Finnish view and experience on military mobility
Dear colleagues and partners in sharing military mobility concerns,
Thank you for organizing this event. This helps us all to outline all the bits and pieces that together form Military Mobility. I was asked to share with you a Finnish view and our experiences.
I can assure you that Finland is very motivated to work towards common goals in this issue both within the EU and in the EU–NATO context. Military Mobility is not about EU and NATO, it is about defence of Europe.
I feel that it is fitting to share my thoughts in a panel with a topic "Synergies and coordination”: this says it all about our experiences so far. It is synergies we are after, it is lack of coordination that we are worried of.
Finland is an EU-member, we are a close partner with NATO and a part of the Northern Group. We cooperate very closely among the Nordic countries within the NORDEFCO framework and we often meet in a Nordic-Baltic format on different levels to talk about defence issues.
Whatever the meeting format, Military Mobility is today always on the agenda. You cannot have a credible defence policy meeting without it. This is because we all see the importance of this issue, and the need to together rapidly make concrete steps to advance it.
At the same time this has caused slight worries I think both internationally and nationally on coordination, but perhaps also on duplication.
Nationally, we have tried to tackle this problem by establishing a national coordination group for military mobility. Six ministries and six governmental authorities meet when needed and so far we have found this very useful. By now, cooperation has been needed most between Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Transportation and Defence Forces. In the near future, the role of Customs and, consequently, the Ministry of Finance will also most probably increase.
Despite the novelty of the topic for some of these authorities, this cooperation has worked well. It also fits well to the Finnish concept of comprehensive security, which is a decade-long tradition.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me now elaborate a bit our most traditional Military Mobility cooperation format, the NORDEFCO framework. In this format, countries with different defence solutions work together.
First, there is us Finns with our EU-membership and close NATO partnership, with our conscript system which for long time was internationally considered old fash-oned but which is slowly becoming the hottest trend again.
Second, there are the Swedes with similar international commitments but a different military system with reintroduced conscription.
And third, there are the three NATO members Norway, Denmark and Iceland out of which one has no army, two are not members in the EU and one has several opt-outs.
Despite all the differences in the defence structures of our five countries, we have been working together in order to enhance military mobility amongst our countries already since 2016 when we signed our so called Easy Access Memorandum of Understanding.
Easy Access is basically the umbrella for various Military Mobility projects in NORDEFCO. We have an Easy Access implementation plan and a joint working group to carry the plan out. All this is based on the needs of the Defence Forces and guided by the Ministers.
Already before the signing of the Easy Access MoU, the Nordic countries had enhanced their cooperation in training and exercises for several years.
Easy Access facilitates this further. The work focuses on four categories: agreements, permits, dangerous goods and alternate landing bases. Alternate landing base concept is a good practical example of the benefits of simplified access: in the case of for instance bad weather conditions, Nordic countries can use each other’s landing bases according to the arrangement.
Currently, we are looking into expanding this cooperation even further. This will be discussed during our NORDEFCO fall Ministerial meeting after national consideration.
Easy Access is not only a political level push: It has been particularly positive to notice that the defence forces have been satisfied with this work.
To sum all of this up, I think that the Nordic cooperation is a living evidence that in order to promote Military Mobility, it is not decisive whether the defence solutions are similar. According to our experience, the decisive things are an existing need, mutual trust and a common view on the security environment.
Finally, I’d like to share my thoughts with you on how I see the current Military Mobility discussion. I think the issues that we are discussing in various formats can be divided into three:
Firstly, there are the infrastructure issues. One might say that these are the easy but expensive issues. Military has the necessary knowledge of what is needed – which bridges are too weak, which roads too narrow, which harbors lack sufficient crane capacity.
Fixing these problems needs prioritizing and resources. I think this is the core business for us politicians and we should be able to do it. Not everyone will get everything, but every step forward is good for our common cause – keeping Europe safe and secured.
Then there are the regulatory issues and administrative proceedings – the bureaucracy. This is something that ordinary citizens might find difficult to understand: that in case of emergency, action might be delayed due to slow border formalities, complicated clearance procedures or multiple points of contact.
My understanding is that this is the easiest and probably also the cheapest subtopic to tackle. From us politicians this requires mainly clear messaging to our competent authorities that we want simplifying and unifying to take place swiftly.
At the same time, ordinary citizens tend to worry that this might mean losing na-tional sovereignty. This is of course not the case, and this must be made clear in all our communication.
I could clarify this with an eye-opening example from Finland. In Finland, taxation has been made very easy. An individual does not even have to fill in a tax return form. The tax office sends you a prefilled form, and if all information is correct, you do not have to do anything. If there is a mistake or some relevant information is missing, you can add it – digitally, if you wish.
Does simplifying the taxation procedures mean that Finns do not have to pay taxes? Absolutely no. Does it mean that there is less control and an increased risk of mistakes that harm either the taxpayer or the government? No. We still have one of the highest tax rates in Europe and an almost watertight system to collect them.
This is just to clarify that proceedings can be simple, safe and efficient at the same time.
And then the third issue. That should be – military mobility. This is what should be our end-product: what will happen when we will have in place both the infrastructure and the administration that works like Finnish taxation.
We are aiming at having a system where troops and material can move without delays in Europe, to Europe and from Europe both in peace time and when crises emerge. Changes in our security environment have reminded us also about the importance of being able to take proactive measures when necessary.
But it is important to remember that military mobility is not an end in itself; it is a mean to an end. We need the ability to move quickly – but always under full control of each sovereign state or host nation – because it is a precondition for any efficient activity or operation. From this point of view, you can also say that mili-tary mobility is a threshold capability.
For us, Nordic cooperation has been a useful test case. Each nation involved has posed the same question for itself: what do we want to achieve with easier mobility?
In the EU-level, Military Mobility supports the commonly agreed goals: managing crisis, supporting partners, protecting Europe. All this is also about solidarity. I would advocate for setting our targets high. I think that the proposed pledge will serve us well.
Thank you for your attention.