Friction Continues Over Defense Reforms
(Source: YLE Finnish Broadcasting Corp.; published March 24, 2012)
Opposition Centre Party leader Mari Kiviniemi has demanded that reforms being planned for the Finnish defense forces be completely reexamined. Meanwhile, SDP chair and Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen told Yle on Saturday that the fate of the Swedish-speaking Dragsvik garrison is still undecided.

Kiviniemi criticized the government for taking decisions affecting the structure of national defense forces without consulting Parliament and without adhering to the latest official security and defense policy report.

The Centre Party leader added that she suspects that the government is moving to give up the strategy of territorial defense and even of defending the whole of the country. She deplored plans that would eliminate garrisons in several parts of Finland.

Speaking at a party gathering in Tampere on Saturday, Kiviniemi accused the government of arrogantly dictating policy.

"Major reforms in Finland have traditionally been formulated together with the opposition, but this government won't listen to others, it only dictates," said Mari Kiviniemi.

Urpilainen: fate of garrison undecided

According to SDP chair and Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen the fate of the Swedish-speaking Dragsvik garrison is being reexamined.

This past week, Defense Minister Stefan Wallin, who heads the Swedish People's Party, was targeted for but survived a vote of no-confidence in Parliament. The opposition moved to unseat him after it came to light that he had hidden the fact that the Dragsvik Swedish-speaking garrison had been exempted from defense spending at his personal direction.

In a discussion with YLE TV1 on Saturday, Urpilainen did not take a stand on whether or not she backs keeping the garrison in operation. She said that this coming week the cabinet’s foreign and security policy committee will review the matter and all the associated alternatives.

The Finance Minister also said that the government, above all, wants to hear the views of the military and of the commander of defense forces. According to Urpilainen, when the matter was previously discussed, most of the cabinet had the understanding that the planned reforms had been prepared by members of the military and experts.

However, she stressed that the issue of the actions of Defense Minister Stefan Wallin in the affair of the Dragsvik garrison was closed and would not affect cooperation within the coalition government.


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