All eight presidential candidates expressed their reservations about the export of arms from Finland to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an election debate hosted in Sanomatalo, Helsinki, on Tuesday by Helsingin Sanomat and Ilta-Sanomat.
The issue came to the fore a few weeks ago after an armoured vehicle manufactured by Patria, a majority state-owned defence technology provider, was sighted in use in the civil war in Yemen. Patria was granted a permit to export a total of 40 armoured modular vehicles (AMVs) to the UAE in 2016.
The Finnish government decided a few weeks ago to extend the export permit for spare parts.
Paavo Väyrynen (ind.) said it appears that the buyer has violated the conditions imposed on the end-use of the armoured vehicles but estimated that arms exports should be subjected to greater scrutiny in the future.
President Sauli Niinistö seemed to adopt a firmer stance on the issue by stating that arms export permits should not be granted as long as the situation in Yemen remains unchanged. “I think we should show restraint going forward and not grant permits as long as the situation in Yemen is what it seems to be,” he said.
He also reminded that the security situation in the country has changed dramatically since the original export permit was granted to Patria.
Matti Vanhanen (Centre) similarly reminded that the situation has escalated over the past couple of years, adding that he would personally discontinue all arms exports but maintain the option to continue exporting spare parts. Niinistö and Vanhanen both reminded that a failure to supply the spare parts could violate the terms of the export contract and, thereby, put the government in a difficult position.
Both Pekka Haavisto (Greens) and Tuula Haatainen (SDP) said they disapprove of the decision made by the government.
Haatainen stated that it is possible to suspend or revoke a permit to export arms if it becomes obvious that the arms have been used against civilians. Haavisto, in turn, reminded that the export permit was granted in spite of opposition from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.