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Parliament: Finnish troops can be forced to serve abroad

Finnish MPs voted by a wide margin on Friday to empower the Finnish Defence Forces to order professional service members to take part in overseas operations under the aegis of the EU security guarantee system. Another vote will still be taken to confirm the reform of the Act on the Defence Forces.

Finnish and Swedish troops took part in the NATO-led Baltops exercise in June 2016. Image: Adam Warzawa / EPA

Parliament on Friday voted in favour of a law allowing the Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) to compel soldiers to serve in overseas operations. MPs ratified the law on providing international assistance by a margin of 96-59, with 44 legislators absent.

The act enables the provision and receipt of military assistance between Finland and another state, the EU or an international organisation under the auspices of the EU security guarantee system.

The pre-vote debate in parliament focused on the clause stating that those serving in the FDF may be forced to take part in foreign operations.

Opponents argued that the obligation should only apply to new FDF employees rather than those already pursuing careers in the armed forces. The requirement will only cover professional FDF staff, not conscripts or reservists.

Representing the government was Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö of the Finns Party, who countered that obligatory participation is the only credible way to ensure that enough troops can be found when they are needed for operations outside Finland's borders.

The law still faces one more up-or-down vote, but its content can no longer be changed.