Commanders, Honourable Guests,
Voluntary military defence has long traditions and society’s strong support in Finland. However, the evolution has been long. It has required long-term efforts to build the current model.
According to the peace treaty signed in Paris after the Second World War, only the Defence Forces and the Border Guard could provide military training. When the Cold War ended, also the legal validity of the peace treaty’s military articles ended.
In today’s Finland, the voluntary military defence given by the National Defence Training Association of Finland consists of three elements.
The first one is military training that is in the core of voluntary activities. It means that persons working on a voluntary basis produce wartime capabilities for the local troops of the Defence Forces. Volunteers implement training that is guided and supervised by the Defence Forces.
The second element is training that serves military capabilities, in other words the training develops an individual’s skills to receive military training. This training is planned and implemented entirely by voluntary trainers.
The third element is readiness and security training. This means producing civil capabilities to respond to everyday incidents. Readiness and security training is meant for different groups of people, also for young people over 15 years and those who have not completed conscript service. The focus of the training is to teach capabilities in the field of comprehensive security, such as preparing for a natural catastrophe or a major power cut.
However, there is still a lot to develop in voluntary national defence. According to the Government’s Defence Report approved last year, the National Defence Training Association of Finland will be developed as the Defence Forces’ strategic partner. The goal is to strengthen the status of voluntary national defence in local defence and mutual assistance between government agencies. All this will also serve readiness that has been systematically improved in recent years. When we develop local defence we also develop military readiness that covers Finland’s entire territory, which in turn raises the threshold against the use of force on Finland.
The best way to reach the objectives that I mentioned is to assign military training to the Defence Forces while, at the same time, developing all the other activities that still remain within National Defence Training Association.
Through this arrangement, it is possible to improve the level of training and benefit from the skills of voluntary reservists better than before. The training will become more goal-oriented by allocating the Defence Forces’ personnel to the local troops; this will also secure sufficient material resources.
This reform requires that the number of personnel in the Defence Forces will be increased. The extra personnel will be allocated to local troops. In addition, the Defence Forces’ salaried personnel will support the National Defence Training Association to plan the training that they provide.
For the National Defence Training Association of Finland the reorganisation means two things: First, a system of special readiness officers will be established. Each regional office of the Defence Forces will be allocated a special readiness officer. They will ensure that the training by the National Defence Training Association is linked with the military training by the Defence Forces. They will also deal with the recruitment of volunteers and contribute to the planning of their tasks.
Second, all the courses arranged by the National Defence Training Association will be free of charge. The fact that activities are free of charge plays a key role especially for young people and those on low income. National defence is a right that belongs to all.
The reorganisation that I have outlined requires an overall funding of some 6,5 million Euros. This does not include the major materiel support already provided by the Defence Forces.
It should also be noted that legislative changes are needed to develop voluntary national defence. This will be done this summer so that the amended legislation can be approved next autumn.
To sum up, there is a clear demand for the changes that I have outlined. In addition to the changed operating environment, one should not underestimate people’s will to defend their country. Voluntary work extends across all levels of society and is therefore truly a common concern.
With these words, let me extend a warm welcome to you all and wish you a fruitful seminar!