Majority of Finns would tighten EU external borders

Asylum policy and support for Ukraine are two issues in which the views of a majority of voters and most candidates in the EU parliamentary election diverge.

A new report by the Natopoll research project has found that people in Finland are far more in favour of turning back irregular migrants at Europe’s external borders than are the candidates standing in the 2024 EU parliamentary election on 9 June.

The project aims to examine Finnish citizens’ views on security and defence policy.

The report on the views of voters who responded to the survey includes a comparison with those of candidates who responded to similar questions for Yle’s EU Election Compass.

Fifty-two per cent of voters said they believe that people seeking to enter Europe could be turned back at the external border, even if this would put their lives in danger.

Of the candidates who responded to Yle’s election compass, 28 percent are of the same opinion.

The survey also showed that the idea is most widely backed by supporters of the Finns Party, with 89 percent of voters and 67 percent of candidates in agreement with this position.

Among the candidates, the Greens and the Left Alliance are the most opposed to the suggestion, with none of the candidates from these parties in favour.

By contrast, 17 percent of Green voters and 18 percent of Left Alliance voters back the possibility of turning away irregular migrants, even at the risk of endangering their lives.

Troops to Ukraine?

The poll also revealed Finnish voters’ strong support for Ukraine.

Some 52 percent of respondents said that EU countries should send troops to support Ukraine if it is seen to be losing its war against Russia.

Among the candidates, 45 percent of those who answered Yle’s election questionnaire held the same view.

The debate on sending foreign troops to support Ukraine has been growing since French President Emmanuel Macron raised the issue in February.

The biggest difference between voters and candidates is on the left, with 58 percent of voters — only 16 percent of candidates — supporting the proposal.

The opposite is true for the National Coalition Party. Three out of four NCP candidates are in favour of sending EU troops to Ukraine if so needed, while 51 percent of NCP voters would back such a move.

Political realism

Hanna Wass, a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Helsinki and a member of the research project team, pointed out that candidates were not offered the opportunity to say that they somewhat agreed or somewhat disagreed with positions.

“When you have to answer yes or no, the differences become clearer,” she noted.

Wass added that it is difficult to assess the exact reasons for the divergence between voters’ and candidates’ positions on the basis of the survey results, but there was one clear observation Wass makes about the results.

“In principle, there is a very broad consensus on the desire to support Ukraine,” she said.

Wass further noted that up to 42 percent of voters would be prepared to accept Ukraine as a member of the EU even if the country did not meet all the membership requirements.

However, only 17 percent of the candidates took the same stand.

It is possible that voters’ answers were based above all on what they consider to be ethically or morally right.

“Perhaps the candidates were thinking more about what is politically possible or realistic,” Wass speculated.

Information warfare

The survey also asked voters about their views on threats faced by Finland.

Information warfare, cyber attacks and international crime are clearly perceived as the biggest threats.

The results showed that concerns about traditional military threats, such as armed aggression, have decreased compared to a year ago.

Hanna Wass said this may be explained by the fact that, as a result of Nato membership, the public feels that Finland is safer from military attack.

The Natopoll project is carried out by experts from Finnish institutions including several universities. The data used in the review was collected in a survey between 18 and 24 April.

More than 1,600 citizens responded to the survey, and just over 200 candidates provided answers for use in Yle’s EU Election Compass.

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