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New law in works to help Finland track land purchases by foreigners

New legislation being hammered out in parliament would allow Finnish security agencies to access land registries and reclaim properties from suspicious buyers from countries outside the EU and the EEA.

Varuskunta-alue Pohjois-Karjalassa.
File photo of a military garrison area near northern Karelia. Image: Mauri Ratilainen / AOP

A law being prepared in parliament would give Finnish national security authorities new ways to keep an eye on the property purchases by foreigners near strategic areas.

Motivation for making the new property ownership law is driven by concerns of buyers from outside the European Union and European Economic Area buying property near army bases, military practice areas or broadcast towers in Finland.

According to the proposal, national security officials would be granted easier access to land registries to discover changes in property ownership.

Each authority – the Finnish Defence Forces, Finnish Border Guard, Finnish Customs, Finnish Security Intelligence Service and the National Emergency Supply Agency – would track purchases in its vicinity.

"If we become alarmed by a certain purchase, we'll need to have an effective means to stop it," says Timo Lankinen from the Ministry of Finance.

The law proposes that if the buyer is deemed suspicious, the state could buy or reclaim the property after the purchase has taken place. Under another proposal, the state would be given the option to pre-emptively buy property near locations of strategic importance.

However, some fear that such pre-emptive purchases would have a negative effect on the real estate market.

Against hybrid threats

The new, broadened powers would also help authorities to detect hybrid warfare, in particular plans for a so-called gray zone conflict, where land is acquired for the purpose of stationing unidentified troops.

"That would require an evaluation of whether this is an operation that could endanger the security of the whole country," Lankinen said. 

The proposal will be presented to the government in May of next year.

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