EU commission president urges solidarity over Finnish border closure due to migration surge

The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated Friday that Finland’s decision to close its border crossings with Russia due to an increase in migrants is a security matter that affects all 27 members of the European Union. She made these remarks during a visit to the southeastern Finnish border. “We are all aware of how (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and his allies use migrants as a tool to test our defenses and destabilize us,” von der Leyen told officials. “Putin is now targeting Finland in retaliation for their unwavering support for Ukraine and their decision to join NATO.” On April 4, Finland extended the closure of its border crossings with Russia indefinitely due to the government’s concerns about organized migration being orchestrated by Moscow. Eight of Finland’s nine border crossings with Russia have been closed by the government. The remaining checkpoint is exclusively used for rail traffic, primarily for cargo trains. Finland and Russia share an 832-mile border, which primarily consists of dense forests in the south and rugged terrain in the Arctic north. “This is a matter of security not only for Finland but for the entire European Union. We are united in this endeavor,” said von der Leyen after visiting the Lappeenranta border with Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo. “When it comes to security, we need to learn from Finland’s example.” During their visit, von der Leyen and Orpo took a helicopter tour of the forests and towns along the border. “The warmer weather in the spring raises the likelihood that Russia will assist individuals in illegally crossing the land border into Finland outside of the designated border crossing points,” Orpo stated in a statement following the visit. Von der Leyen is a member of the conservative European People’s Party and is seeking a second term as President of the EU’s executive branch. Security is a high priority for the EPP ahead of the June 6-9 European Parliament elections. Migrants come primarily from the Middle East and Africa. Most of them have applied for asylum in Finland, a member of the EU and NATO with a population of 5.6 million. Finland joined NATO in April 2023, ending decades of neutrality that had been in place since the country’s defeat by the Soviet Union in World War II. Sweden also joined the transatlantic alliance in March. These developments have significantly altered Europe’s post-Cold War security landscape, dealing a major blow to Putin and escalating tensions surrounding Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.