The European Military Press Association (EMPA) meets in Helsinki
One of this year’s most inspiring events – the European Military Press Association’s (EMPA) 34th Congress was held in Helsinki, Finland from 8 to 10 October 2013.
Congress delegates were hospitably welcomed by representatives of the Finnish defence industry offering an interesting program of numerous events and activities. It must be noted that big credit for excellent organization goes to Mr Mikko Ilkko, the Editor-in-Chief of the Finnish Defence Forces newspaper.
EMPA’s Congress is an annual event that takes place in one of Association’s member states on a rotation basis. With its northern attraction, this year’s Congress brought together about 50 editors and representatives of military periodicals from 12 European countries, including Latvia. In 2011 Ms Līga Lakuča, Director the Republic of Latvia Recruitment and Youth Guard Centre’s Military Information Department and Chief Editor of Latvian Military Magazine Tēvijas Sargs (Guard of Fatherland) was elected EMPA’s President for 4 years thus Latvia is EMPA’s presiding country till 2015.
Congress opening ceremony was attended by Admiral Veijo Taipalus, Commandant of the Finnish National Defence University.
Congress delegates were offered a wide-ranging program of events which provided an opportunity to better understand the Finnish position on issues of security and defence policy. Since Finland is one of the countries with compulsory military service, one of Congress agenda’s priority issues was a discussion on strengths and weaknesses of compulsory military service. Finland has a large public support for compulsory military service – a study from 2012 shows that more than 70 percent of the Finnish population support it. EMPA’s members from Switzerland and Austria were the most active panellists in these discussions.
On 9 October Congress delegates visited the Gulf of Finland Naval Command in the Finnish city of Kirkkonummi at Espoo Bay (Espoonlahti) where they met with Base Commander Captain (Finish Navy) Markus Aarnio. EMPA’s members were given an opportunity to see armament exhibition organized by the Association of Finnish Defence & Aerospace Industries – AFDA. Among the different Finnish armament items it also exhibited the latest generation of Finnish company’s Patria armoured modular vehicles – PATRIA AMV. AFDA is a non-profit organization with the aim to promote the Finnish defence, aerospace and security industries.
While visiting the Finnish Navy missile boats and minesweepers, Congress delegates listened with great attentiveness and interest a crew member’s narrative on ship’s crew daily life and personnel duties as well as on vessels technical characteristics and capacities. After visiting the naval ships, EMPA’s members watched military divers’ demonstrations at the Finish Navy Dive School and visited the Finish Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre. Closing of the day in Lammi Island turned out to be a special adventure for everyone with opportunity to observe a coastal amphibious vehicles tactical operation.
The Association’s General Meeting was organized on 10 October which took place at a House of the Estates – a historic and ornate building built in architectural style of ancient Greece. EMPA’s members were addressed by the Secretary of State of the Finnish Defence Ministry Mr Marcus Rantala. Association’s organizational issues, its present and future challenges were discussed, and 2013 EMPA’s Best Article and Best Photo Award winners were announced. Four military magazines have nominated nine articles for EMPA’s 2013 Best Article Award and seven military magazines have submitted 39 photos for EMPA’s 2013 Best Picture Award. Mr Paul O’Brien from Ireland received EMPA’s 2013 Best Article Award for his article At the Gates of Hell. Ms Līga Lakuča’s (Latvia) article – an interview A Project Latvia Could Successfully Present Globally was recognized as second best article while the 3rd place was awarded to Ms Marte Boye Haakonsen (Norway) for her article The Struggle.
The Latvian National Armed Forces photographer Mr Gatis Indrēvics received EMPA’s 2013 Best Photo Award. The second place in Photo Award went to Norwegian representative Mr Arne Flaaten while the third place was given to Austrian representative Günter Filzwieser.
The General Meeting also discussed the agenda of EMPA’s 2014 Congress which is to be held in Estonia. Lieutenant Colonel Mart Mikkelsaar, Director of Support from the Baltic Defence College (www.bdcol.ee) gave a presentation on the college and informed about 2014 Congress draft program’s activities in Tartu and Tallinn.
After conclusion of the annual General Meeting, Congress delegates went on a ferryboat tour to a UNESCO World Heritage site – Suomenlinna Sea Fortress which was built in mid-18th century. Interestingly, the fortress is not just a museum but also a home to some 800 Finnish citizens. EMPA’s members also visited the Finish Naval Academy which is located at the Suomenlinna garrison where they received a presentation on the Nordic Defence Cooperation Program – NORDEFCO. The Commandant of the Naval Academy Captain (Finish Navy) Sakari Martimo gave a presentation on the Academy and the Finnish Navy.
EMPA was founded in 1977; it unites managers from European military periodicals as well as security and defence policy experts who publish in European military and other media. EMPA’s Congresses significantly contribute to Association’s members understanding and knowledge on other countries’ defence industries. EMPA’s last year’s Congress was held in Prague, Czech Republic.