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Proposed Finnish dual citizen law stricter than in neighbouring states

Newly-installed Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen will soon have draft legislation on his desk that expressly prohibits dual nationals from holding military posts.

Image: Ari Lahti / AOP
Denise Wall

According to information obtained by Yle, last autumn the Interior Ministry’s Border Guard unit began international research into how Germany and Finland’s neighbouring states treat access to state and military positions by dual citizens. The study looked at practices and legislation in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Estonia.

The study is still ongoing and classified. However according to Yle's sources, the research revealed that none of the states reviewed had any written legislation decreeing that dual citizens should be blocked from government or military posts.

This suggests that the new legislation governing dual citizenship currently being prepared in Finland is significantly stricter than existing laws in Germany and other nearby countries.

Finnish officials have not yet determined whether Russian law prohibits dual citizens from holding government posts. However, it is known that Russian law calls for individuals appointed to military positions to be Russian nationals. Finnish officials have no information about any cases where a Westerner or any Finnish-Russian dual national has been admitted into the Russian army or Border Guards.

Directives from Finnish Defence Intelligence Agency

One year ago, Yle reported that the Finnish Defence Forces had been keeping an especially close eye on enlisted Finnish-Russian dual citizens.

At the time the Defence Forces had decided to limit access to certain kinds of tasks and training on the part of Finnish-Russian dual citizens who were incoming conscripts. Yle also reported that the directives concerning the treatment of this group of dual citizens came from the Finnish Defence Intelligence Agency.

Yle’s reporting ignited a furore that angered the Defence Forces and Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö, then of the Finns Party. The Defence Forces called on Yle to retract the reports and Niinistö condemned Yle’s reporting as fake news and sloppy journalism.

At the same time that the minister was demanding an apology from Yle, he said that he had initiated legal reform to prevent dual citizens from attaining military positions. The Defence Ministry immediately began work on the draft legislation that would also block dual citizens from ranking positions in the Finnish Border Guard.

Defence Ministry: Draft law moving forward

Following Yle’s reporting on dual citizens in the Defence Forces last year, Defence Minister Niinistö said on many occasions that Finland should introduce a law to prohibit dual citizens from holding military posts.

A few weeks ago, during the formal opening of national defence training courses the minister said that action should be taken against "the Fifth Column", even during peace time. According to Helsingin Sanomat, Niinistö also said that he does not trust dual citizens to occupy military positions in the Defence Forces.

The Defence Ministry finished work on legal reforms relating to military posts as well as a government proposal about new draft legislation last year. The ministry told Yle that the legal reform “could be introduced as early as today”. However, the ministry said it wanted to wait until the Interior Ministry had completed drafting a similar law governing the Border Guards.

Newly-installed Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen will soon have draft legislation on his desk that expressly prohibits dual nationals from holding military posts. He will soon have to decide on whether or not to advance the contentious reform jointly with the Defence Ministry.

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