Mortar export licence changes Finland’s arms export policy

Shortened Report, original published December 22nd 2011

The Finnish government granted Patria Weapons Systems, a predominantly state-owned defence products company, permission to export 36 NEMO 120-mm advanced mortar systems to Saudi Arabia. The sale is part of the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program and will make one of the world’s least democratic countries one of Finland’s largest military export partners in this millennium.

SaferGlobe Finland revealed the final recipient of the mortar systems through its investigative journalism project, ’Finding Nemo’. The results, published in May 2011, were first reported in several medias and subsequently received considerable media coverage and criticism.

The Finnish government has emphasized the importance of consistently following the EU’s Common Position (2008/944/CFSP) regulating the EU member countries’ exports of military technology and equipment. The Common Position lists eight criteria that ought to be considered before granting an export licence. A single criterion is a sufficient cause for a negative decision. Saudi Arabia is a problematic end-user according to several criteria. The Common Position is binding on all EU states.

The government voted 12-4 in favour of granting the export license. This is the first time the government has acted in contradiction to a statement prepared by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs regarding arms export. Erkki Tuomioja, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, writes in his blog: “I familiarized myself with the issue while preparing the statement, which found that exporting [the mortars] is in contradiction to foreign and defence policy.”

He goes on to note that the Saudi Arabian armed forces have taken part in quelling pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain and have used deadly force against protesters in Saudi Arabia itself. Minister Tuomioja argues: “In a situation like this, it is likely that sooner or later we will have to answer some very uncomfortable questions about how it is possible that Finnish weapons have been used against people demanding democracy and human rights.”

Previous reports on the same topic (in English): Finnish Arms Company Sells Mortar System to Saudi Arabia (13/05/2011) and Goverment will decide export licence to Saudi Arabia (30/11/2011).