The Union of Conscientious Objectors says that it is becoming much more common to resign from the army. By the end of May some 485 reservists had resigned from the army, according to a statement from the union. In 2014 fewer than 300 resigned over the whole year.
The union is forecasting that more than a thousand reservists will have resigned by the end of 2015. The Defence Forces, though, say they are not worried.
"When you talk of resigning from the army, it’s a little bit misleading because you cannot legally resign from the reserve," said the Defence Forces’ Director of Communication Colonel Mika Kalliomaa. “Now we’re talking about reservists who seek a transfer to the civil reserve after completing military service."
Wave of resignations
The wave of resignations comes as the Finnish military is sending letters to 900,000 reservists to let them know what their positions would be in the case of a national emergency. Kalliomaa says it’s no surprise that some of the nearly one million people concerned are now considering a change.
"The letter was sent to around 900,000 reservists which has made people consider their convictions and switching to civilian service," said Kalliomaa. "In the light of the number of letters and the publicity, we’re talking about quite a small group."
Our opinion is that civilian service is a completely legal and possible option,” added Kalliomaa.
Duties remain outside army
According to Kalliomaa, applications to switch are nodded through in peacetime—but that could change in a conflict situation.
"A person can apply to switch to civilian service on the basis of their convictions," said Kalliomaa. "In peacetime that is not looked at too deeply, but during a crisis a committee would undoubtedly be established to examine the applicant’s beliefs."
"A conviction is not that it’s not fun, not interesting or someone doesn’t feel like it—in that case it’s against the law governing the duty to defend the country," said Kalliomaa.
According to the Finnish constitution every citizen has the duty to participate in or assist in defending the country. Military service affects men, but they have the option to swap armed service for civilian service.
That does not, however, free them of the obligation to defend the country or assist in its defence in a crisis. In that case they would be assigned non-military duties.