"The safety and security of citizens, and perceptions of security, are at the heart of Finnish democracy and Finland’s prosperous society"
3.3 Safe and secure Finland built on the rule of law
Finland is the safest country in the world and we want to stay that way. Many international comparisons also rank Finland as the world’s freest and most stable country; one that safeguards fundamental rights in the best possible way, and has good governance and an independent judiciary. These are not things that we should take for granted. Changes challenge us to better anticipate and prepare for the future. Finland must ensure internal and external security, respect for the rule of law, and people’s everyday safety and security.
The safety and security of citizens, and perceptions of security, are at the heart of Finnish democracy and Finland’s prosperous society. Common values, wellbeing, equality, democracy, reliable governance, the rule of law and effective institutions lay the foundation for social stability and internal security.
Finnish democracy is based on the rule of law, with the Constitution giving every individual strong protection for human dignity, personal integrity and other fundamental rights. Finland is committed to complying with international human rights treaties and EU provisions on fundamental rights. The rule of law rests on high-quality legislation that safeguards fundamental and human rights, and is applied in independent courts. In a state governed by the rule of law, individuals have not only rights but also responsibilities towards each other and society. Our fundamental rights include the language and cultural rights of the Saami indigenous people that the state has undertaken to respect and promote.
The key challenges for the upcoming government term from the perspective of the rule of law are as follows: changes in the security situation and diversification of threats; increases in inequality and social exclusion; problems with the equal implementation of rights; maintenance of a sense of security; trust in society in general and good relations between population groups; and the operational capacity of the security authorities.
Equality, non-discrimination and equal implementation of rights to be strengthened
The Government will guarantee a clear judicial system, legal protection and consistent legislative solutions.
We will improve the accessibility of e-services. Special attention will be paid to the language used by the authorities. We will increase the use of plain language to ensure that services are available to everyone. The services of public authorities will be developed for those who cannot access e-services.
We will combat racism and discrimination in all sectors of society. The Government will draw up an action plan against racism and discrimination. Determined action will be taken to tackle discrimination in recruitment and the competence and awareness of the authorities in minority issues will be increased.
An action plan will be drawn up for gender equality. The Government is committed to promoting gender equality, for example in the Budget process and in all key reforms.
The Government will ensure the implementation of linguistic rights in all actions of public authorities, public administration and the drafting of legislation. Training and recruitment of staff will help to ensure that the actual ability of security authorities (particularly the police and emergency response centres) to provide services in Finnish and Swedish is ensured.
We will make older persons and persons with disabilities more aware of their rights, and support the effective exercise of these rights in practice.
Sense of security to be strengthened and operational capacity of the security authorities to be ensured
Comprehensive security of society
The Government will safeguard the implementation of fundamental and human rights and tackle violations of people’s rights. Particular attention will be paid to improving the safety and security of people, preparing for new security threats, and fostering a sense of security.
Government policymaking will also take into account the functioning of critical infrastructure, the functional capacity and income security of the population, psychological crisis resilience, security of supply, and Finland’s role as a member of international organisations.
The Government will submit a comprehensive cross-sectoral report on internal security to Parliament by the end of 2021.
We will ensure effective and appropriate application of the new intelligence legislation, ensuring that the powers of intelligence authorities, and in particular the resources of authorities overseeing intelligence gathering, are up-to-date and sufficient. The Government will submit a comprehensive report on intelligence legislation to Parliament by the end of 2021.
Operational capacity of the security authorities
A variety of measures will be taken to prevent crime and recidivism. The police, prosecutors, courts or enforcement authorities will also refer persons whom they have encountered to other necessary services, for example from enforcement services to financial and debt counselling services; from the police to substance abuse rehabilitation, or to programmes to end violence; from prisons and community sanctions to health and social services, and to crime-prevention rehabilitation programmes. Funding will be allocated to the Ministry of Justice for a three-year project to enhance crime prevention.
The Government will pay particular attention to physical integrity and to reducing offences against life or health, in particular offences against children and intimate partner violence. Low-threshold channels for reporting crime will be improved and the related practices of public authorities will be strengthened to help particularly vulnerable victims. We will promote an expansion of the Child Advocacy Centre model to help children subjected to sexual abuse and violence. The status of victims of human trafficking will be improved, regardless of the progress of criminal proceedings in the human trafficking case.
To determine criminal liability and accelerate the processing of criminal cases, the resources of the police, prosecutors and courts will be increased with a view to shortening processing times across the entire legal process (criminal investigation, prosecution and court proceedings leading to the legally final judgment).
Radicalisation will be prevented through cooperation between authorities and organisations and by supporting the work of organisations. We will ensure sufficient financing and guidance of organisations to enable them to operate nationwide and on a long-term basis. Details of services will be provided to various authorities so that they can refer persons in need of assistance to the appropriate support services.
The number of the police officers will be increased to 7,500 person-years by 2022. This will be supported by increasing the intake for police training. Increased resources will be allocated to operational police work. Efforts will be made to encourage people from various ethnic backgrounds to apply for police training. Attention will be paid to the language skills of police officers.
The Government will strengthen the presence and visibility of the authorities, particularly in areas with a lower level of service. Maximum response times will be specified for the police throughout the country.
We will strengthen community policing, control of heavy-vehicle traffic and resources for preventive work. The Action Plan against the Grey Economy and Economic Crime will be continued and the temporary special funding allocated to the Ministry of the Interior for ensuring the capacity of financial investigations will be made permanent as of 2021. Prevention and investigation of online crime will be reinforced. A team will be established for detecting and investigating human trafficking offences.
The capacity of the Border Guard will be secured in a changing environment. The technical surveillance systems and two aircraft of the Border Guard will be replaced by 2022.
Cooperation will be continued between the Police, Customs and Border Guard (PCB cooperation). Administrative cooperation between the security authorities will be further developed and deepened.
The Government will continue measures to ensure that the security authorities have safe, secure and functional premises.
Broad-based cooperation between authorities will help to prevent and combat undocumented migration.
The action plan for preventing illegal entry and residence will be updated.
The capacity and resources of the rescue services and emergency response centres will be ensured, taking into account national and regional service needs. Research and development activities of the rescue services and civil emergency preparedness will be reinforced. The command and situation centres of the rescue authorities will be harmonised and their links with the command and situation centres of other authorities will be ensured.
We will strengthen the role of contract fire brigades as partners of rescue departments, also recognising their current and future challenges and special characteristics. The Rescue Act will be amended on the basis of a comprehensive analysis. The Government will safeguard a network of fire stations covering the whole country.
Critical communications and cooperation between the authorities and other security operators will be ensured throughout the country. The capacity of the future broadband public authority network (Virve) will be safeguarded, taking the vulnerabilities and risk factors into account.
The Government will revise and commence implementation of Finland’s Cyber Security Strategy. We will develop the strategic management of cyber security. We will increase funding for cyber security and reinforce the capacity of the National Cyber Security Centre to support the cyber security of businesses in various sectors, the administration and citizens. The cyber skills of citizens will be improved.
We will reduce the vulnerability of society by reinforcing the capacity of critical infrastructure also in crisis situations. We will support the operations of the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats located in Finland.
Sufficient resources will be ensured for the authorities, exchange of information will be improved and supervision will be intensified to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism.
The ability of businesses to manage the risks involved in the increasing use of information technology will be strengthened. Legislation on preparations in the financial sector will be clarified so that continuity of the financial market services that are vital to society can also be ensured during serious incidents and emergencies using national backup arrangements.
We will support cooperation between the internal security agencies and crisis management operations of EU countries to prevent such phenomena as uncontrolled migration, terrorism and international crime.
Democracy, participation and trust in the institutions of society to be strengthened
The Government will ensure favourable conditions for inclusive practices and diverse civic activities locally, regionally and nationally.
The operating conditions of the civil society will be improved. Inequality will be tackled by using measures that promote inclusion. The Government will ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to participate in meaningful civic activities, and we will ensure the autonomy of civil society organisations.
The Government will chart the risk factors of social exclusion prevailing in various population groups and potential measures for addressing them. Participation of minority groups in education will be improved. Realisation of participation rights and active involvement, and good relations between population groups will be strengthened.
Access to assistance of those who are socially excluded and those at risk of social exclusion will be improved by developing and better coordinating the practices of various authorities when referring people to services. The ability to identify people at risk of social exclusion will be improved and application of an early intervention model will be enabled when several indicators of social exclusion are present.
We will improve consultation practices and impact assessments and increase civil society-related expertise in public administration.
The Government will reduce the administrative burden that hampers civic activities and simplify permit procedures. This includes clarifying and urgently eliminating the needless administrative burden caused by the Incomes Register, which hampers the operations of small associations.
The Government will harmonise procedures for granting permits and licences for firearms without tightening firearms legislation.
Communications and journalism
The Government will support freedom of expression and the functioning of democracy by ensuring the operating conditions and competitiveness of responsible media, and will ensure that everyone has equal access to reliable information and self-education.
The independence of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) will be ensured and its important role as a public medium serving all Finnish people will be strengthened.
We will prevent the dissemination of disinformation and fake news by promoting media literacy in such fields as teacher training, schools and youth work. The Government will raise awareness of hybrid influencing.
Favourable conditions for responsible journalism will be ensured, especially in relation to online media platforms favoured by young people.
The Government will monitor the social equality impacts of artificial intelligence. We will ensure that directly or indirectly discriminatory models are not applied in artificial intelligence systems.
The preservation and reliability of information stored in digital format will be ensured. The Government will ensure that Finland has an authenticated and permanent digital history.
Support services promoting the ability of older people to use e-services and helping children to avoid and manage online problems will be strengthened.
The Government will take efficient measures to reduce over-indebtedness and related problems. The availability of financial and debt counselling services and referral to these services will be improved across the country within the limits of an additional appropriation to be allocated to the Ministry of Justice. The Government will examine whether it might be possible to expand the availability of social lending to all parts of Finland, and on the basis of this, social lending can be made available throughout the country during the Government’s term of office.
The financial literacy and ability of citizens to manage their personal finances will be enhanced in all age groups, with improved access to assistance for the over-indebted. The Government will invest in horizontal measures seeking to prevent debt spirals. We will organise more instruction in financial literacy at all levels of education to prevent debt problems. Professional competence in financial social work will be strengthened as part of the education of social workers.
The effectiveness of regulation of consumer credits and payday loans that was adopted during the 2015–2019 government term will be monitored. The Government will take measures to improve the effectiveness of the regulation and issue new provisions to curb the marketing of consumer credits if any shortcomings are detected. The attractiveness of consumer credits will be reduced by continuing work that aims to curb aggressive marketing. Supervision of payday lenders will be centralised in the Financial Supervisory Authority.
Provisions will be enacted to govern the maximum absolute debt collection costs chargeable to those subject debt collection efforts. These provisions will also apply when the debtor is someone other than a private individual acting in the capacity of a consumer. The Government will take measures to strengthen the ability of authorities to intervene in debt collection operations that are contrary to law or good debt collection practice.
As soon as possible at the beginning of its term of office, the Government will explore the need to amend the Enforcement Code, including the provisions on the debtor’s protected portion, and will make the necessary legislative amendments. The objective is to increase the protected portion in debt enforcement to match, at its minimum, the guarantee pension.
A positive credit register will be introduced during the Government’s term of office, with shortened retention periods for bad credit records.
The Government will study the need to amend the Act on Debt Restructuring in Companies and the Act on the Adjustment of the Debts of a Private Individual with the aim of improving debt adjustment procedures and their scope.
Gambling policy, the status of Veikkaus Oy and lottery revenues
To curb the harmful effects of gambling, gambling policy will help to secure the fund-channelling monopoly of Veikkaus Oy and ensure its operating conditions in a rapidly changing environment.
We will effectively combat the harmful effects of gambling. Gambling will be guided towards a range of games that are legal, responsible and supervised.
The Government will implement the second phase of the reform of the Lotteries Act at the beginning of its term of office to ensure that gambling policy objectives are met.
Effective measures will be taken to combat marketing that infringes the Lotteries Act. We will explore ways of restricting gambling on the websites of operators outside the monopoly system.
Practices governing statutory state aid to organisations
The adequacy of discretionary government transfers and other funding granted to organisations will be monitored in the changing operating environment.
The practices for granting discretionary government transfers and other government aid to organisations in various administrative branches will be examined by the Ministry of Justice and the ministries distributing the proceeds, and will be harmonised where appropriate. The reform work will be based on respect for the autonomy of civil society organisations with a view to reducing bureaucracy and securing long-term sustainability and predictability, equal treatment of organisations, and openness and transparency.
A strong partnership will be built between organisations and central government with a view to reducing inequality.
Asylum and refugee policy
Responding to the global refugee situation calls for common European solutions. Finland will continue Nordic cooperation in asylum and refugee policy by promoting common policy lines and practices. We will promote the formulation of common European solutions for asylum and refugee policy that respect human rights, with the aim of achieving a fair and sustainable division of responsibility between European countries.
As part of international cooperation, Finland will foster a wider use of the refugee quota system. We will continue cooperating with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to enable the provision of protection to the most vulnerable.
The quota refugee system has enabled us to target residence permits granted due to a need for international protection particularly on the most vulnerable. This system is an effective and safe way of implementing humanitarian migration. When selecting quota refugees, emphasis will be placed on vulnerability and attention will also be paid to the potential for successful integration, such as keeping families together.
The number of quota refugees will be increased to a minimum of 850 in 2020. This number will thereafter be assessed annually and set at 850–1,050, taking into account the number of asylum seekers.
We will ensure a smooth asylum process and implementation of fundamental rights, and an assessment will be made of a reasonable standard of proof. Asylum applications will be considered without undue delays in an individual procedure that guarantees legal protection. The aim will be to process applications within six months.
We will examine the combined impact on legal protection of the numerous separate amendments made to the Aliens Act and of practices of applying the Act.
We will further develop the system of voluntary return as the primary option for securing the departure of unsuccessful applicants while supporting sustainable return. Returns will be effectively enforced while fully respecting the principle of non-refoulement under the Constitution and international human rights treaties.
The Government will seek to conclude return agreements with all key third countries whose citizens Finland can safely return. We will continue cooperation to ensure that the policies of the authorities on the situation of key countries of origin and internal protection are in line with the recommendations of the UN Refugee Agency, also considering the reports of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
We will initiate a process of amending the Aliens Act to lay down provisions on technical monitoring of persons whose applications have been refused. This will be an alternative to detention and the residence obligation, constituting a less restrictive and more appropriate precautionary measure from the point of view of society.
An assessment will be made of alternatives to the detention of children over 15 years of age.
The Government will further develop legislation and practices to provide more flexible opportunities to secure a residence permit based on employment for those whose applications have been refused but who have found work.
We will examine problems relating to family reunification and the reasonable income limits applied to family reunification sponsors who have been granted international protection, having regard to respect for family life, the best interests of children, and the standards and practices governing the requirement for sufficient financial resources that are applied in other Nordic countries. We will discontinue application of a requirement for sufficient financial resources to minor family reunification sponsors who have been granted a residence permit due to a need for international protection.