21st Oct 2016

Finland calls for 'pragmatic' EU defence

  • Finnish soldiers on exercise: Finland is not a member of Nato (Photo: Finnish army)

Finland’s “pragmatic” blueprint for EU defence goes less far than Italian or French “visions”, while quietly designating Russia as a threat.

Helsinki said in an informal paper, seen by EUobserver, that the EU should draw up a plan for joint military capabilities because it has a “need for strategic autonomy”.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The Finnish paper mentioned Russian-type "hybrid" warfare as a threat to Europe (Photo: stopherjones)

It described Europe as “a comprehensive security actor” alongside Nato, while adding that EU member states “should reiterate … [their] commitment to mutual assistance and solidarity” in times of crisis.

It said the objectives of EU defence integration should be “protecting Europe, managing crises and supporting partners” as well as “deterring against and responding to external threats”.

It said some of the new EU capabilities should target “hybrid threats”, referring to foreign states’ covert military operations, as well as economic, cyber, and information warfare.

The Finnish paper was circulated last week ahead of an EU defence ministers’ meeting in Bratislava on Tuesday (27 September).

Italy, as well as France and Germany, have also circulated ideas papers seen by this website.

Finnish pragmatism

The Italian proposal, billed as a political response to Brexit, said the EU should create its own “permanent” military force and military HQ.

The Franco-German proposal said the EU should have its own military HQ, but that this should command the kind of short-term overseas crisis missions that already exist today.

The Finnish paper goes less far than either of them, saying only that the EU should create a new “joint permanent civilian-military planning and conduct capability” that could, in future “take responsibility over … non-executive military operations”.

The Italian paper spoke of a new “political vision” on EU defence.

But Finland said that: “Following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, it is of utmost importance to establish a pragmatic partnership in security and defence”.

Like its EU peers, Finland said there should be more joint EU spending on military capabilities, for instance on battlegroups and on R&D.

Battlegroups are battalion-sized forces created by subsets of EU states, but they have never been deployed, in part, because capitals did not want to pay for operations.

“We should aim at normalisation of defence, making it possible for it to benefit from … Union policies like any other sector”, Finland said.

Unlike, Italy, France and Germany, Finland is not a member of Nato.

It also has the longest land border with Russia of any EU country and has been a target of Russian sabre-rattling over its ever-closer ties with the Nato alliance and with the US military.

The Italian, French and German ideas focused on EU crisis operations in Africa and the Middle East.

The Finnish paper did not name Russia, but Helsinki’s accent on EU “mutual assistance” and on “deterring … external threats” indicated that it sees EU military cooperation as a prophylactic against potential Russian aggression.

The EU treaty has a clause on mutual security assistance, which was invoked by France after last year’s terrorist attack in Paris, but which falls short of Nato obligations on mutual defence.

Russia subtext

Finland’s focus on “hybrid threats”, mentioned three times in its informal paper, also nods to Russia, which recently shocked Europe by its hybrid attack on Ukraine.

Aside from member states’ input into the Bratislava talks, the EU foreign service, or EEAS, has also circulated what one EU source called a “questionnaire/issues paper to structure the defence ministers’ discussion”.

The source said the EU foreign service paper focused on three topics - “crisis management, partners' capacity building, and protection of Europe”.

France and Germany have indicated that they wanted to move quickly on joint projects, with some ideas to be implemented in 2017 or 2018.

The source indicated that the EEAS is also moving quickly.

The EU contact said that the EU institution expected member states to file their answers to its questionnaire on future EU defence in early October.

But the source said the EEAS is still trying to “sense the mood in the [EU] capitals” on how far to go on military integration rather than proposing concrete projects at this stage.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity

Latest News

  1. Ceta failure deepens EU trade policy crisis
  2. Poland buttonholes Juncker on Russian pipeline
  3. Dieselgate: German environment officials 'heard only rumours'
  4. Wallonia still refuses to buy the Ceta "cat in a bag"
  5. Women shake Poland's pillars of power
  6. Malta, Latvia, and Hungary top EU obesity charts
  7. British PM asserts her role in EU 'nest of doves'
  8. Italy shields Russia from EU sanctions threat