YLE - Finnish news in English

Finnish artist to create €100k artificial island

The artist said he wants to raise conversations about climate change with his Floating Island project, commissioned by Lönnström Art Museum in western Finland.

Lönnström Art Museum has selected 33-year-old Finnish artist Raimo Saarinen to lead its next commissioned art project - a man-made Floating Island off the coast of Rauma in western Finland. The contemporary museum, which is also based in Rauma, has pledged 100,000 euros towards the effort. Saarinen said he plans to make the island out of both man-made and natural materials including bedrock, rocks, soil as well as plants and trees - domestic as well as foreign - and will be about 20-square-metres in size. Saarinen said the project is meant to raise awareness and questions about human-related climate change. “How are we shaping our environment? What are the limits of change that we are prepared to accept as individuals? How does artificial and built or modified nature differ from the rest of nature? What do we define as nature, what do we exclude from it?” Saarinen said in a release issued by the museum. Floating on the sea The exact location where the fake island will be placed has not yet been decided, but the artist said the structure will float on the sea. Saarinen said the project will be a continuation of his work with plant-based sculptures. Story continues after photo. Saarinen's earlier plant-based sculptures.Raimo Saarinen “From the outside, the artificial structure looks like an ordinary island, only its motion and rocking on the waves reveal that there is something strange about it,” he said. Saarinen was born in Helsinki and graduated from the city’s Academy of Fine Arts in 2017. He was one of 100 artists who took part in helping to create Finnish President Sauli Niinistö’s official portrait, which was a mosaic of 100 separate works. The island project was selected by the museum from a selection of applications from a total of 72 artists, many of whom also proposed environmentally-themed works. The 100,000 euro commission grant Saarinen is receiving from the museum is said to be among the largest of its kind in Finnish history. Lönnström Art Museum has commissioned contemporary art projects with visual artists since 2016. The museum said work on the island will begin at the beginning of 2019.

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 18:53:00 +0200

Report: Finnish energy industry emissions falling rapidly

No more forests should need to be cut down to produce energy in Finland, according to a forest lobby group.

Emissions from electricity and district heating production are taking a nosedive thanks to policy measures aimed at fighting climate change, according to lobby association Finnish Energy, which advocates for industrial and labour market policies in the energy sector. A report by the group indicates that Finnish energy production emissions have fallen by 50 percent over the past decade. The same paper estimates that the current level will have halved again – from 15 million tonnes of CO2 to seven million tonnes – by the 2030s, predicting that decade after that energy emissions will be close to zero. The CEO of Finnish Energy, Jukka Leskelä, said that the progress is due to technological advances that have reduced the need for combustion in producing heat and power. Finnish homes will increasingly use waste heat and electric heat pump facilities for warmth in the future instead of coal, peat, natural gas and oil, the report said. The energy efficiency of buildings is also expected to improve. The European Commission last week proposed that the EU should strive to be completely carbon neutral by 2050. Leskelä said this target could be reached even earlier. Story continues after photo A heat pump under the streets of Helsinki. This unit is under construction.Jari Kärkkäinen / Yle Better wood use Leskelä also added that cutting down more forests just to burn the wood for heat should not be considered an option. "Finland could be carbon neutral by the 2030s [instead of the official deadline of 2045] if we were to use the forestry industry's by-products such as logging residue and small trees left over from felling," he said. "That requires big developments in the traffic, production and agricultural industries." However, Finnish Energy is unable to accurately estimate how much felling residue would actually be available region to region. "It depends a great deal on the global demand for forestry products such as cellulose and lumber," Leskelä said. Sawmills in areas such as Kainuu, Northern Karelia and Lapland report an overabundance of usable scrap wood, whereas the capital region with its coal-free schedule may have to import wood from abroad by ship.

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 17:43:00 +0200

Sacked Finnair pilot charged with being drunk on the job

A flight captain fired by flag carrier Finnair will face trial in Vantaa for suspected drunkenness last summer when the pilot was about to fly a jet to Rome.

A former pilot for national carrier Finnair has been charged with intoxication on the job. The flight captain was preparing for a Finnair flight that was due to take off from Helsinki Airport to Rome, Italy on the afternoon of 15 August. The passengers were already seated on the plane when they were ordered back into the terminal. A fellow Finnair worker notified authorities of the pilot’s suspected drunkenness. The flight's departure was delayed by about an hour and a half. The pilot lost his job at the airline as a result of the incident. Ex-pilot could face 2 years in prison Police arrived and subjected the pilot to a breathalysertest, which confirmed the suspicion. According to Finnish commercial broadcaster MTV, it revealed that he had a blood alcohol content of 1.5 per mille (parts per thousand). Finnair says the pilot has since been fired. The case will be considered at Vantaa District Court. The man could face up to two years in prison. According to Finland’s Aviation Act, ”no person shall perform duties on board an aircraft...or perform flight safety-related duties in a ground organisation while his/her blood alcohol level is raised due to the consumption of alcohol, or when he/she has used some intoxicating substance other than alcohol so that detectable amounts remain within his/her system”.

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 16:37:00 +0200

Two held in suspected fight-related death in Kerava

A man and woman were taken into custody after an alleged fight between a group of people that left a man dead in a Helsinki suburb early on Sunday.

Police in eastern Uusimaa reported on Sunday that a man died from injuries suffered in what authorities said was a fight between a number of people at a train station in Kerava, a suburb some 30 km north of Helsinki. A man and a woman were taken into custody near the train station shortly after the alleged fight took place in the early hours of Sunday morning. Both are suspected of having contributed to the man's death, police said. According to preliminary investigation the deceased male victim was around 56 years old. The male suspect is about 32 years old while the female suspect is around 37. Police said a preliminary investigation suggests that two suspects had caused the individual's death together. Police said all involved in the incident have "foreign backgrounds," without elaborating. Police called to train station Police said they were notified about a fight involving several individuals was taking place at the Kerava train station around 2 am Sunday. When officers arrived on the scene, they found an unconscious man they suspected was the victim of violence. Despite attempts to resuscitate him, the victim died, according to police. Detective Chief Inspector Mikko Kiiski at the Eastern Uusimaa police department would not reveal the number of people investigators suspect were involved in the incident. “Our initial understanding of the situation was that several people were involved. Now we are trying to clarify what happened and get an idea of the course of events,” Kiiski said, adding that this sort of incident is rare. “I would not say this is a completely unique case. However, my view is that this is not a typical one,” Kiiski said.

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 15:27:00 +0200

Terrorism threat in Finland won't decline in near future, says Supo security report

Foreign countries continue to engage in espionage on Finland, says the Security Intelligence Service (Supo).

The threat of terrorism in Finland remains at a raised level for the third year running, according to chief Antti Pelttari of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo). Pelttari was joined by deputy Supo chief Seppo Ruotsalainen and research specialist Saana Nilsson at a Helsinki press conference on Monday, where the organisation announced its official security assessment for the closing year. "The report focuses on espionage, cyber spying, extremist movements and foreign hybrid influence," Pelttari said. The terrorist threat level is at 2 out of 4 (low, raised, high, very high) according to a system that Supo adopted in mid-2017. The bureau also described the threat level as "raised" prior to this in 2015. "There is no reason to believe that the threat level will fall to level 1 in the near future," Pelttari stated. Suspected terror links on the rise The number of people targeted by Supo in connection with terrorism has increased from about 270 people in 2015 to some 370 people this year. The report states that some 80 people are also known to have left Finland to engage in terrorist activity abroad; the figure is the same as a year earlier. This is the first time that Supo is both reporting its findings to heads of state as well as publishing a publicly viewable version of the document. Pelttari also said that foreign countries continue to engage in espionage on Finnish soil. He had little to comment in response to questions about specific security threats at the presser, saying that the methods used to identify foreign spies as well as potential terrorists are deeply classified. Supo issued its previous threat assessment in March 2018.

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 14:30:00 +0200

Two killed, three injured in Karstula crash

Three people are in hospital after a crash on Monday morning, one of them seriously injured according to a local paper.

Two people died in a head-on collision on Monday morning in Karstula, western Finland, some 100 km north of Jyväskylä. Three vehicles were involved in the accident on Route 13 between the villages of Humppi and Kiminki. Two cars crashed into each other head-on around 10 am. A van then struck one of the cars. Fire chief Pertti Hänninen tells Yle that there were five people in the vehicles, two of whom died. The other three have been hospitalised. One of those injured was driving one of the cars, while the other two were in the van. According to the Jyväskylä daily Keskisuomalainen, one of the passengers was seriously injured. The road was closed in both directions, backing up traffic for several kilometres. Authorities re-opened one lane around noon. Police are investigating the cause of the accident, which remains unclear.

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 13:32:01 +0200

Fears of measles outbreak in western Finland fade

No new cases of measles have appeared in Ostrobothnia despite one diagnosis last month in an area with a low vaccination rate.

Public health officials in western Finland say that no new cases of measles have been found since a child was diagnosed with the highly contagious illness in late November in the small town of Larsmo. Some patients have been tested for suspected cases, but the health centre in neighbouring Jakobstad says that there are no strong suspicions of new cases. However they warn that more cases are still possible, as the child had been in contact with many other people before being diagnosed on 29 November, and measles can have an incubation period of up to 21 days. The pre-school child contracted the virus while on a family trip to the Middle East, where there is an ongoing measles epidemic. Authorities were concerned that an epidemic could break out in Larsmo, where only about three quarters of small children have received the measles vaccine. The corresponding figure elsewhere in Finland is over 90 percent. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 93-95 percent of a population must be vaccinated to establish so-called herd immunity against measles. The illness can be fatal, especially to those with poor general immunity due to other serious illnesses. "Laestadian community does not generally oppose vaccinations" Larsmo is a mostly Swedish-speaking municipality of some 5,000 people, many of them members of fundamentalist religious communities. The child who fell ill is from a conservative Laestadian Lutheran family and had visited a prayer room where other unvaccinated children were present before being diagnosed. Local paediatric nurse Katarina Palo tells Yle that the Finnish Laestadian community does not generally oppose vaccinations, but that peer pressure had built up in the area spurred by the writings of an anti-vaccination blogger. Measles epidemics were common in Finland through the 1960s, breaking out every five to seven years, but the illness has been virtually eliminated in the country since 1970. This year has seen a resurgence of the virus in Europe. The WHO says that a record 41,000 people were infected in the first half of the year, with 37 deaths. That is up from just over 5,000 cases just two years ago. The WHO attributes the explosion to lower numbers of people being vaccinated. There was news last week of another measles infection in an adult in southern Finland's city of Espoo. According to city health officials, the individual contracted the disease while on a trip to Asia and received the vaccine during childhood, which reduces the risk of infecting others.

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 11:56:01 +0200

Monday's papers: Tax refunds to change, MPs' mileage benefit, human rights declaration anniversary

Last pre-Christmas tax refund hits accounts on Tuesday, MPs get paid for driving and the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70.

The holiday season in Finland has long included a feature welcome to many: the paying out of excess income tax payments as refunds to taxpayers. Essentially, people in Finland have gotten used to getting a kind of "Christmas bonus" at the end of the year – or getting stuck with a bill. The timing of this refund system is set to change in 2019, so the traditional pre-Christmas Tax Administration payout will occur for the last time on Tuesday, 11 December. Daily Helsingin Sanomat writes that this year's windfall will be larger than usual. Some 3.6 million Finnish taxpayers – or nearly two thirds of the population – will receive refunds totalling 2.9 billion euros. That's 13 percent more than a year ago. Nearly one million people will receive more than 1,000 euros. In future, HS writes, most workers will get their rebates much earlier, around August. Those who make changes to their pre-filled tax return statements may see their refunds slightly later. An independent website called vertaaensin.fi (meaning "compare first"), which contrasts different money-saving mechanisms and services such as bank loans, finds in its review that earlier refunds may affect how people save as well as how well the retailers fare during the Christmas shopping season. The same site found that about a third of people in Finland purposefully opt for a higher tax percentage in relation to their projected annual income for the specific purpose of getting a tax refund around the holidays. HS writes that women use this tactic more frequently than men. Free trips, ride sharing Meanwhile tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reviews data on mileage benefits received by Finnish members of parliament. According to the statistics, Finns Party MP Leena Meri is the only person in the country who is compensated for driving just a few kilometers a day for work. Finnish MPs may travel for free domestically using planes, trains, buses and taxis. Parliament members may also bill the government for trips taken with their own cars if they live far away from Helsinki or if public transportation is lacking in their area. The Finns Party's Meri resides some three kilometres from her closest train station in the Southern Finnish city of Hyvinkää, the shortest car trip covered by the government for any MP. Her benefits amounted to 88 euros in 2018. "I've worked for the government for a long time," she says in IS. "The travel guideline is to use the form of transport that is cheapest to the taxpayer." Meri's party colleague Teuvo Hakkarainen is the king of mileage benefits, receiving 7,856 euros this year for driving between the Central Finnish town of Viitasaari and Helsinki. The round trip of 800 kilometres comes in at 336 euros per journey. Even though Hakkarainen chooses not to drive to the nearest train station to switch rides, his car trips actually save money, IS writes. "[My fellow MP] Toimi Kankaanniemi rides with me very often," Hakkarainen tells the tabloid. "Other MPs also come along frequently, sometimes I drive three other colleagues to work at the same time. No money required for plane tickets or taxis." 70 years since UNUDHR Finally south-western regional paper Turun Sanomat reminds readers that Monday, 10 December is an auspicious day: the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the General Assembly in Paris in 1948. The post-war declaration is considered one of the most-translated documents in the world, having been translated into more than 500 different languages and dialects. Advocacy chief Heli Markkula from the Finnish League of Human Rights tells TS that Finland has cause to be proud that it upholds the historic declaration – but that the government still has a lot to learn. "Basic security in Finland is low and poverty is common among the populace," Markkula says. "Social and financial rights need to be seen as human rights. We need a lot more human rights training and awareness in this country." She points out that there have been strides forward on many human rights issues in the past seven decades, especially for children and the disabled. "Disabled people are now treated as people, not as mere recipients of care. Children and young people are more commonly included in decisions about their lives. The declaration has brought about a lot of good, for which we should rejoice," says Markkula.

Mon, 10 Dec 2018 09:29:51 +0200

Public slams Finnish Transport Safety Agency for privacy breach

The Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi) on Sunday shut down an online database where anyone could look up a motorist’s license information for free.

Trafi's database required nothing more than a name to pull up a person's driving information. The Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi) on Sunday said it had suspended the service while it investigates whether the tool infringes on people’s data privacy and security. The database went public last July. ”Our starting point is that the service is legal and that data privacy matters have been taken into consideration, but we also want to take critical feedback seriously,” Janne Huhtamäki of Trafi told Yle. He said negative feedback began rolling in at the end of the summer. ”People don’t think it’s acceptable that their driving licenses are public,” he explained. Under Finnish law, the agency must be able to provide information regarding professional drivers’ qualifications. ”Legislators have deemed this service necessary—car dealers need to check licenses ahead of test drives and car rental companies need to vet drivers,” Huhtamäki explained.

Sun, 09 Dec 2018 17:16:01 +0200

Lapland’s white reindeer go viral

Last month British tabloids renamed Lapland 'Crapland' for its lack of snow, but now the Brits are captivated by a snow-white Finnish reindeer.

The Brits have taken a liking to a picture of a 'laughing' Finnish white forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus), causing a photo by tourism portal Visit Finland to spread rapidly on social media. The BBC also ran a story this weekend on 'rare but conspicuous' white reindeer featuring this popular photo of a white reindeer posted by a Norwegian photographer on Instagram. White reindeer rare Yle asked Jouko Kumpula, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), how many white reindeer are in fact wandering around Lapland’s fells. ”For every one hundred reindeer born, it’s unlikely one will be completely white,” he explained, adding that there may be a snow-white individual in a group of a few hundred animals. White reindeer are also usually female, according to Kumpula. ”White reindeer aren’t necessarily albinos, they are the result of colour mutations. An albino reindeer will have pink eyes, nails and skin, and are far rarer than the white ones,” he said. Lazy white Rudolph Tourists may like white reindeer, but their innate laziness doesn't always endear them to the herd. ”They’ve been said to be calmer and sleepier. White calves sleep more deeply than their traditionally-coloured counterparts,” Kumpula said, adding that sleepiness is not a great attribute for reindeer tasked with pulling loaded sleds. White reindeer are easy targets for predators in the summer months.

Sun, 09 Dec 2018 13:56:40 +0200

A wet and windy start to the week

Finland will see snow, sleet, and rain as the week begins. Southern areas can look forward to flakes as temperatures fall.

Most of the precipitation across Finland will come down as snow. Finnish Lapland will see snow on Sunday, with western Lapland attracting most of the white stuff. An area stretching from southeastern Finland to Ostrobothnia may see up to 10 centimetres of snow mixed in with freezing rain. Rain showers are still in store for the southern and western coasts as the mercury hovers above freezing.

Sun, 09 Dec 2018 12:24:53 +0200

Police to lower speeding fines

Upcoming changes to Finland's traffic law will lower fines for minor speeding offences.

Revamped speeding laws will lower fines for minor violations in the summer of 2020. Police currently issue 170-euro penalties for motorists driving no more than 15km/h over the limit in a 60 km/h zone. But by the summer of 2020, fines will be capped at 100 euros for drivers exceeding the 60km/h limit by no more than 10km/h. More difficult to lose driving license Eighteen months from now minor speeding infractions will no longer count towards a driving ban. At the moment drivers caught speeding--even slightly--four times in a two-year period or three times during the course of a year can lose their license. Under the new rules, however, only speeding offences exceeding 10km/h in a 60km/h zone or 15km/h in a higher speed area will count as penalty points on a license. ”The driving ban has been one of the main speeding deterrents. Finns in general tend to obey the speed limit, and the new rules are unlikely to cause speeding, with the possible of exception of a small group of people with deep pockets,” said chief superintendent Konsta Arvelin from the the National Police Board.

Sun, 09 Dec 2018 11:54:10 +0200

Finns Party seeks opposition backing for no-confidence motion over internal security

An interpellation requires the support of at least 20 lawmakers. The Finns Party has 17 MPs in parliament so would need other opposition parties on its side.

The Finns Party led by immigration hardliner Jussi Halla-aho is calling on other opposition parties to table an interpellation on the security situation in the country. The nationalist party wants to use the interpellation to test lawmakers’ confidence in the Juha Sipilä administration. Chair of the Finns Party parliamentary group Leena Meri said that the government’s ineptitude with regard to its asylum policies has endangered peace in society. “After the terrorist attack in Turku the government promised to tighten up on the detention of asylum seekers and to protect citizens. Nothing concrete has happened,” Meri said in a statement on Saturday. The party also referred to suspected rape and sexual abuse cases recently uncovered in Oulu and charged that rejected asylum seekers are creating instability in society. “Because the government has not taken rapid, effective or concrete action to combat the worst impacts of immigration, or with respect to detaining rejected asylum seekers or related to fast-tracking deportations of [people who have committed] serious offences, we will table a no-confidence motion in the government,” she continued in the statement. Al least 20 lawmakers are required to file an interpellation, however the Finns Party has 17 MPs in parliament, which means they will have to turn to other opposition parties to support the motion. SDP opts out, others in the dark The other opposition parties in Parliament are the Social Democrats, the Greens, Left Alliance, Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party. Chair of the largest opposition parliamentary group the SDP, Antti Lindtman tweeted Saturday that his MPs will not support the interpellation. "Each and every Finns Party MP has personally signed up for the Sipilä government's immigration policies. Do they plan a confidence vote in themselves? The party's credibility for an interpellation on this issue is zero," Lindtman wrote. The SDP lawmaker was referring to the fact that the Finns Party accepted the government's immigration policies back in 2015, when it joined the Sipilä administration. Meanwhile parliamentary group chairs for the Greens and the Left Alliance told STT news agency that the Finns party had not approached them about the proposed no-confidence vote and therefore did not want to comment on the matter. Peter Östman, chair of the Christian Democrats' group told STT that his colleagues had no knowledge of any opposition interpellation.

Sat, 08 Dec 2018 17:27:47 +0200

"Bans don't help": Former President Halonen weighs in on Finland's swastika debate

Values must be internalised because it's not easy to legislate individual behaviour, according to former President Tarja Halonen.

Former President Tarja Halonen has called for consideration of tighter restrictions on displaying Nazi symbols, but says bans don’t help people do good. Speaking on Yle’s Ykkösaamu Saturday morning talk show, Halonen said however that Finland would do well to ponder whether or not banning certain kinds of symbolism would be useful. "In my view Justice Minister Kai Mykkänen put it well when he said that it would be problematic to prohibit certain symbols. On the other hand, we would be in line with mainstream European if we adopted a stricter position on this," Halonen commented. Halonen was commenting on Independence Day demonstrations, which saw police seize flags bearing swastikas from participants participating in marches by far-right nationalist groups. The former president said that it felt dreadful to see neo-Nazis marching with swastikas on Independence Day. "It's always dangerous when people don’t know history. History tells us how certain policies have come into being," she cautioned. "How can anyone idealise violence?" She described the situation as nothing to play around with, however she appeared to be on the fence over the idea that certain symbols should be legally proscribed in Finland. "I'm at an amber light over whether or not it would help to look into the matter. On the other hand, bans do not help. Values must be internalised because legislation is not very effective for guiding people to do good," she noted. Halonen said however that it is difficult to understand how Nazi ideology could flourish in any way in modern Finland. "How can anyone idealise violence?" she asked. She said that the idea that anyone had the right to exterminate an entire ethnic group seems quite remote from today’s society. On Friday, Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen also said that he opposed an outright ban on swastikas, despite calls from police for clarity on existing legislation. Tarja Halonen served as Finnish President for two terms between 2000 and 2012 and was the first woman to serve as the country’s head of state.

Sat, 08 Dec 2018 15:10:00 +0200

Suspected bus attackers remanded into custody

Two men suspected of attacking drivers on moving buses have been remanded into police custody, according to the NBI.

The National Bureau of Investigation has revealed on twitter that a migrant man has been remanded into custody on suspicion of attacking a bus driver in Uurainen in central Finland in the early hours of Wednesday morning. "The Tuusula district court has remanded a man into custody in connection with violence that occurred on a bus in Uurainen late Tuesday night-early Wednesday morning," the criminal investigations agency tweeted. "The NBI called for him to be placed in custody under suspicion of attempted traffic endangerment," the tweet continued. Another man suspected of assaulting another bus driver in Loimaa in southwest Finland on Tuesday was also placed in police custody on Friday. On Friday, the agency said that it would seek remand hearings for both suspects. According to the NBI, the suspects are not believed to know each other. Investigators also said they have not been able to determine a motive for the suspects’ actions and added that they do not suspect any terrorist intent.

Sat, 08 Dec 2018 14:07:54 +0200

Finns in Paris warned to avoid crowds as "yellow vests" gear up for more protests

Finland has joined the embassies of many other countries warning their nationals about the possibility of more rioting in Paris.

The Finnish Embassy in Paris is warning Finnish citizens to steer clear of crowds and demonstrations in the French capital. Officials in France and particularly in Paris are bracing for a possible new wave of protests by so-called "yellow vest" demonstrators, who initially took to the streets over now-scuppered plans to hike fuel taxes, but have expressed broader opposition to the high cost of living and the policies of the current administration. Many businesses in Paris have shuttered their shop windows and cleared their goods off the streets as a precaution against further damage from unrest. At the same time, tourist hot spots such as the Louvre museum and the Eiffel tower remained shut on Saturday over vandalism fears. The government has scrapped a planned fuel tax hike due to take effect from next year following rioting across the city last weekend that saw more than 100 people injured and hundreds arrested. However the climbdown has done little to appease anger against President Emmanuel Macron and his policies. Embassy issues website advisory Finland has joined the embassies of many other countries warning their nationals about the possibility of more rioting in Paris. Finland’s embassy in Paris also issued an announcement on its website urging citizens in the country to avoid large gatherings and protests and to exercise due caution in the circumstances. It also called on visitors to the French capital to note that football games have been cancelled and that major department stores and some tourist attractions will be closed on Saturday. The embassy added that the metro system might be shut down as a precaution and that heavy road traffic might result. The Finnish embassy said that it is following the situation and could provide more information as needed.

Sat, 08 Dec 2018 12:55:08 +0200

No prison sentences for civilian service objectors, appeal court rules

Individuals who reject civilian service based on their beliefs should be treated the same as Jehovah's Witnesses and should not face jail time, court says.

The Helsinki Appeal Court on Friday upheld a previous ruling by three lower courts that persons who object to civilian service should not be punished with prison sentences. Currently, individuals can cite their convictions as a reason to refuse civilian and military service, without fear of sanction. However in some cases, prosecutors have sought prison terms for objectors. On Friday, the Helsinki Appeal court rejected three applications for further hearings lodged by district prosecutor Maren Salvesén, in which the prosecutor sought custodial prison sentences or supervised probation involving electronic tagging for people who have refused civilian service. Earlier this autumn, the prosecutor had asked the Itä-Uusimaa district court to sentence several persons for refusing civilian service. However the court cited a previous ruling by the Helsinki Appeal Court in February, which found that it could not treat the beliefs of the accused differently from those of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that to do so would constitute discrimination. JW exemption under scrutiny In Finland, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been able to cite their religious beliefs as a rationale for refusing military and civilian service since 1985. However the community's special status has recently come under scrutiny. The appellate court’s February ruling is not binding on the lower courts, nor did it become enforceable when it was handed down. However the Itä-Uusimaa district court found that it could not overlook the higher court’s views on the issue. In November, the Supreme Court did not hear any cases relating to the issue, so the appeal court’s ruling remained in force. If in future the Supreme Court denies prosecutors leave to challenge the Appeal Court decision, the ruling to dismiss prison sentences for civilian service objectors would become enforceable and would remain a part of Finnish case law – unless Parliament amends existing legislation. MPs are currently considering draft legislation that would remove the exemption that Jehovah’s Witnesses currently enjoy.

Sat, 08 Dec 2018 11:25:29 +0200

Bumper tax payout to get Finnish consumers to splurge on Christmas

Consumers will spend significantly more money on gifts and other holiday items than they did last year, a Nordea survey finds.

Citing fresh figures from a survey Nordea Bank commissioned about holiday spending plans of consumers, the bank's economist Olli Kärkkäinen said expectations haven't been this high since 2012. "A year ago I was wondering about why [the country's] strong economic growth and record-high consumer confidence levels weren't being reflected in planned Christmas budgets. Now it can be seen," Kärkkäinen said. However, it is not only economic growth which is behind the projected extra spending. This year more than 3.6 million Finnish residents will receive tax refunds on 11 December, amounting to a total of nearly three billion euros. Refund recipients are expected to get approximately 100 euros more from the taxman than they did last year, reflecting an average increase of 10 percent. One-in-three of survey respondents said they would spend part or all of their tax refunds on the holidays, according to Nordea. "The tax refunds play an important part in the holiday shopping season. This year 2.9 billion euros will be paid out, which is 13 percent more than last year. This will certainly be seen in holiday retail sales," Kärkkäinen said. However, a rejig of the tax system next year Finland will see tax refunds distributed in August, which could affect Christmas spending in 2019. 100 euros more than last year The holiday spending survey found that consumers aged 18-65 plan to drop an average of 580 euros apiece on the holidays this year, or about one hundred euros more than last year. About 340 euros will go towards gifts, while 240 euros will be spent on other holiday costs like food and decorations. According to the survey the most common gifts people are planning on giving include chocolates and sweets, toys and books. Fewer than ten percent of respondents said they plan to at least pay for some of their holiday purchases using a credit card or other form of credit. Three percent of respondents who said they observe Christmas are not planning to give any gifts this year. The survey was carried out by market research company YouGov, and asked around 1,000 people in Finland about their holiday spending plans.

Fri, 07 Dec 2018 18:45:00 +0200

Police probe possible links to child porn in Oulu sex abuse cases

Local police said they are considering issuing a warrant for the wanted persons based on identifying features.

Oulu police said on Friday that they had issued a warrant for one person suspected of sex crimes in the area. According to reports in the Oulu-based paper Kaleva, Detective Chief Inspector Markus Kiiskinen said that officials will move to reveal the suspect’s distinguishing marks if they see fit to do so. Local police are investigating three cases of sexual offences in which all of the suspected victims were girls under the age of 15. The suspects in all three cases came to Finland as quota refugees or asylum seekers. Police said that there are no indications that there are any direct links among the three cases and have said that fresh cases may still come to light. "We’ll first see if the investigation progresses without revealing [the suspect's] distinguishing marks. Hopefully we won’t have to go there," Kiiskinen remarked. "The most important thing now is to find this person," he added. Kiiskinen said that he could not divulge the charge being considered at this stage, but noted that police are not looking at any further suspects. Oulu law enforcement officials are also investigating whether or not several individuals suspected of committing sex crimes involving minors also engaged in disseminating child pornography as part of the preliminary investigation, Kiiskinen revealed. "We are getting to the bottom of whether or not other criminal offences were committed," the chief inspector commented. Cases uncovered in routine calls, tip-off Police learned of the suspected offences while responding to routine calls, while one tip came via an official source. The investigation includes one case in which a total of seven individuals have been taken into custody. The web of offences emerged at the end of last summer and police say they believe there may be more suspects involved. On Wednesday police hinted that new arrests in the cases were imminent. That case is being investigated as assault, aggravated child sex abuse and aggravated rape and the offences are believed to have taken place at a private residence over a period of several months. Two other suspected offences reportedly occurred outdoors on the same day in Oulu’s Tuira district in mid-November. One of these incidents is being investigated as child sex abuse while the other may be classified as aggravated rape and aggravated sexual abuse. The suspects hail from four different countries and are between 20 and 30 years of age, with the exception of one who is over 30.

Fri, 07 Dec 2018 17:30:00 +0200

Record numbers view Finland's Independence Day ball online

Altogether about 3.2 million people watched some part of Yle's coverage of Independence Day celebrations.

Yle's live broadcast of the annual Independence Day gala hosted by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Helsinki attracted 2.51 million viewers at its most. More people than ever tuned in to watch the coverage on Yle Areena’s video streaming service, where the programme was started 570,000 times. This represents a significant increase from last year when the annual gala was viewed 220,000 times on Yle Areena. Altogether 3.2 million viewers watched some part of Yle’s Independence Day coverage, which included a military parade in Mikkeli, as well as the pre- and after-party of the presidential gala. Last year, a record audience – 2.66 million people – watched the gala celebrating Finland’s independence centenary. Traditionally, the Independence Day ball is Finland's most-watched TV programme every year.

Fri, 07 Dec 2018 16:10:00 +0200

NBI seeks remand hearing for bus attackers

The reported bus attacks are not being investigated as terrorist acts, according to the main criminal investigation agency NBI.

The National Bureau of Investigation NBI said Friday that it is pursuing remand hearings for two men suspected of staging random attacks on buses in two separate incidents earlier this week. According to a police release, preliminary investigations into the cases are at an early stage and officers have no indication that there is any connection between the two incidents. The statement describes the cases are independent, adding that the suspects do not appear to know each other. Reports indicates that the first incident occurred around 1:00 am on Wednesday in Uurainen, on a bus that was driving from Helsinki to the north-western city of Oulu. The suspect in that incident suddenly rose from his seat bus and attacked the driver. He was subdued by passengers who held him down until law enforcement arrived on the scene. In another incident that took place on Tuesday, another bus with just five passengers began its journey in Loimaa bound for Turku and had not gone far when the journey was interrupted. A male passenger reportedly left his seat, walked to the driver and grabbed the steering wheel, causing the vehicle to veer into the opposite lane according to police. No injuries were reported in either case. Police said on Friday that a possible motive for the incidents is still not clear, although investigators are believed to have a reasonable understanding of how the events unfolded. Both suspects are around thirty years old and have been described as foreigners originally from different countries. Edit: Updated at 3.24pm to indicate that the bus was bound for Turku from Loima and not the other way around.

Fri, 07 Dec 2018 15:00:00 +0200

Chinese titan in formal €4.6b bid for Finland's Amer Sports

The board of the Finnish sporting goods company has recommended accepting the offer -- one of the largest buyouts in Finnish history.

An investment consortium that includes the Chinese sportswear company Anta Sports Products has tabled a formal cash buyout offer estimated at about 4.6 billion euros for the Finnish sporting goods firm Amer Sports. Back in September, Amer Sports had confirmed receiving a non-binding buyout offer from the Chinese firm. In a release issued Friday, Mascot Bidco, a firm registered in Helsinki at the end of November, formally announced a cash tender offer to purchase all of the shares in Amer Sports. The members of the consortium Mascot Bidco represents include Anta Sports Products, the investment fund FV Fund, Anamered Investments, which is wholly-owned by Canadian billionaire Chip Wilson and the Chinese internet titan Tencent, which purchased a majority stake in the hit-making Finnish game firm Supercell two years ago. The tender offer proposes paying 40 euros per share for the deal, and values the company’s outstanding share capital at 4.6 billion euros. Board, major shareholders back sale In a stock exchange release issued on Friday, Amer Sports said that its board had unanimously approved the purchase offer. The firm’s main shareholders have also committed to accepting the buyout offer, subject to routine terms and conditions. They include the personal insurance firms Kaleva and Mandatum Life and the pension insurance companies Ilmarinen and Varma among others. The company said Thursday that the investor consortium had asked chief executive Heikki Takala and his core management team to remain at the helm following the transaction. It added that it did not expect the sale to have any major impact on its operations, cash position, management or personnel, or its location. With a market value of an estimated four billion euros, Amer Sports is one of the largest listed companies on the Helsinki Stock Exchange. On Wednesday before the Independence Day holiday, its closing share price was 35.2 euros. Following the purchase announcement, the stock exchange recorded a brisk increase in trading of Amer Sports shares. However trading was suspended mid-morning on Friday at the company’s request.

Fri, 07 Dec 2018 14:15:00 +0200

Interior minister opposes swastika ban despite police call for clearer laws

Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen said he opposes banning the display of swastikas and that selectively revoking freedom of speech rights could be problematic.

Finland's Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen said on Friday he is opposed to banning swastikas while applauding police for performing its duties well on Thursday. Police forcibly removed swastika flags from four neo-Nazi demonstrators in central Helsinki. Some have called for an outright ban on the display of the controversial symbol, while some members of the police say they would like clarity on the matter. In contrast to countries like Sweden and Germany, which ban the public display of the symbol, the swastika is not forbidden in Finland. However, police can confiscate such symbols on signage if they are used for ethnic agitation, for example. "It is not necessarily helpful to start regulating signs and symbols. It's more important that the police have a way to intervene if needed," Mykkänen said during an Yle Radio 1 interview on Friday morning. "We would have to carefully consider which symbols would then be separated from [the protected rights of] freedom of speech and expression," Mykkänen added. Police want clarity According to police, interpreting the ambiguous law is not easy, especially in fast-moving situations. "If the laws were clear on what is legal and what is not, it would make it easier. Those who engage in unlawful activity would also be conscious of their offense," Chief Superintendent Juha Hakola from Helsinki Police said on Yle’s Aamu-TV on Friday. "In cases like this, the police need clearer laws," he added. Police said that four participants who took part in the neo-Nazi-backed Towards Freedom or "Kohti vapautta" march carried the swastika flags in a bid to provoke, which in turn could have posed a risk to public safety. "Even though the swastika has not been officially banned, it sends a very strong racist and intolerant message," Hakola said. Police have now launched an investigation into whether the flying of the flags constituted agitation against an ethnic group.

Fri, 07 Dec 2018 13:30:00 +0200

Greens get support bump while other parties stall

Finland's opposition party the Greens saw increased support of 2.6 percentage points in November - more than any other party.

Many pundits are attributing the Greens bump in support seen in Yle's November party support poll to the election of Pekka Haavisto as party chair at the beginning of last month. The party had been suffering for months in polls before former leader Touko Aalto took extended sick leave and later officially resigned from the post on medical grounds at the end of October. Aalto had come under scrutiny for his antics at a Stockholm nightclub back in August. The Greens seemed to be having a difficult time finding someone who wanted to lead the party, but after veteran politician Haavisto announced his candidacy he unanimously was elected to the post on 3 November. The survey, conducted by polling firm Taloustutkimus, was carried out from 12 November through 4 December. Government parties languish Many other parties did not fare as well as the Greens, however. One of three government parties, the conservative National Coalition Party, saw a 1.1 percentage-point drop in support last month compared to October. Meanwhile backing for Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's Centre Party remained mostly steady at 17 percent, inching down half-a-percentage-point from last month. The third government party, the Blue Reform, saw a 0.4 percentage-point increase in voter approval.. Mixed results for opposition The Social Democrats saw continued uneven approval last month and lost 1.2 percentage points, but remains Finland's most popular party, enjoying 21.5 percent of support according to the poll. With 8.1 percent voter backing, the nationalist Finns Party saw the biggest drop compared to other parties, dropping 1.7 percentage points in November. With the exception of the Greens, the changes in support for all of the other parties in the poll were well within the +/-2 percentage-point margin of error Some 2,937 people between the ages of 18-79 took part in the survey. However, more than one thousand of the respondents told the pollster that they did not want to reveal their opinions about the parties, perhaps an indication that there are a good number of undecided voters in advance of parliamentary elections due in mid-April.

Fri, 07 Dec 2018 12:32:48 +0200

Friday's papers: Independence Day ball and demonstrations

The main story on Friday is who wore what to the Independence Day gala.

Most of Friday’s papers focus on Thursday's gala at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki where Finland's movers, shakers and honourees were invited to celebrate the nation’s 101 years of independence. Traditionally, media attention has centered on the best-dressed guests and this year was no exception. According to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, among the most elegant invitees this year was MP Jaana Pelkonen, who wore a bright yellow sleeveless dress by French designer Roland Mouret. In the paper’s online poll for the belle of the ball, the National Coalition Party politician received more than a fifth of the votes, and thereby beat First Lady Jenni Haukio, who donned a white dress made of tree-based loncell fabric. The IS fashion critics Mirva Saukkola and Juri Silvennoinen selected singer Anna Puu’s red futuristic dress as the most stylish outfit, followed closely by model Alexandra Escat, who wore a shimmering golden gown by Finnish designer Mert Otsamo. Escat and her partner actor Jasper Pääkkönen were among the most-watched couples of the evening, IS writes. Pääkkönen, who most recently starred in Spike Lee’s film BlacKKKlansman, broke rules of etiquette by donning a tuxedo instead of the preferred tailcoat and white tie, points out daily Helsingin Sanomat. Many other male guests also wore bold and original suits, HS said, with Vaasa Youth Council Chair Antonio Teca choosing a lion-embroidered coat and a man-bun for Finland's most-watched party. Meanwhile, in a more critical assessment of the evening's outfits, tabloid Iltalehti calls some dresses as bordering on bad taste. For example, Iltalehti stylist Vesa Silver says journalist Anna Björkroos took the gala's theme of sustainability too literally by choosing a gown made of newspapers. The dress was not respectful enough for the occasion, said Silver. Also, what would happen if drinks were spilled on the dress, Iltalehti asks. In addition, while trendy, boxer Elina Gustafsson's white sneakers were much too ordinary for the Independence Day gala, Iltalehti said. 14 protesters held In other news, 14 people were arrested at a nationalistic gathering at the Finnish Parliament Annex (Pikkuparlamentti) park in late evening, IS said. An event organised by the Suomen kansa ensin (Finnish people first) movement and Reform group was supposed to end at 11 p.m. but 14 participants failed to leave, IS writes. The police took them into custody and cited them for refusing to obey authority. Several protests took place in Helsinki on Thursday, with Helsinki without Nazis attracting the largest crowd, about 2,000 people while approximately 250 people participated in the neo-Nazi Toward Freedom demonstration. The Finnish chapter of the Nordic Resistance Movement, which was banned in November 2017, also marched on Independence Day, as the order to disband the group has not gone into force yet. Four neo-Nazi demonstrators were taken into police custody for flying swastika flags in downtown Helsinki. According to Ilta-Sanomat, actor Jasper Pääkkönen was embarrassed to tell his partner Alexandra Escat about the racist protests. "Alexandra has both Asian and European heritage, and she has considered Finland a country that the rest of the world can look up to. That's why I felt ashamed to tell her what's happening out there, behind this gleam and glamour," Pääkkönen said. "As a Finn, I would like to think that we live in an exceptionally open and progressive society," he added.

Fri, 07 Dec 2018 09:55:51 +0200

Police crack down on Nazi symbolism in Independence Day marches

Several protest marches took place in Helsinki on Thursday evening. Police intervened to forcibly remove swastika flags from Neo-Nazi demonstrators.

Police said on Thursday that they will open an investigation into neo-Nazis flying swastika flags in downtown Helsinki. Four protesters had reportedly been taken into police custody. Two processions made their way through Helsinki city centre Thursday evening. The neo-Nazi Kohti vapautta ('toward freedom') demonstration of 200-300 people, according to police, marched from Kaisaniemi through Kallio towards the Töölö district. The other was a counter-demonstration of 2,000 people, Helsinki Ilman natseja ('Helsinki without Nazis'), which proceeded from Narinkkatori square in Kamppi towards Töölö's Taivallahti area. Story continues after photo. Anti-fascist protesters.Yle News / Tom Bateman Around 5.30pm riot police separated clashing neo-Nazis and anti-fascists in the wooded area behind Helsinki's Olympic Stadium. At 5.33pm Finance Minister Petteri Orpo tweeted, "Finland's veterans did not fight so that Nazi flags could fly over the country. Finland fought for independence so that its citizens could live in a safe and peaceful country where human dignity prevails." Story continues after photo. Police instruct neo-Nazi 'Kohti vapautta' ('toward freedom') protestors to put away their swastika flags.Yle Left Alliance Chair Li Andersson took to Twitter just after 4pm. "Swastikas in Helsinki on Independence Day - how horrible. These 'nationalists' are showing they're really Nazis." In recent years far-right marches have grown in size each Independence Day, with counter-protesters also making their presence felt. Story continues after photo. Jouni Immonen / Yle A traditional torch procession of university students began at 5pm from Hietaniemi cemetery, finishing in the Senate Square. Meanwhile a fourth march of ‘612’ nationalists, taking the name from the date of Finnish independence, moved from Töölö Square down to the Hietaniemi cemetery at 7.30pm. Story continues after photo. Riding police block neo-Nazis from moving forward with Swastika flags in Hakaniemi.Yle Police said they were monitoring the situation throughout the city and were ready to react. The procession from Kaisaniemi to Töölö of the Finnish chapter (PVL) of the Nordic Resistance movement, which was banned by the Pirkanmaa District Court in November 2017, started just before 4 pm. Though the court ruled that the group should be disbanded, order is not yet in force, making it possible for the group to march on Independence Day. Helsinki Police Chief Inspector Pekka Höök said the police were prepared for a range of scenarios. ”If something new arises, then we’ll react accordingly," he explained.

Thu, 06 Dec 2018 17:10:59 +0200

In pictures: Defence Forces' Independence Day Parade

Some 700 people, 50 vehicles and 18 aircraft took part in the Defence Forces' Independence Day parade, staged in Mikkeli, eastern Finland, this year.

Around 15,000 on-lookers turned up to witness the display of military strength.

Thu, 06 Dec 2018 16:32:11 +0200

Conscript dies in military training accident

The Finnish Defence Forces said on Thursday that a conscript died when his all-terrain vehicle overturned.

The Finnish Defence Forces released a statement that a conscript in the Kainuu brigade died when his all-terrain vehicle overturned on a slippery slope, trapping him underneath it early Thursday morning. No other passengers were on-board at the time. The conscript was participating in the Arctic Shield 18 practice in Rovajärvi, located within the municipalities of Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi. One of the goals of the two-week long exercise is to enhance cooperation between the Finnish and Swedish armies, with 4,800 troops participating in the military exercises in Rovajärvi, the main artillery practice range of the Finnish Army. The conscript’s family has been notified and police are now investigating the accident.

Thu, 06 Dec 2018 14:30:24 +0200

Why Finns don't want to change their national anthem

As Finns celebrate both Independence Day and Sibelius Day this week, Yle News canvassed opinion on the great anthem debate and found little appetite for change.

If the leadership of the National Coalition Party had its way two years ago, Finland would be playing a different national anthem on Independence Day and during other major commemorative occasions. Back in 2016, the party began campaigning to drop the current national anthem, Our Land or Maamme, in favour of the Finlandia Hymn, written by iconic Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. However, backing for the move to upset decades of tradition wasn’t unanimous in the party. Then-party leader and Finance Minister Alexander Stubb and MP Elina Lepomäki supported the change, while current Finance Minister Petteri Orpo favoured upholding the status quo and retaining Maamme as the nation’s anthem. The rest, as they say, is history. The campaign fell short of its goal and Maamme is still the song played on red-letter occasions across the country. Should it stay or should it go? The move to oust Maamme as a key part of the soundtrack to Finnish identity and patriotism may have been rooted in its lack of formal legal protection and its partly-foreign authorship. While symbols such as the Finnish Coat of arms and the national flag are legally defined, Maamme’s status as national anthem is not officially enshrined in law. Maamme was originally a Swedish-language poem written by Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg. The words, intended by Runeberg to stir patriotic feelings among the Russian-ruled Finns, were later set to music by the German composer Fredrik Pacius, and the piece was first performed in public on 13 May 1848 at a gathering of students in Helsinki. Many Finns feel a great affinity towards Maamme, but some are less enthused by an anthem that was originally written in Swedish and composed by a German, reputedly to the tune of an old German drinking song called ‘Papst und Sultan’. Furthermore, the melody is the same as that of the Estonian national anthem, leading many to question its authenticity as a mark of purely Finnish national identity. Opinions on the issue remain somewhat divided with the general feeling tending towards maintaining the current state of affairs. Yle News asked personalities representing music, history, politics, journalism and entertainment for their views on which musical work best represents national sentiment. Jaakko Kuusisto, Chief conductor of the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra "I think Maamme is a fairly typical national anthem: uplifting, energetic, uncomplicated and somewhat pompous. It’s a well-crafted melody in its own genre and works well in situations where national anthems are typically performed. Story continues after photo. Petra Tiihonen / Alias Creative Finlandia is a different beast altogether: much more refined and delicate, it has a way of touching you in ways few melodies have. I have played and conducted Finlandia on more occasions than I can remember, and one performance has been particularly memorable: "Valtakunnallinen Suomi 100 -juhla” (Finland’s 100 year celebration) in Oulu last year featured a full symphony orchestra with 500 children singing. I will never forget that sound. In my opinion, Finlandia is a much more interesting work of composition, and perhaps just for that reason I do not feel that it should become the national anthem. Anthems are often used at large mass gatherings such as sports events, with huge crowds singing, and the clear-cut rhythmic quality of Maamme probably works better in that context. I fear the delicate beauty of Finlandia would be lost in those situations. I’m perfectly happy with us having Maamme as the official anthem, and Finlandia as a different but nonetheless important and beloved symbol of our country." Janika Takatalo, politician, National Coalition Party "In 2016 the board of the National Coalition Party took a vote on this issue, and Finlandia won. It was argued that Finlandia had a stronger link with Finnish culture and history, and that the lyrics in Finlandia were more connected to Finnish identity as they are not translated from another language, as is the case with Maamme. I personally think that Finlandia is a more high-spirited and beautiful piece. The lyrics are about the awakening of Finland and they remind us of the sacrifices our great grandfathers and grandmothers had to make so that we can live freely in this beloved country of ours. (Story continues after photo) Ilkka Vuorinen The national anthem is not written in law, but is just a traditional way of doing things. If people really want to see this change, they just have to start singing Finlandia more often than Maamme and then it will slowly change. Maybe we will see a new citizens’ initiative on this in the future." Ali Jahangiri, comedian and television presenter “As an immigrant, hearing a large crowd of people singing Maamme is still very powerful for me. When I travel through Finland, and visit different areas, then I really understand the lyrics. Our hills, our lakes, our land. I know it is the same tune as the Estonian national anthem, but we shouldn’t have to change our anthem because of that. If anything, Estonia should change theirs. (Story continues after photo) Ali JahangiriMax Henttu Finlandia is still there, nobody is taking it away, but it should not replace Maamme as the national anthem. There is no moral reason or actual reason for us to make a change as Maamme is the foundation of what it means to be Finnish. It’s the Maamme song, it’s about ‘our land’; it even says it in the name. It’s a beautiful song and I have many good memories of it.” Unna Toropainen, musicologist and educator at Sibelius Museum, Turku “I think many people would like the idea of Finlandia becoming Finland’s national anthem because it is such a popular and well-known piece of music. Sibelius lived a very long life during a period of time when remarkable changes took place: Finland became independent, the main language in Finland changed from Swedish to Finnish, the civil war was fought, as well as both World Wars. Sibelius lived during a time Finns needed strong, talented and powerful people to show that this small nation had every chance to be rebuilt and to remain independent. Story continues after photo. Åbo Akademi I think you can see him as someone who made the dream come true; he succeeded and achieved a strong position among the most important composers of the 20th century. I also think that the words written by V.A. Koskenniemi in 1940 made a vital difference, especially as the earlier lyrics had not gained such popularity. Finlandia painted the image of a better future. The war was over and it was now time to roll up the sleeves and start building a society: a stronger and better one. However, Pacius’ Maamme has an older tradition in being the national anthem and it is far more practical. I think Finlandia is perfect just as it is - something special when the occasion is right.” Marko Tikka, Finnish historian, University of Tampere “For most Finns, Finlandia is a reminder of a very important part of our history, the so-called years of oppression, when Finland was ruled by Russia at the beginning of the 20th Century. Maamme does not have such a strong political background as Finlandia. However, Maamme has taken its place as the national anthem a long time ago, so why change it? Even Sibelius himself disliked the idea of separating the hymn from Finlandia, and it was also never his intention that lyrics would be be written for it." Story continues after photo Jonne Renvall / University of Tampere "I also believe it would be hard to learn how to sing the Finlandia hymn, because the melody and words are not easy to sing for a non-professional singer. The vocal range and the intervals in Finlandia would be very difficult to master for most normal karaoke-singers. In my opinion, Maamme is the one and only anthem.” Riku Rantala, journalist and film director “Finlandia is a fantastic piece of music, both as a classical piece by an orchestra or as a folkish version by Joan Baez, and I understand why some people think it would work better as an anthem: a world-famous piece by a world-famous Finnish composer. I've grown up with Maamme as the national anthem, but I don't have a strong opinion about its musical values. I've heard it was originally a popular song in German pubs, which is pretty funny. Story continues after photo. Petteri Sopanen / Yle Change might be refreshing, but it can also make things worse. There's a lot of weird things in the old national anthems. Think about La Marseillaise and its blood-thirsty, war-mongering lyrics. Should the French change it? Would the change be good or bad? I don't know, but in my opinion this comes as something like #13,253 on our 'to do-list' as a nation.”

Thu, 06 Dec 2018 11:00:00 +0200

Independence Day festivities kick off with official flag-raising ceremony

Finland’s 101st Independence Day celebrations began Thursday morning with the traditional raising of the Finnish flag at Observatory Hill Park (Tähtitorninmäki) in Helsinki.

Celebration of Finland’s 101st anniversary of independence began on Thursday morning at 9 am with the raising of the flag ceremony at Observatory Hill Park (Tähtitornimäki) in Helsinki, a tradition dating back to 1957. ”An independent Finland is not a gift, but a mission," Speaker of Parliament Päivi Risikko told crowds, paying tribute to Finland's war veterans and all those who rebuilt Finland after the wars. The Viipurin Lauluveikot male chorus sang Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia and the national anthem Maamme ("Our Land") for the gathered crowd. As per tradition, the flag-raising ceremony is followed by an ecumenical church service at Helsinki Cathedral at noon, attended by President Sauli Niinistö, and a military parade. The parade is arranged by a different city each year and this year it is Mikkeli’s turn. Several other cities throughout the country will arrange parades, concert performances and other celebrations on Thursday afternoon. The day culminates with the Independence Day reception, hosted by the presidential couple at the presidential palace, which is the most-watched television event of the year. Throughout the country flags are flown on Independence Day, as it’s a flag day in Finland. By law, the Finnish flag must be flown from public buildings from early in the morning until 8 pm. Finnish police are preparing for several nationalist and far right marches in Helsinki on independence day, but they will not necessarily ban Nazi salutes.

Thu, 06 Dec 2018 10:35:32 +0200