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Finland's foreign and security policy

Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja presented the foreign and security policy prioritisations of the Government Programme in the SuomiAreena event in Pori, 14 July 2011 (Photo: SuomiAreena)Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja presented the foreign and security policy prioritisations of the Government Programme in the SuomiAreena event in Pori, 14 July 2011 (Photo: SuomiAreena)

Foreign and security policy is based on good bilateral and international relations, a strong role in the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the EU, effective multilateral cooperation and credible national defence.

Foreign and security policy line

Finland's foreign and security policy line is essentially based on the conduct of a consistent foreign policy, ensuring the functioning society and promotion of citizens' security and wellbeing as well as a credible national defence, active role as a Member State of the European Union (EU), and participation in international decision-making and in the work of the United Nations (UN) and other global and regional organisations.

The general goal is to strengthen Finland's security and international influence and to promote the interests of the country, considering the requirements of increasing international cooperation.

Finland's security policy is based on a credible defence capability. Finland supports endeavours to strengthen the European Union as an actor in the field of international policy and economy. The development of relations with the neighbouring areas - the Nordic countries, Russia and the Baltic States - is of key importance. Efforts are made to enhance the status of the Baltic Sea region and the northern regions within the European Union.

As a Member State of the European Union and as one of the Nordic countries, Finland belongs to a value community, which is based on democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. One of the purposes of Finland's foreign policy is to emphasise the importance of these values also internationally.

The Government's policy guidelines concerning foreign and security policy are Government Programme and Government report on Finnish security and defence policy.

Government Programme

The Government Programme is an action plan agreed on by the parties represented in the Government and it sets out the main functions of the Government. 

The Programme of the current Government (Website of the Finnish Government)

Government Security and Defence Policy Report submitted to Parliament  

Finnish security and defence policy 2012 (Website of the Finnish Government)

Direction of foreign and security policy and the key actors

The leadership and other actors responsible for the foreign and security policy must ensure Finland's capability in all situations also when changes take place in the international environment.

Changes in the external environment necessitate the development of foreign and security policy as an entity with due regard for the new and different threat scenarios. It is thus important to pay attention to the development, human rights and globalisation policies and their effects on the national and international security.

States must be able to conduct a security policy that responds to the challenge arising from societies' new kind of vulnerability and to guarantee individual citizen's wellbeing and safety.

Buildings: Presidential residence, Parliament house, Council of State, Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence
  • The foreign and security policy of Finland is directed by the President of the Republic in cooperation with the Government. The Prime Minister takes principal responsibility for matters relating to the European Union. The Constitution of Finland determines their respective competences.
  • In the Government, the key actors in foreign and security policy issues are the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence and, increasingly also the Minister of the Interior, since issues with an influence on the external and internal security are increasingly linked with each other. Since the accession to the EU, different administrative branches' direct responsibility for international cooperation in their own line of activities has increased.
  • In the Government, matters are prepared by the Foreign and Security Policy Committee, and the Security and Defence Committee at the state secretary level. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence prepare and implement Finland's foreign, security and defence policy.
  • Parliament takes responsibility for legislative matters related to international relations and for the control of the implementation of foreign and security policy. The Foreign Affairs Committee prepares international issues that have been dealt with in Parliament, the Grand Committee prepares EU issues, and the Defence Committee prepares defence policy issues.

Finland's security environment

The deepening integration of the European Union (EU) and its enlargement to the Central and East European countries have strengthened democratic development and stimulated political and economic reforms. Finland considers that the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has enhanced security in the Baltic Sea region.

By means of its partnership and neighbourhood policies, the EU establishes closer relations with the countries in East Europe and the Mediterranean region, which are not yet eligible for membership of the union. The common norms and principles set by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe have laid down foundations for an increasingly comprehensive value base for Europe as a whole.

The changes that have taken place after the end of the Cold War support stability and reforms in Finland's neighbouring areas. The promotion of stability in Russia is particularly important for Finland. Finland values bilateral relations and practical cooperation with Russia, which has taken the lead as Finland's biggest trading partner. Finland contributes to partnership between the EU and Russia aimed at supporting Russia's development into an effective democracy and market economy, which is governed by the rule of law.

Cooperation between the EU and the United States, on the one hand, and the US commitment to Europe through NATO, on the other hand, are of central importance for Europe's stability and the resolution of global problems and peaceful development.

Global problems and new, cross-border security threats - such as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), terrorism and regional conflicts - have a stronger impact on Finland's security and wellbeing than earlier. Finland emphasises the importance of transatlantic cooperation and fosters its relations with the US also bilaterally and through its Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme with NATO.

International security and defence political cooperation

Finland supports the strengthening of the European Union as a security community and a global actor by means of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

Based on the PfP, Finland is engaged in cooperation with NATO. Application for membership of the defence alliance remains a possibility in Finland's future decisions on security and defence policy.

In order to contribute to the consolidation of multilateral security and legal order, Finland takes part in the international cooperation by being active in the UN and other worldwide organisations, the OSCE and the Council of Europe and regional organisations in Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region.

International crisis management

Participation in international crisis management is a central element of Finland's foreign and security policy. The objective is to contribute to international security and thus also strengthen Finland's own security. Finland's participation is multifaceted in terms of the scope of geographic regions as well as the nature of tasks and the variety of lead organizations in operations.

Finland tries to concentrate on participation in operations in such crisis areas in which Finland's input can produce added value and where it is possible to give appropriate support for the parties involved in the crisis management activities. The idea is to also invest in tasks which are meaningful from Finland's viewpoint and which enhance the national defence capability.

More information:


Operations and map: International Crisis Management

Finland's defence solution

Finland maintains a credible national defence capability, which relies on general conscription and a territorial defence system, designed to cover the whole country. This takes place by ensuring that Finland has a sufficient war-time troop strength. Finland develops its defence capability as a country not belonging to any military alliance and follows military-political developments, the evolution of the EU's defence dimension, and the changes taking place within NATO as well as the security political situation especially in the neighbouring areas.

Finland participates in international military cooperation in the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace and provides troops for NATO-led crisis management operations in, for example, Western Balkans and Afghanistan. Finland also takes part in the formation of the Union's Battlegroups in the framework of the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and provides troops for crisis management operations led by the EU and the UN.

The participation also supports the reform and strengthening of Finland's national defence capability. At the same time, Finland's preparedness for cooperation with partners and as a provider or recipient of assistance in crisis situations improves.

Link between external and internal security

As a result of the emergence of new security problems and cross-border threats, the boundary between external and internal security is disappearing. On account of increasing tourist flows and people's mobility, Finnish citizens' safety may be endangered also in major catastrophes and natural disasters abroad or as a result of terrorism of other serious crime.

Response to these challenges calls for increasing international cooperation, and coordination and cooperation between rescue services at the EU level. Finland considers that consular cooperation should be strengthened within the European Union to ensure the citizens' safety.

Finland's response to global security challenges

Finland participates in the implementation of the EU's European Security Strategy, which aims at the elimination of causes for disputes and conflicts and prevention and management of conflicts. Finland also highlights the necessity of international cooperation as a means to combat terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Encouragement of intercultural dialogue and efforts to prevent the social exclusion of immigrants can serve as a means to avoid the emergence of radical movements and ethnic-religious stereotypes.

The capability of the UN Security Council must be strengthened to help it shoulder its responsibility for international peace and security. Finland is of the opinion that the terms of international interventions must be decided upon multilaterally and in accordance with the principles recorded in the Charter of the UN. At the same time, the international community must develop its capacity to take action in case of human rights violations, if failing or otherwise weak states cannot assume the responsibility that they are required.

A basic means to find a peaceful resolution to regional and internal disputes and conflicts is to strengthen multilateral cooperation and international law. The materialisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set in the UN Millennium Declaration, is essential for consolidating and guaranteeing sustainable peace and security.

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