European the parliament will discuss the situation on Finland’s eastern border in a debate starting at around 21:00 Finnish time on Tuesday. The initiative to put the matter on the agenda of the plenary session was made by a member of the European Parliament Eero Heinäluoma (sd).
It is only a discussion, not, for example, a decision on EU support measures. According to Heinäluoma, the goal is simply to make sure that the parliament understands the situation.
“In this situation, Finland needs support and understanding from other EU countries. It’s important that we get to tell what the situation is at the border,” says Heinäluoma.
Since August, a larger than usual number of people with incomplete travel documents have arrived at the Finnish border from Russia. According to the Finnish authorities, it is a Russian hybrid operation. Russians have been seen helping migrants to the border, and they have not been allowed to return to Russia.
Heinaluma warns that the situation may continue for a long time.
“This could get really bad. That is why it is important that the European Parliament understands the situation in Finland, and there will be no criticism and guidance when the circumstances are not known.”
Heinäluoma believes that understanding can be found.
“Finland is known as a rule of law, and we have high human rights standards. It’s in our brand. On the other side is Russia, which in the last couple of years has shown what it is ready for. It provides the conditions to tell what the situation is at the border.”
European the parliament typically strongly emphasizes the observance of human rights in its statements. This is emphasized especially in the positions of the greens and the left. MEP of the Greens Alviina Alametsä however, says that there is an understanding of the situation in Finland.
“There has been no concern in the group that Finland is on the wrong track here.”
Sympathy and in addition to political support, the EU can also offer Finland more concrete support.
Finland has presented the European Border and Coast Guard to Frontex request for help to secure the eastern border. The nature of the aid is currently being negotiated. Help can be, for example, personnel or equipment.
According to Heinäluoma, Finland should definitely allow Frontex border guards to arrive in Finland. The EU border guards would work under the guidance of the Finnish authorities.
“It would also be a signal to Russia that the whole EU is against this.”
The greens Ville Niinistö the EU also needs a common line on how to respond to hybrid influence.
“Russia’s goal is to demonstrate the double moralism of the West, that human rights are not consistently defended. Human rights get a different weight when it comes to Ukrainians or when it comes to Gaza or asylum seekers,” says Niinistö.
Double moralism is a useful argument for Russia when it tries to influence the countries of the global south so that they do not join the condemnations of Russia’s war of aggression and the West’s forced labor. According to Niinistö, the EU therefore has to constantly balance its response to Russia’s actions, so as not to give Russia propaganda gains.
“The EU should have a unified line in how hybrid influence is combated, which principles are followed.”
Finland and the EU are in a difficult gap, says Henna Virkkunen (cook).
“This is a really difficult situation when the EU has a humanitarian responsibility, and on the opposite side is Russia, which does not care about anyone’s basic rights.”
At issue is not the first time that migrants are used for hybrid influence against the EU. Belarus started pushing migrants across the Polish border in 2021.
The Polish border authorities did not let the migrants into the country. Hundreds of asylum seekers got stuck in the border zone between Belarus and Poland. Migrants also died at the border. The Polish government received strong criticism from within Europe for preventing NGOs from helping migrants. Criticism also came from the European Parliament.
Vihreiden Alametsä says Finland must not repeat Poland’s mistake.
“We in the group consider it important that all the humanitarian aid that is needed there is delivered to the border.”
“The right to apply for asylum must always be there, it must be ensured,” says the representative of the left-wing group in the parliament Silvia Modig (left).
European the parliament and the EU countries are currently conducting the final stage of negotiations on the reform of the EU’s asylum and immigration policy. The politically sensitive reform has been in the works for years, but is now closer to being realized than ever.
The reform includes, among other things, the so-called solidarity mechanism, which defines how the EU helps a member country that receives a large number of asylum seekers in a short period of time. The reform also includes an accelerated border procedure, which would be done immediately in the vicinity of the border. The accelerated procedure would apply to asylum seekers who come from safe countries or who are considered to endanger security or give misleading information about their situation.
In Heinäluoma’s opinion, the situation on the eastern border shows how important the reform is for Finland.
“When we’re a border country and we’ve seen what the situation can become, we have a very vital interest in getting the whole thing completed this season.”