News |

Finland among last bastions of compulsory military service

A signature drive has been launched calling for a reform of Finland’s laws on general military conscription of men.

Varusmiehiä Kaartin Jääkärirykmentissä.
Members of the Guard Jaeger Regiment, based on Helsinki's Santahamina Island. Image: Puolustusvoimat

Finland is one of the last countries in Europe to require general military conscription of men. Since the end of the Cold War more than two decades ago, most European countries have moved toward volunteer and professional armies.

In recent years, Germany and others have abandoned general conscription and alternative civilian service. Sweden dropped the liability to military service in 2010. It will establish a professional army after 2014.

Last week, a petition was launched calling for Finland, too, to halt mandatory conscription. The “Ohi on” (“It’s Over”) signature drive is backed by NGOs such as the Committee of 100 in Finland, the Union of Conscientious Objectors (AKL), the Pirate Party of Finland, and various Green groups.

Proportion of conscripts dropping

The General Secretary of the Committee of 100 in Finland notes that less 70 percent of men in each age group now carry out military service, a drop of some 10 percent within a decade. Most of the rest carry out alternative civilian service – which has a longer minimum length – or receive various types of waivers. According to the AKL, more than 50 conscientious objectors are sentenced to prison sentences in Finland every year for refusing to do any sort of national service.

Since 1995, women have been allowed to serve in the Finnish Defence Forces on a volunteer basis. Some 6,000 have done so.

Public figures campaigning on behalf of the anti-conscription campaign include Arno Kotro, an author and Yle TV host, and Fatbardhe Hetemaj, a conservative Helsinki City Councillor and former Refugee Woman of the Year. She will be discussing the issue on Yle’s A-studio programme on Friday evening.

Any civic initiative that gathers a minimum of 50,000 signatures must be considered by Parliament.

Here are comparison figures for European countries, based on 2010 data.

Country          End of              % of       € per     Budget   Troops   Reserves

                    conscription        GDP      capita     (M€)

                     (decision)                                                         

Albania            2010 (2008)       2.0          37        111          14,295    –

Andorra           No army              –            –          –              –            –

Austria                         –             0.9        291      2390         44,400   195,000

Belarus                       –              1.5        15        145            72,940   289,500

Belgium           1995 (1992)        1.2       354      3700          38,844   2040

Bosnia and

Herzegovina    2006 (2005)        1.4        28        109           8543     4200

Bulgaria           2007 (1998)        2.4        63        443           40,747   302,500

Croatia            2008 (2007)        1.9       142      636            18,600   21,000

Cyprus                      –               1.9       462       526           15,000    84,000

Czech Rep.      2004 (2001)       1.3       133      1350           24,083    –

Denmark                   –               1.4       440      2440          29,550   53,507

Estonia                     –                2.2       185      236            5300     16,000

Finland                   –                 1.3      456      2460        33,900  350,000

France              2002 (1996)       2.3      701      45,800       352,771  70,300

Germany          2011                  1.3       388      31,500       244,324  161,812

Hungary          2004 (2004)       1.2        92        938           25,207    44,000

Iceland            No army              1.2        17        5.3             –             –

Ireland             No conscr.           0.6      245      1160          10,460     14,875

Italy               2005 (2001)         1.7       465      28,500       292,983   41,867

Latvia             2006 (2005)        1.9       120      263             5187       11,204

Liechtenstein   No army                –          –          –                –              –

Lithuania         2009 (2008)        1.5       105      370             8850        6700

Luxemburg      1967                   0.7      554      282             900          –

Macedonia      2007 (2006)         1.8       48        100            10,890     21,000

Malta              No conscr.            0.7        83        34             1954        167

Moldova               –                     0.6       2          7.3             5150         66,000

Monaco           No army               –          –          –               –               –

Montenegro     2006 (2006)       1.8       72        47              4500         –

Netherlands     1997 (1992)       1.4       509      8520          40,537      3339

Norway                      –              1.3       692      3260         19,100      45,250

Portugal           2004 (1999)       2.0      309      3330          42,910      210,900

Poland             2010 (2008)       2.0      132      5070          121,808     222,003

Romania          2007 (2005)       1.5       69        1510         73,200      45,000

Russia                        –              3.5      185      26,400        1.03mn    20mn

San Marino      No army              –          –          –                –             –

Serbia             2011 (2010)        2.4        48        360          18,443     54,249

Slovakia          2005 (2005)        1.5       114      625           17,445     –

Slovenia          2004 (2002)        1.5       302      603           7200       3800

Spain              2002 (1999)        1.2       289      13,600      221,750  319,000

Sweden           2010                   1.3       567      5160         16,900    262,000

Switzerland            –                   0.8       303      2400         22,823    218,200

Turkey                  –                   2.2       112      8930          510,600 378,700

Ukraine           2015 (2005)        2.7        47        2110         129,925  1mn

UK                  1919/1963          2.5       638      40,200        160,280 199,280

Vatican            No army              –          –          –          –          –

Sources: Committee of 100 in Finland, Finnish Defence Forces

Latest in: News

Headlines

News

Wednesday’s papers: Sanction specs, pickpockets, dirty waters and swarming bees

The headlines (“lööpit”) of two of Finland’s widely read newspapers differ drastically this Wednesday, as Ilta-Sanomat tells of EU sanction measures against Russia affecting Finland, while Iltalehti leads with the reuniting of two top entertainers from back in the day. The dailies also deal with burning topics: hogweed blisters and cooling-down methods on hot days. Water contamination, pickpockets and bees also make the papers.

Our picks

Latest

Muualla Yle.fi:ssä