’s interoperability with other
nations and thus indirectly improves its national defence.
5. The Security Environment of Finland
From the perspective of Finland, the European Union, Russia and NATO are
the central actors in security development in Europe. They are all in a
state of transformation and affect security and stability in Finland’s
environs in northern Europe. Finland supports the stability of northern
Europe and of the entire continent by maintaining and developing a
national defence, which is credible relative to its security
During the preparatory phase of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC),
which later led to the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, Finland and Sweden
took an active role to include the so-called Petersberg tasks
(humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat
forces in crisis management, including peace enforcement) in the tasks
of the European Union. The Finnish-Swedish initiative paved the way for
developing the Common European Security and Defence Policy in the
Cologne and Helsinki European Council meetings in 1999.
Finland supports a strong EU and participates constructively in
developing the Union’s security and defence policy. Finland’s commitment
in developing the EU’s crisis management capabilities complements the
work already done for years with the UN and through NATO’s Partnership
for Peace Programme. While Finland continues to closely co-operate with
these organisations, it also contributes to the EU’s possibilities to
prevent and react to crises and thus to strengthening the EU’s position
as an international actor (from Security and defence policy, written for
Virtual Finland by Janne Kuusela, adviser; Ministry of Defence,
International Defence Policy Unit).
III. Russia and Finnish Security
Among the factors affecting Finland’s security, Russia clearly is one of
the most significant. Russia has been a key part of the European
security landscape for centuries and continues to be one today. The
Finnish-Russian border is 1,300 kilometers long, and Finland wants to
keep it a border of peace and cooperation. By integrating Russia into
the network of multilateral international cooperation, we will be making
a valuable contribution to European as well as international security.
Finland does not believe that Russia would increase its security, nor
make its neighbors more safe, by isolating itself from the rest of
Europe. For this reason Finland some time ago supported Russian
membership in the Council of Europe. For
the same reason Finland is now actively participating in European
Union-sponsored assistance programs in Russia.
I also believe that the first round of Russian presidential elections
was a victory for democratic development in Russia. It is another
contribution to stability in all of Europe. When stability and
predictability inside Russia increase, the chances for more intensive
cooperation increase as well. For one thing, this means that such open
issues as NATO enlargement, the stipulations of the CFE treaty, and
Russia’s relations with its neighbors, especially with the Baltic
States, can be a matter of negotiation, not one of confrontation (from
Security in a Changing Europe: A Finnish View Minister of Defense of
Finland Anneli Taina).
IV. Finnish and Swedish Security – Comparing National Policies
Four main conclusions can be drawn from the preceding analysis of
Finnish and Swedish security.
First, even though Finland and Sweden are neighbours and share histories
and values, they have had different perceptions of security and they
pursued different security policies in the inter-war period as well as
during the Cold War even though the countries were known as the Nordic
Second, much has changed since 1989. As a result of the end of the Cold
War, the Finnish and Swedish security policies are today in many
respects closer to each other than they have ever been before.
Third, geopolitics explains many of the differences and similarities
between Swedish and Finnish security policies. Despite the geographical
and cultural affinity, geopolitics divided Finland and Sweden for the
greater part of the twentieth century. The single most important factor
was the Soviet Union. In fact, it is impossible to understand the
policies pursued by Sweden and Finland without taking into consideration
the strength and security interests of the eastern great power. The
geopolitical shift caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union and its
effect, in particular, on Finland’s international position have created
more equal opportunities for Swedish and Finnish security policies.
Still, even though the Cold War is now over, the presence of Russia
influences Northern European security and makes it distinct from
security in many other regions of Europe. Russia has retreated from its
historical position in Central Europe and is now far removed from the
Balkans, but it is still very much a neighbour to the Nordic and Baltic
Fourth, even though the Nordic “sisters” pursued different policies in
the inter-war period and during the Cold War, Swedish and Finnish
securities were firmly interrelated.
Because of the geographical affinity, Swedish policy affected Finnish
security and vice versa. Both countries took this relationship into
consideration while shaping their respective policies. This
interdependence still exists today. To some extent, it now also includes
the Baltic states.
Both Finland and Sweden have committed themselves to the Common Foreign
and Security Policy of the Union. As a consequence, neutrality has de
facto been redefined in both countries to mean military non-alignment.
Finland and Sweden take part in the deepening of the CFSP and in the
development of the ESDF but they draw a distinction between crisis
management and common defence. While the former is to be developed and
pursued, the latter remains unacceptable to them. Maintaining the status
of military non-alignment also determines policies towards NATO. Sweden
and Finland regard the presence of the US and NATO in Northern Europe as
important factors for balancing Russian power and they co-operate
increasingly with the Alliance, but they have no intention of joining
NATO at the moment. Public opinion remaining decidedly sceptical towards
NATO membership is, for both, one of the key factors behind this policy.
Still, Russia remains important for Finnish and Swedish security. It is
in the interests of both Sweden and Finland to work against new dividing
lines emerging in Northern Europe. The reinforcement of the independence
and international position of the Baltic states is also in the interest
of Sweden and Finland, and both are pushing for Baltic EU memberships.
The geopolitical shift caused by the end of the Cold War changed the
relationship between Finland and Sweden. Due to EU membership, Finland
is no longer that dependent on Sweden and the countries can formulate
their security policies more as equal partners. While Finland has moved
to where Sweden has been for a long time, the Baltic states may now seem
to have taken Finland’s former place in this relationship.
The Baltics need Finland and Sweden for their security and the
strengthening of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian independence. The
Integration of the Baltic states into the European and transatlantic
institutions is in the interest also of Finland and Sweden.
The independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania increases Finland’s
and Sweden’s strategic distance from Russia. The reinforcement of their
international position helps to avoid conflicts between the Baltic
states and Russia, which could also easily affect Swedish and Finnish
security. Much like the Swedish policy towards Finland during the Cold
War, Finland and Sweden are now trying to strengthen their own security
by strengthening the security of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. They
assist the Baltic states to help themselves – also by developing
self-defence capabilities, push for their integration into Europe, and
avoid taking measures that could complicate the position of the Baltic
One of the constraints for Finnish and Swedish NATO membership has
stemmed from the position of the Baltic states. Were Finland and Sweden
to join NATO without the Baltic states, it could be assumed to increase
Russian pressure on the Baltic states and consequently decrease Swedish
and Finnish security. Even if Sweden and Finland recognise the
importance of Baltic independence to their security, they are not
willing to commit themselves to take responsibility for the security of
the Baltic states. Finland and Sweden do not consider themselves capable
of taking on such a responsibility and emphasise, therefore, the
importance of linking Baltic Sea security to European and transatlantic
Given recent developments, such as the possibility of NATO heading for a
“Big Bang” enlargement process towards the East starting in 2002, the
Nordics should obviously not put up (or be seen as putting up) obstacles
in the way of Baltic NATO membership.
Despite the increasing similarity between the Finnish and Swedish
security policies, there are still differences. Sweden shifted somewhat
earlier than Finland towards open support for Baltic independence and by
first taking the decision to apply for EU membership, while Finland
seems to have moved ahead of Sweden later in integrating itself into the
EU and in establishing links with NATO. Today, however, both countries
co-operate extensively with NATO, with Sweden now going full speed ahead
in converting its Cold War anti-invasion defence into a flexible and
fully NATO compatible national and international projection force.
While Sweden strongly underlined three issues – enlargement of the
Union, engaging EU citizens in the activities and future of the Union,
and environmental issues, to be handled by the Union members together –
Finland sees itself putting more emphasis than Sweden on deepening the
EU and in belonging to the core of the Union.
Geopolitics and historical experiences help to explain these
differences. Finland has a long border with Russia, whose future is
uncertain, and changes in Russia would more directly affect Finland than
Seeking protection is one of the motivations of Finland’s policy on the
EU and NATO. Membership of the EU, deepening the Union and co-operation
with NATO, while still retaining the basic structure of its
anti-invasion defence, are regarded in Finland as useful means to move
the relationship with Russia into a multilateral context, to create
reciprocity and to prepare for receiving outside assistance.
The Swedish emphasis on enlargement reflects a gradual understanding as
a means by which to handle the Baltic Sea security problems, i.e.
securing a European home for the Baltic states. The Union thus provides
an instrument for regional stability and security building. While
Finland may not regard joining NATO as a rational step due to the
Russian negative reaction, military alliances per se do not belong to
the Swedish vision of a better all-European security system.
In brief, although Finland and Sweden have taken similar steps in their
security policies since the Cold War, the motivations for their policies
are not entirely identical. The future relationship between Finnish and
Swedish security policies will depend on their membership of the
European Union. The relationship between their security policies will,
however, also depend on the situation in Russia. If Russia moves closer
to Europe and becomes a benign power, it is probable that the common
elements in the two security policies – based upon their common history
and geographical affinity -will be emphasised. If, on the other hand,
things start to go fundamentally wrong in Russia, Finland and Sweden may
be more likely to drift apart with their security policy choices. (from
Finnish and Swedesh Security- Comparing National Policies, Bo Huldt,
Teija Tiilikainen, Tapani Vaahtoranta and Anna Helkama-Ragard)
1. Security and defence policy, written for Virtual Finland by Janne
Kuusela, adviser; Ministry of Defence, International Defence Policy
2. Security in a Changing Europe: A Finnish View Minister of Defense of
Finland Anneli Taina;
3. Finnish and Swedesh Security- Comparing National Policies, Bo Huldt,
Teija Tiilikainen, Tapani Vaahtoranta and Anna Helkama-Ragard.