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First head of EU border protection agency, Ilkka Laitinen, dies at 57

Ilkka Laitinen served as the first Executive Director of Frontex, the European Union’s border protection agency, from 2005-2014.

Ilkka Laitinen
Image: Susa Junnola / Rajavartiolaitos

Lieutenant-General Ilkka Laitinen, 57, who was Chief of the Finnish Border Guard since last year, passed away on Monday. He had taken up the post in September 2018, but resigned last month due to a serious illness. Laitinen had earlier served as the first Executive Director of Frontex, the European Union’s border protection agency, for nine years.

Laitinen, who was born in 1962 in the North Karelian town of Nurmes, had been serving in the Border Guard in various roles since 1985. Frontex became operational in May 2005 and Laitinen became its first Director-General in 2005. The EU Commission granted him an extension of five years at the end of the first period, which was unanimously agreed on by the agency's board.

After he returned from Frontex in 2015, he worked for the Finnish Border Guard, first as Director of International Affairs and then as Deputy Chief of the Border Guard in 2015-18.

After Laitinen stepped down as Chief on 20 September, President Sauli Niinistö appointed Major General Pasi Kostamovaara as his replacement as of Tuesday, 1 October.

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