Report: Finland’s arms exports lack transparency

SaferGlobe's annual report on the Finnish arms exports industry is published today.

File picture of Patria AMV / Credit: Patria

Issues with a lack of transparency in parts of Finland’s arms export process means there are “weak points” in the system.

That’s according to the Helsinki-based SaferGlobe peace and security think tank which released its annual report into Finland’s weapons exports on Monday.

SaferGlobe says that because several different authorities are responsible for processing arms export licenses, the system operates in different ways, and to different standards, depending on whether the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Police Board handles an export license application.

“We don’t think are huge problems, individual cases maybe, but we don’t think there are any serious problems with the system, but there are weak points” says Maria Mekri, SaferGlobe’s Executive Director.

The current export license system is set up so that the Ministry of Defence handles purely military-related exports; while the Police Board is supposed to take charge of personal arms exports – mostly private rifles for hunting; while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supposed to have oversight of dual-purpose exports: items which should be used by civilian police but which also could have military applications.

“We would like there to be changes here and to have as much transparency as possible. It’s all about strengthening transparency for the future, it’s not about things we fear are big problems” Mekri tells News Now Finland.

The new report highlights that Finland exported more than €200 million in weapons in 2018, the majority of it military or police sales, with countries with poor human rights records like Turkey, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan spending millions on weapons from Finland.

“There’s a lot of grey areas, and arms trading requires a lot of responsible political decision-making and transparency” explains Mekri.

“We cannot stop the arms trade everywhere, and we cannot trade arms just anywhere, and this grey zone is where we need robust transparency especially in the near future” she adds.

SaferGlobe wants to see the export license system tightened up by bringing the whole process under one central authority. Mekri notes that SaferGlobe was flagging up issues with the National Police Board export license reporting as far back as 2013, and that a new computer system which will help to properly track and report the cases is being delayed until 2024.

You might also be interested in:

Investigation: Finnish-made Patrias, some with Russian heavy weapons, deployed in Yemen battle zone