Bļodniece: Experience exchange with Finland contributes to the implementation of comprehensive national defence in Latvia

08/18/2022 - 14:41
Defence policy
International cooperation
Information prepared by
Press division

From 10 to 11 August, experts from the Latvian Ministries of Defence, Interior, Health, Welfare and Justice, led by the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Ms Baiba Bļodniece, visited Helsinki, Finland, to learn about the Finnish experience in implementing compulsory military service, alternative service and comprehensive national defence.

"Finland has been building its defence system for 70 years. We don't have that much time and we won't have that much time, but we have the opportunity here and now to learn, to take the best from the Finnish experience and adapt it to our situations. The main principle of the Finnish system is based on each individual's readiness and ability to protect himself and, through that, protect the country. We are also moving in this direction – we will need to take serious steps by committing to introducing military service, planning and building bomb shelters in new buildings, improving the civil protection system and tackling other challenges essential for implementation of the comprehensive national defence," underlined Bļodniece.

The visit was organised by the Finnish Security Committee and included meetings with experts of the Finnish Ministries of Health, Defence and the Interior, as well as Helsinki Fire and Rescue Department.

The role of the Finnish Security Committee is to set strategic tasks for other institutions in crisis situations, explained representatives of the Finnish Security Council. Finland's comprehensive approach to national defence means that each sector is prepared to deal with a crisis independently in case it arises.

Experts from the Finnish Ministry of Health confirmed that they themselves had served in the compulsory military service and had a clear understanding of the role of the health sector in a military crisis. For example, medical authorities keep track of the country's stock of necessary medicine and replenish their reserves so that medicine would be available in the quantities needed, even in a case of a sudden crisis.

According to the competent Finnish authorities, Finland has both compulsory military service and alternative service, but the main objective is to attract citizens to the military service, thus promoting the acquisition of military skills.

At the same time, citizens who cannot serve in the Armed Forces due to religious or philosophical beliefs can opt for alternative service in the health, welfare and home affairs sectors, organised by the Ministry of Employment. The services are currently exploring ways of including citizens with physical disabilities and other health issues in the provision of national defence, by choosing a type of activity that suits their profession and abilities.  

Finnish experts admitted the important role non-governmental organisations in the comprehensive approach to national defence. For example, the Finnish National Defence Training Association is involved in military training of civilians. Implementation of the comprehensive national defence is coordinated by the Finnish Security Committee, and non-governmental organisations participate in its meetings.  

Finnish experts also stressed that the concept of comprehensive national defence is regularly assessed and improved to meet current challenges, standards and needs of the population, as this national defence model has been in place in Finland since the end of the Second World War.

The Latvian delegation also visited one of the civil shelters in Helsinki, which is meant to accommodate 6000 people. The shelter is designed to promote a sense of security for the population in a crisis situation, including the possibility of separating large rooms to create a sense of comfort and reduce stress. It is also planned to split shelter residents into groups which would take shifts to carry out daily tasks, thus ensuring the shelter's functioning.

According to Finnish experts of civil protection, Finnish legislation stipulates that every public building with a floor area of more than 1200 square metres provides a shelter for its residents, and this provision has been in force since 1958. In peacetime, shelters are used as storage facilities, while public shelters are rented out to private companies to ensure various services. There are currently around 54 000 shelters in Finland, which can accommodate around 4.4 million residents.

At the end of the visit, Latvian and Finnish representatives agreed to continue cooperation in the implementation of comprehensive national defence and compulsory military service, with Finland also learning from the Latvian experience.

As reported earlier, Ministry of Defence has begun the work on gradual introduction of State Defence Service in Latvia. In five years, Latvia will create a conscription service and all male citizens of Latvia aged 18-27 will have to choose one of the four types of military service: State Defence Service, National Guard, Section Commander University Course or alternative services at Ministry of Interior, Health or Welfare. Female population in this age group will be offered the same opportunities on voluntary basis.

Comprehensive national defence is one of the priorities of the Latvian Government and it aims to strengthen defence capabilities in conjunction with the emergency preparedness of the state and general public to organise themselves and cope with crises.

Media contacts:
Media Relations Section
Military Public Affairs Department
Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Latvia
E-mail: prese@mod.gov.lv
Website: www.mod.gov.lv