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Dual citizens now barred from military posts, with exceptions possible

A new law addresses a long-running debate over a possible security threat from people who hold foreign passports.

Kadetti ampuu rynnäkkökiväärillä Taipalsaaren ampuma-alueella.
While dual citizens may serve as conscripts, they can no longer be appointed to military posts without special permission (file photo). Image: Yle

As of Monday, individuals with dual or multiple citizenship are barred from working at military posts in the Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) except with special permission.

The acts governing the FDF and the National Defence University have been revised to allow only people with solely Finnish citizenship to be appointed to military positions or officer posts.

Under the new legislation, no-one named to such posts may hold foreign citizenship that might pose a security risk. The law stipulates that candidates must be screened to make sure they don't have "foreign nationality or other foreign ties that might endanger security, the national defence or Finland's international relationships".

It allows exemptions from the citizenship requirement if necessary and includes transitional provisions for anyone who holds dual citizenship and has already been appointed to a military post or admitted to officer training.

The Border Guard was also to have been covered by the law, but last autumn it opted out.

Ex-defence minister denied informal ban

In early 2017, then-defence minister Jussi Niinistö launched efforts to revise the law, saying it was "needed to improve Finland’s national security when appointing someone to a military post in the Defence Forces and selecting students for studies that lead to officer posts".

The original aim was for the new legislation to take effect in early 2018. However it was not approved by Parliament until this past March, just before the end of the legislative term and before Niinistö left office.

The defence minister also became embroiled in a dispute with Yle over the issue, denying a report by the public broadcaster that the FDF already had an informal practice of denying jobs or certain kinds of training to anyone with Finnish-Russian dual citizenship. Yle stood by the story, citing confidential sources and email documents.

In mid-June this year, the Helsinki District Court ruled that there had been discrimination against a woman with Finnish-Russian dual citizenship who was barred from a job as a kitchen assistant at the Vekaranjärvi Karelia Brigade military base in Kouvola, southeast Finland. She had lived in Finland for 26 years.

However the court threw out charges against a recruiter working for the catering firm that runs the base's cafeteria, declaring that the order against hiring dual citizens had come from the FDF. The firm's manager said he had been instructed not to hire dual citizens by a security officer at Vekaranjärvi.

Last week the state prosecutor declined to appeal the District Court decision.

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