Minister of Development Heidi Hautala of the Green League says she does not approve of an arms deal reached between Finland and Saudi Arabia last week. Hautala, who is in charge of ownership steering issues in state-owned firms, told YLE that the cabinet ignored Foreign Affairs Ministry opposition to the deal.
In a 12-4 vote last Thursday, the cabinet gave the Finnish defence contractor Patria permission to export mortar systems worth about 100 million euros to Saudi Arabia.
Speaking in a YLE TV interview on Monday evening, Hautala said that the position taken by the Foreign Ministry in opposition to the deal was well-founded and raised concerns about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. She said that she considers it very probable that the Saudi government will turn the weapons against its own people.
“Human rights for sale”
“Now, of course, it can be asked if everything is for sale, are human rights really for sale, and it seems to me that in this case the view of the majority of the cabinet was that human rights are for sale,” said Hautala.
She added that she personally could not take part in the decision because of a potential conflict of interest as the minister responsible for ownership steering issues. Patria is a majority-state-owned company.
Despite her criticism, Hautala did point out that the vote in the cabinet was carried out properly. She noted that arms deals come up for approval by the government at a late stage. She believes it would be better for both companies involved and for the decision-making process if a two-stage approval process were to be introduced, so that companies could get a preliminary decision earlier.
Hautala was also of the view that the Foreign Ministry should now move to see that joint EU arms export criteria are made clear. She said that this would improve operational opportunities for companies and ensure equal competition among companies from all the EU countries.