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Finland passes enhanced surveillance bills without a vote

The laws will give the Security Intelligence Service and the Finnish Defence Forces new, expanded eavesdropping powers.

The plenary chamber was nearly empty of lawmakers on Monday afternoon. Image: Yle/ Carmela Walder

Parliament approved a package of intelligence law reforms in a nearly-empty plenary chamber on Monday afternoon. Finnish lawmakers effectively approved two bills which will enhance the surveillance capabilities of military and civil intelligence agencies.

The bills had been the source of a good deal of controversy since they were introduced. They were also considered by some to be among the most important pieces of legislation during Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's administration, which came to a sudden end last week, when he tendered his government's resignation to the president on Friday.

On that dramatic day, parliament approved the content of the surveillance bills, and since there was no opposition to the legislation on Monday, the bills were approved without a vote.

Negotiations concerning the legislation came to a standstill last month over constitutional concerns.

Constitutional questions

Constitutional experts - including on the social media site Twitter - said that changes demanded by the Constitutional Law Committee had been overlooked in the drafting of the legislation.

Parliament's Administration Committee then requested an additional statement from the constitutional committee which found that adjustments made to the legislation were satisfactory.

The surveillance reforms will be put into effect as soon as possible, but still require final approval from President Sauli Niinistö.

Over the weekend it was reported that the administration's resignation will likely delay the appointment of the future Intelligence Ombudsman, until the next government takes office after April's general election.

At the request of President Niinistö, the Sipilä administration will continue as a caretaker government until parliamentary elections due on 14 April.