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Finland looks for opt-out on EU firearms directive

Finland will seek an opt-out on a new EU firearms directive banning civilian ownership of ’military-style’ semi-automatic firearms. Parliament’s Grand Committee outlined the Finnish position on Wednesday, arguing that Finnish reservists need access to these weapons.

Image: Milla Vahtila / Yle

Finland will demand an opt-out on new EU rules over civilian ownership of 'military style' semi-automatic firearms, amid concerns over access to weapons for military reservists. Parliament's Grand committee, which sets the parameters of Finnish negotiations in the EU, laid out the position today.

The EU wants to tighten rules governing firearms in the wake of last month's terror attacks in Paris, but Orpo says he's hopeful that Finland will get a fair hearing in Brussels.

Interior Minister Petteri Orpo said that it's a matter of national security that Finland secure the ability for reservists to own the right weapons.

"Voluntary national defence is such an important part of Finnish national defence that Finland doesn’t have room to compromise (on this issue)," said Orpo. "Otherwise we’re ready to negotiate."

Finland’s wartime military is some 230,000 strong, but these are mostly conscripts and reservists, rather than professional soldiers.

Every Finnish male has to undertake either civil or military service after the age of 18, and is then eligible to be recalled in times of emergency.

The EU's plans to restrict sales of semi-automatic weapons have raised hackles in Finland, with the defence minister Jussi Niinistö on Monday joining Orpo and senior MPs in writing to Finnish MEPs to ask them to lobby for revisions to the draft directive.

The letter asks that the ban on semi-automatic weaponry be removed from the directive altogether, or that Finland be allowed an opt-out on national defence grounds.

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