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President Niinistö: Security shaken, but closing borders leads to isolation

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said that last week's knife attack in Turku may have disrupted the country's sense of security, but he added that the country must follow international agreements concerning issues like asylum and immigration. Niinistö made the comments in Helsinki on Tuesday.

President Sauli Niinistö speaks to journalists during a meeting of Finnish ambassadors in helsinki on Tuesday. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Speaking to an audience of ambassadors at the Annual Meeting of Finnish Heads of Mission, Niinistö touched on the divisive question of immigration, saying that there are arguments to support both sides of the issue.

However, he pointed out that not only does Finland apply its own laws to the matter, but it is also bound by international agreements.

"We cannot close our borders without isolating ourselves," he declared.

Niinistö acknowledged that some people seek asylum without a valid cause and that Finland has the right to deport such individuals.

"Our legal system is among the foremost in the world, including in asylum matters. To challenge or directly oppose the judiciary's decisions shakes the entire social order," he added.

Niinistö observed that immigration in Finland is not likely to end.

"How can we maintain civil society without jeopardising it? We must have a thorough debate on this," he commented.

Call for broader surveillance powers

President Sauli Niinistö echoed remarks by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä on Monday.

At the time, Sipilä called on lawmakers to fast-track constitution-changing legislation to broaden Finland's surveillance laws.

Niinistö said that constitutional changes to give law enforcement agencies greater surveillance powers should be passed by lawmakers as quickly as possible.

"I think that a sufficient Parliamentary majority is prepared to increase the authorities' inadequate powers and to carefully examine whether [the country] has sufficient security resources," Niinistö said.

Referring to the knife attack in Turku on Friday, a case which became Finland's first international terrorism-related incident, Niinistö said, "The authorities and people of Turku did everything in their power, but the attack has disrupted the sense of security in Finland."

Not many months before Friday's attacks, Finland was named the safest country in the world for holidaymakers by the World Economic Forum.