The Kouvola Security Conference has established its position as the foremost discussion forum in security policy in Finland. It is natural that the event found a home in Kouvola, the biggest town in Southeastern Finland. Kouvola holds particular strengths as a venue for events related to national defence and defence policy.

In the past four years, the Kouvola Security Conference has established its position as the foremost annual discussion forum in security policy in Finland. Kouvola has hosted numerous international speakers working in both politics and academic research. The contributors have included top names of Finnish political parties and leadership of the Finnish Defence Forces. A large number of social influencers and executives of the Finnish defence industry have also participated in the discussions.

The Kouvola Security Conference 2023 discussed the role of Finland in Nato and the role of Nato in Finland. In 2022, the conference concentrated on discussing the trend in security policy. The focus in 2021 was on the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on society. The first Kouvola Security Conference in 2019 focused on the security and defence policy situation in Finland and Europe.

The security event in Kouvola profiles the entire Southeastern Finland, increases general interest in Kouvola and supports conference travel. There has been distinct demand in Finland for an international annual high-level security conference. The Kouvola Security Conference discusses current security policy issues with top-ranking experts as well as industrial and political decision-makers. The increasingly stringent security situation calls for even more co-operation and dialogue. Kouvola wishes to fundamentally contribute to this.

First conference in 2019

The first Kouvola Security Conference was arranged on 13 September 2019 at the Kouvola City Hall. It focused on the security and defence policy situation in Finland and Europe.

The speakers in the event included Antti Kaikkonen, Minister of Defence of Finland, Peter Hultqvist, Minister of Defence of Sweden, researchers and other parties from Finland and other countries.

The conference covered vital topics such as future warfare, risk of large-scale war, hybrid threats and the new kind of security situation in the Baltic Sea area. The views of business and young political decision-makers of overall security were also introduced prominently. The Security Conference was highly commended by the experts.

A Security Arena was arranged for the general public on 14 September 2019. In it, leading Finnish experts discussed the current state and future of national defence and security from a national and regional perspective.

An outdoor event on security in the centre of Kouvola included various action displays, a large-scale display of equipment and discussion events. Authorities and organisations presented their operations on Pedestrian Street Manski and in the surroundings of the City Hall.

Pandemic was the topic in 2021

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Security Conference was arranged as an online event on 14 October 2021. The theme was “Post-pandemic Finland”, which examined coping with the coronavirus pandemic from different perspectives: security of supply, resistance to crisis and how the pandemic has been handled in Finland and elsewhere.

The speakers included Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Jukka Juusti, Chairman of the Security Committee of Finland and Deputy Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Defence, Petri Toivonen, Secretary General of the Security Committee of Finland, Jyri Raitasalo, Docent of Strategy and Security Policy at the Finnish National Defence University, and Timo Kivinen, Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces. Views from around the world were provided to Kouvola by Israeli ambassador Hagit Ben-Yaakov, Kjetil Skogrand, former State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Rud Pedersen Public Affairs Norwegian partner, and Emanuel Örtengren, Managing Director of Stockholm Free World Forum in Sweden.

Liability issues were highlighted at the conference. Finland is well prepared for military threats, but the pandemic took everyone by surprise. There was room for improvement in contingency planning. The pandemic showed that security is a multifaceted issue that concerns everyone on an individual level. The key issues at the level of society as a whole are security strategy, legislation, contingency planning and cyber security so that the diverse threats of the future can be fended off. The role of communications in crises is emphasised.

The theme in 2022 was the security policy of the next Finnish Government

The third Kouvola Security Conference on 24 October 2022 discussed current security topics and the security policy of the new Finnish Government. The themes comprised Nato, compulsory military service, everyday security and trust that constitutes the foundation of many issues.

The Kouvola Security Conference brought together the big names of foreign and security policy and numerous experts in the area. Antti Kaikkonen, Minister of Defence, Mika Aaltola, Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Pasi Välimäki, Commander of the Finnish Army, and various members of Parliament and experts gave their views on future foreign and security policy at the security event in Kouvola. The live stream of the event gathered hundreds of participants to follow the presentations of the top names in security policy.

The importance of Southeastern Finland in the Government platform of the next Finnish Government was also covered in the discussion. Kymenlaakso has become a key location in terms of security of supply: A suitable distance to the east and the sea, good connections, garrison and space. Being a big garrison town, Kouvola has good preconditions to enter the NATO era.

Kouvola Security Conference – organized for the fourth time – focused on Finland’s role in Nato

The Kouvola Security Conference 2023 discussed the role of Finland in Nato and the role of Nato in Finland. How does Finland’s membership in Nato affect the Finnish foreign and security policy and the current security situation in the Nordic countries and the Baltic Sea area? Finland is the 31st member country in Nato – what will change? What will the role of Finland be in Nato? The Kouvola Security Conference 18.9.2023 discussed foreign policy issues under leading experts in the area.

Keynote speech of the conference was delivered General (retired) Curtis Scaparrotti, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). Appearing via video feed, Scaparrotti discussed European nations’ role in NATO, focusing on the newcomer, Finland. Director General Janne Kuusela from Ministry of Defence opened up Finland’s defence policy in NATO. He noted that while Finland is an old partner of Nato, membership is still different from partnership. Chief of Strategy, Lieutenant General Janne Jaakkola from Defence Command emphasized the importance of a balanced defence in facing the days ahead.

Minister of Defence Antti Häkkänen offered views from the highest levels of the current administration, acknowledging that “dramatic changes” have taken place in defence policy. Russia’s growing unpredictability was the main factor behind Finland’s decision to apply for Nato membership, he recalled.

The speakers in the Conference were top-ranking representatives in security, defence, politics and industry in Finland. There were also speakers from the other Nordic countries and Nato. The programme covered security also from the perspective of information warfare and discuss the role of the defence industry in Nato plus the capability of society to cope with the changed security environment.

Updated 24.4.2024