More guards with broader powers needed on the borders : Finland’s interior minister

Since 2012, spending cuts have meant a 40 percent reduction in personnel manning guard stations along an approximately 1000 km stretch of the border. (Heikki Haapalainen/Yle)
Interior Minister Paula Risikko says border guards should be given expanded powers to act if national security threatened.

Security has become one of the coalition government’s key concerns and a review will start soon to determine what measures will get priority.

Interior Minister Paula Risikko told Yle on Wednesday that the powers of public officials to deal with threats need to be expanded and the exchange of information among various officials needs to be improved. She is also urging intelligence legislation that could expand the use of surveillance.

More border guard resources

Risikko pointed to the Border Guard as a group she thinks should have greater powers on the frontier to act in instances that pose a threat to the country’s security.

“Currently it often happens that there is a delay while waiting for those individuals who have the power to act. This cannot continue. Those who first encounter such a situation should have that power,” the Interior Minister said.

The Border Guard, in turn, says that more resources are needed to do its job.

According to the commander of the Border Guard, Lieutenant General Jaakko Kaukanen, the number of guards on Finland’s eastern border should be brought back to the same level as five years ago.

Since 2012, spending cuts have meant a 40 percent reduction in personnel manning guard stations along an approximately 1000 km stretch of the border.

“That is quite massive cut in this security situation. Above all, I want this rectified,” says General Kaukanen.

This would mean an increase of around 200 border guards to ensure what Kaukanen terms “sensible basic control”.

The Border Guard has already made internal transfers of some 80 guards to improve supervision of the north-eastern border, but more funding would be required to increase personnel.

Budget issue

In addition to more personnel on the eastern border, General Kaukanen is pressing for more border guards at Helsinki’s international airport, which he considers the country’s most critical point of entry.

Measures mandated by tougher anti-terrorism legislation have slowed border checks. Kaukanen says that over the next few years, a further 50-70 border guard personnel will be needed at Helsinki airport in order to prevent bottlenecks.

Interior Minister Risikko agrees that there is a need to boost border guard numbers. A proposal for more funding will be on the table at the government’s spring budget talks.

“I’m not taking a position on numbers, but the goal is that we will be able to take care of border security,” stated Paula Risikko.

Related stories from around the North:

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Sweden: Sweden faces criticism over border controls, Radio Sweden

Russia:  Finland and Russia discuss refugee crisis, Yle News

United States: No, CNN, US Marines do not train on Norwegian-Russian border, The Independent Barents Observer

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