YLE - Finnish news in English

Forecast: Only 3 out of 10 urban areas will see population growth

MDI consultants predict that declining birth rates will contribute to only the capital city area, Tampere and Turku seeing population growth in the next two decades.  

In the next twenty years, only the capital city area, the southwest city of Turku, and the south-central hub of Tampere and its surroundings will see their populations grow, predicts MDI, a private consultancy firm specialising in regional development. MDI forecasts that the population of the Helsinki metropolitan area will increase by a quarter of a million people in the next 20 years. At the same time, however, the population of the entire country is only predicted to increase by fewer than 100,000 people, which would mean that every other area of the country would see a drop in their resident numbers – except the Helsinki area and the cities of Turku and Tampere. "The change will be most dramatic in the Oulu region, where birth rates have plummeted," says Timo Aro, an author of the MDI analysis. The northwest city of Oulu has been growing steadily in recent years, and at more than 200,000 inhabitants, it is currently Finland's fifth largest city. The demographic is also quite young, leading to a good comparative birth rate. According to the MDI forecast, however, this growth will reach a turning point in the mid-2030 and start to decline. More segregation and ghost towns MDI's consultants predict that internal migration within the country will peak at this time. The group also forecasts a concurrent increase in geographical segregation, as well as more areas being drained and emptied of their inhabitants. The MDI forecast (in Finnish) released on Friday concentrated on Finland's ten largest cities and their surrounding areas, using recent developments in mortality, birth rates, internal migration and immigration to predict the demographic trends of the near future. According to the forecast, in the year 2040, 32.7 percent of Finland's population will live in the Helsinki area, compared to 6.4 percent in Turku, 7.8 percent in Tampere, 3.5 percent in Jyväskylä and 4.7 percent in Oulu. This leaves 11.9 percent to be shared by the rest of the top ten cities: Lahti, Kuopio, Seinäjoki, Joensuu and Vaasa, and 32.9 percent of the population in the areas of Finland outside of these major cities. The MDI analysis reached a more dismal conclusion than a similar 2015 forecast from the state-owned agency Statistics Finland. The consultancy firm says this is because the birth rate has since fallen at a more alarming rate that than the statistics agency could have predicted.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 17:29:07 +0200


Time is running out: Committee determines "sote" bill still needs fine-tuning

Parliament's constitutional law committee said 20 changes must still be made to the plan, casting doubt on whether the bill will reach the finish line in time.

The parliamentary constitutional law committee finished its long-awaited report on the latest version of the government's proposed social, health care and regional government reform on Friday, calling for many corrections. This means the bill will move to the committee on social affairs and health, which will have little time to execute the required changes before Parliament starts its pre-election recess on 15 March and the government term comes to an end. The constitutional law committee is charged with examining the constitutionality of law proposals and their bearing on international human rights. It's unanimous decision on the latest version of the proposed overhaul of Finland's social and health care system and regional government included 20 different requests for "constitutional law fine-tuning". "Yes, there's some work that has to be done, but that's why we are here," said vice-chair of the constitutional law committee Tapani Tölli, in a press conference arranged after the report was submitted. The report's list requires, for example, a better explanation of customer plans, a re-examination of the timing of regional elections, clearer service requirements for private facilities, requirements for social and health care quality monitoring, the resolution of some data protection issues, and further clarification of regional funding and compensation paid to municipalities. Skirting compliance with EU law The constitutional law committee also called once again on the social affairs and health committee to reconsider so-called EU notification. If member states of the European Union wish to use EU aid, they are required to notify the EU commission. The Finnish government has avoided having to do this, but the committee says that EU commission approval would ensure that the "freedom of choice" element of the proposed reform would be compatible with EU competition law. The constitutional law committee has struggled with this issue since the first drafts of the proposal were submitted. The report released on Friday contains wording that says that if the social affairs and health committee cannot guarantee the reform's legality in terms of EU law, then the application of the "freedom of choice" component of the bill should be postponed. The report also calls for the entire regional government component of the bill to also be changed, if it turns out that there is no time to resolve various related issues first. The plan to create larger regions to oversee the administration of the new social and health care system would require that regional funding and municipal taxation are redefined, with a guarantee that regional financing models would ensure that adequate funding is always available to meet social and health service needs. Time is running out The parliamentary term will end on 15 March already, due to the lead-up to the next general elections on 14 April. This leaves the social affairs and health committee of parliament with just a few weeks to implement the changes in Friday's report. The committee has already called an extraordinary meeting on Monday to go through the report. "We'll do what we can. We need guidance from the government about what our next course of action should be: which details should be changed and how they want to proceed," said Krista Kiuru, chair of the committee. Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Annika Saarikko says her ministry will start in on the work required immediately. "We've got some sweaty weeks ahead, but I am hopeful that we can work together with the civil service to come up with solutions to all of the points that the social affairs and health committee requests," she said. Opposition: The game is over Opposition leaders commented on the report and its ramifications on social media on Friday. "Not only does the constitutional law committee require that the social affairs and health committee ensure EU law compliance, but it also calls for the 'adoption of the freedom of choice law to be postponed'. In practice, the social affairs and health committee cannot guarantee this without significantly altering the bill," Left Alliance Chair Li Andersson posted on Twitter. "My personal conclusion: this is the end of the line. It's high time the government blew the whistle – time is out and the game is over. The problems of the model are just too great and there's no way we can confirm its relationship to EU law with this little time left. We should spend our time thinking about what to do moving forward instead." she tweeted later. Green chair Pekka Haavisto called for a meeting of all the parliamentary parties to discuss the bill's current status. "The changes required by the constitutional law committee are significant. It looks quite likely that implementation of the sote reform will transfer to the next term," he tweeted. The Swedish People's Party chair Anna-Maja Henriksson appeared in an Yle interview Saturday morning to say that the reform will not be finished in time for a vote this term, as there are too many outstanding problems.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 14:35:41 +0200


Unions warn of possible shipping industry walkouts

Strikes would begin in March and affect merchant shipping and icebreaker traffic. Some 85 percent of exports and imports to Finland is transported by sea.

The Finnish Engineers' Association SKL issued a press release on Friday warning of an impending labour strike beginning on 9 March that would see engineers working on merchant shipping boats and icebreakers lay down their tools. The SKL union says the industrial action is in response to employer demands to raise the percentage of foreign labour working on the vessels. The owners of the shipping lines in question want to raise the quota of cheaper foreign labour to 75 percent, while current terms and conditions limit the percentage to one-third of the crew on each vessel. SKL has estimated that if the employers have their way, it would result in the loss at least one thousand jobs for Finnish maritime workers. Collective bargaining over the dispute includes about 900 employees that work in shipping as chief engineers, engineers or electro-technical officers in ship engine departments. "If the strike becomes a reality, both merchant ships involved in international shipping and icebreakers will stay moored in the harbours," SKL's executive manager Robert Nyman told Yle. The Finnish Shipowners' Association says that Finland's shipping industry has to open its workforce up to more foreigners if it wishes to remain competitive on the world market. It says SKL claims that the change would result in hundreds of lost jobs is untrue, for the employer-suggested terms and conditions also call for the expansion of merchant shipping in Finland, with the goal of adding more merchant ships flying under the Finnish flag to the fleet. Seafarers may start strike on 1 March The Finnish Seafarers' Union SMU has also threatened a walkout that would begin next week Friday, 1 March at 10am, if a suitable agreement to its own labour negotiations cannot be met before this time. This separate round of collective bargaining concerns the terms and conditions for crew members working on passenger ships, merchant ships and icebreakers.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 12:11:52 +0200


Temperatures in Northern Finland to soar 40 degrees in one day

There are no records to indicate the last time there was such a radical temperature change in a 24-hour period.

Before 7.00am on Friday, temperatures in Muonio, western Lapland measured -35 degrees Celsius. However by Saturday morning they will reach +five degrees – meaning that conditions in the north will warm up by an astounding 40 degrees overnight. However at the same time a weather system will dump freezing rain across the country. According to Yle meteorologist Matti Huutonen, it is unusual for both phenomena to have such a large-scale effect. He added that there are no records to indicate the last time there was such a radical temperature change in a 24-hour period. By 10.00am on Friday, the temperature in Muonio had risen to -17 degrees, already exceeding the usual daytime temperature change. At this time of year, the sun generally causes conditions to warm up by between 10 and 15 degrees. Freezing rain causes perilous driving conditions The freezing rain expected on Saturday could make road conditions challenging in a zone stretching from Ostrobothnia to western Lapland. Huutonen cautioned motorists to exercise caution on Friday night and Saturday morning. Conditions on Saturday will be ideal for taking a turn outdoors as highs will be quite spring-like, rising above freezing throughout the country. Huutonen said that the sun’s growing influence will make winter seem a thing of the past as snow cover rapidly shrinks, starting from the west and southwest. The Yle meteorologist speculated that in about a week and a half, the snow would likely have melted in a region ranging from Ostrobothnia in the west to Uusimaa in the south.

Fri, 22 Feb 2019 19:05:00 +0200


Youth self-harm provoked by social media but rarely studied

Online competition can cause harmful behaviours, one psychotherapist says as data show up to 20 percent of teens in Finland intentionally harm themselves..

Between 11-20 percent of teens in Finland harm themselves intentionally, according to various domestic studies as well as data from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). Exact figures are unavailable, however, as research on youth self-harm is scarce in Finland. The only focused study on the issue from 2009 puts the figure at 11.5 percent, as does more generalised subsequent research. Meanwhile THL survey data indicate that "one in five" teens cut or otherwise harm themselves without suicidal intent. THL also reports that while girls cut themselves more often than boys, teen male suicides occur more often. On Friday psychotherapist Katja Myllyvirta told Yle that young people tend not to disclose their patterns of self-harm for fear of shame or reprisal. "It appears that deliberate self-harm has increased in the past decade, especially among young girls. Some elementary school children even maintain self-harm chat groups," Myllyvirta said. Many young people cut or otherwise wound themselves as a kind of experiment, Myllyvirta said, but for others hurting themselves is related to processing difficult emotions or psychological distress. "Young people [I've talked to] say that cutting themselves resets their feelings in a sense. When they feel really bad, self-harming can calm some teens down and help them sleep." The suicide rate of young adults has declined slightly over the past decade. In 2017 some 107 people under the age of 25 committed suicide. Before a couple of years ago, Finland's overall suicide rate has been steadily dropping since the early 1990s. Vicious social media cycle Myllyvirta said it is clear that the problem of self-harm among youths is exacerbated by social media environments. While sometimes online platforms may offer support and relief, she said, a young person may also be conditioned to compete with their peers. "Young people who self-harm often have aesthetic conceptions of what beautiful scars look like," said Myllyvirta. "All forms of comparison strengthen competition, which reinforces behaviour. Some teens share blog posts of their wounds." While sharing such content is not a new phenomenon, online media such as Instagram are responding to a rise in self-harm imagery. Instagram announced in early February it would remove pictures and videos depicting self-harm, after the father of a young woman who committed suicide blamed the company for being involved in his daughter's death.

Fri, 22 Feb 2019 18:05:00 +0200


Salary dispute at centre of Sipoo-Helsinki murder-suicide, police say

Investigators believe that a pay dispute prompted a man to murder his boss before later killing himself during a Helsinki police raid.

Investigators said Friday that a man whom police who committed suicide during a raid in Helsinki last August had also installed two tracking devices on his workmate’s car. Police are investigating the case, in which the suicide victim was also a suspect in the murder of his former boss in Sipoo. The suicide victim, a portfolio manager with the pensions insurance firm Ilmarinen, was suspected of shooting his former boss at his Sipoo home last July. The murder suspect took his own life as police raided his apartment to take him into custody on suspicion of murder. He shot at police through the door before shooting and killing himself. A preliminary inquiry has now revealed that the murder suspect had used magnets to attach two tracking devices to a car used by a colleague. Police investigated the case as plotting aggravated offences against a person’s life or health. He had also monitored his supervisor’s movements with tracking devices. Police found that based on location data stored in the device, it had been attached to the man’s car for more than a month before the murder was committed. However the tracking device had been de-activated immediately after the crime. At the same time, technical investigations revealed that the man had been using his phone to communicate with the devices from as early as March 2017, leading police to conclude that he had been planning to commit the act for a long time. Three years on the same team Police discovered that the murder suspect and the person he had been tracking had been in the same team for three years at Ilmarinen. The Ilmarinen employee told investigators that there had been no major differences or bad blood between the suspect and his supervisor prior to the shooting. However he added that he had the impression that the portfolio manager didn’t like him. The murder suspect had left his job at Ilmarinen at the beginning at 2016 and the workmate told police that he hadn’t seen him since then, nor was he able to say why the suspect had fitted his car with a tracking device. Police also asked the Ilmarinen employee about the suspect’s behaviour and the reasons for his dismissal, however he said that the man’s supervisor had a mentoring approach to others in the workplace. "He also collected tax data from others and used it in his salary negotiations. He must have thought that he was not appreciated so he left for greener pastures, but perhaps he was not successful after all," the employee added. According to information gathered by police, the suspect was not able to settle into a permanent job after leaving his position at Ilmarinen. The suspect’s colleague said he’d noticed that the man became agitated when other workmates laughed at news reports that the founder of the anti-immigrant website MV-lehti has been convicted for a number of offences, including slander. "It seemed quite odd because in our field we always look for objective information from different sources and reading that publication seemed far from it," the employee noted. He said that it was very difficult to understand why the suspect would have wanted to kill anyone. Emails reveal beef with supervisor Police ended the investigation into the murder after the suspect committed suicide. They said they could find no other motive for the murder than the suspect’s dissatisfaction with his boss. The murder suspect and his victim had had no dealings after he left the firm and there was no evidence of contact between them. However sources in the suspect’s circles and emails he sent hinted at his resentment. In an email sent in 2016, the man described his discontentment with his salary. He had raised the issue with his boss, the man he later murdered at the victim’s Sipoo home. "I argued with my supervisor that my pay is the same as it was four years ago when I was the most junior member of the team, now I am the most senior, at least in terms of experience and my time in the team," he wrote at the time. The suspect also wrote that – according to his interpretation – his supervisor had promised him a raise, however he never got one. According the email the suspect’s supervisor had also declared that the man’s current salary was in line with his responsibilities, tasks and goals and that his starting pay may have been too high. "It felt like something that you would never believe, that my boss could say... this makes me feel that the situation has become unbearable," the suspect wrote.

Fri, 22 Feb 2019 17:01:26 +0200


All Points North #41: Platforms, promises and platitudes - Blue Reform

The new party of high-profile ex-Finns Party MPs and ministers has performed poorly in public polls, casting doubt on their chances in the coming elections.

Finland's current national debate linking immigration and asylum seekers to crime is simply racist and something that should be stopped, says political commentator Sini Korpinen. Korpinen joined All Points North to look at the fortunes of the Finns Party offshoot the Blue Reform and their prospects for Finland's upcoming general election. Hardliner anti-immigrant MEP Jussi Halla-aho's election to the chair of the nationalist Finns Party in June 2017 rocked the foundation of the government coalition that included the National Coalition Party and the Centre Party. In a bid to maintain their positions in prime minister Juha Sipilä's cabinet, several Finns Party MPs and ministers exited the Finns Party to create the Blue Reform. The Blues and the Finns Party each have the 17 seats in Parliament at present, but their voter support figures couldn't be more different, with the Finns Party polling at around 10 percent to the Blue Reform's one percent. Korpinen noted that in spite of its best efforts the Blue Reform may not win more than one or two seats in the April election, and that those MPs are likely to be installed in districts in southern Finland's Uusimaa region. The pundit remarked that the Blues have so far not been able to distinguish themselves from the parent Finns Party, which is clearly anti-immigrant and racist. She added that support for the party is likely to come from voters who remain loyal to figures such as Foreign Minister Timo Soini and party chair Sampo Terho. Meanwhile the election may flush out members who want to survive in the cluttered political field by moving to greener pastures such as the NCP, she commented. Commenting on the government's recent move to introduce a civics test for citizenship as well as similar proposals from the Blues, Helsinki University researcher Niko Pyrhönen said that citizenship tests are usually ineffective and that even the native population may not be able to pass them, as has been the case in countries such as the US. Moreover, they are likely to have little effect on curbing crime or immigrant crime, he added. Tuition fees, measles and cancer treatment lead the news Each week in our podcast we look at the top three news stories that animated our social media audience. This week readers were most drawn to Monday's press review which highlighted an article about foreigners and university tuition fees. The former marketing chief behind Angry Birds Peter Vesterbacka told the paper that foreign students can help boost Finland's economy, and that Finland could easily attract 150,000 foreign students willing to pay for English-language degree programmes. The second most popular story was a recent measles scare that turned out to be a false alarm. In the southern city of Espoo, an unvaccinated child suspected of carrying the disease had forced a partial shutdown of the Iso Omena shopping centre on Tuesday evening. However, officials later said that the child did not have measles. And the third most popular story this week was about a cancer therapy for children suffering from leukemia being piloted in Finland. The treatment - called CAR-T cell therapy - involves giving patients genetically modified immune cells which stimulate the immune system. If you have any questions, or would like to share something on your mind, just contact us via WhatsApp on +358 44 421 0909, on our Facebook or Twitter account, or at yle.news@yle.fi. The All Points North podcast is a weekly look at what's going on in Finland. Subscribe via iTunes (and leave a review!), listen on Spotify and Yle Areena or find it on your favourite podcatching app or via our RSS feed. This week's podcast episode was presented by Denise Wall and Mark Odom, with additional reporting by Denise. Our producer was Pamela Kaskinen,assisted by Anna Ercanbrack, and the sound engineer was Juha Sarkkinen.

Fri, 22 Feb 2019 16:08:00 +0200


Consumers importing more snus than cigarettes, survey says

Passenger imports of snus increased by 23 percent last year, while imports of cigarettes fell.

Passenger imports of snus, an orally ingested tobacco product, increased by 23 percent last year compared with 2017. According to a survey by the Finance Ministry, passengers imported about 17.5 million snus packages to Finland. In contrast, the import of cigarettes dropped by 30 percent to 351 million. The number of imported cigarettes has fallen considerably in the past decade. At its highest, the travelers brought 800 million cigarettes into Finland in 2008, the ministry said. Last year, most cigarettes were sold on ferries or brought from Estonia or Russia. Meanwhile, Sweden is the only EU country that allows the sale of snus. Currently, Finnish Customs rules allow private persons to bring to Finland up to one kilogram of snus per day for personal use. A social affairs and health ministry working group proposed last year that the limit should be lowered to 100 grams, while the Finnish Medical Association wants to ban the product altogether.

Fri, 22 Feb 2019 14:47:53 +0200


Spring on the way? Pollen to spread to Finland from abroad

The University of Turku says alder and hazel pollen may waft into Finland from central Europe.

Hay fever sufferers in Finland may experience symptoms in the next week or so, according to news from the University of Turku. The university's working group on aerobiology published a release on Friday with this year's first pollen forecast. Finland's pollen count is currently at zero, but with alder and hazel trees currently blooming in central Europe, the coming weekend may see a slight rise in airborne allergens, the university's online pollen portal indicates. Both alder and hazel trees are expected to start flowering in late March in the south of Finland. Some 10-20 percent of people in Finland suffer from pollen allergies. Symptoms are usually intermittent and subside at the end of the pollen season in late autumn. The main plant species that cause allergic reactions in Finland are alders, birches, hay, mugwort and ragweed.

Fri, 22 Feb 2019 12:58:48 +0200


Digital tech experiment sparks joy in southeast Finland daycare

Young children in Kotka are already benefiting from the use of digital devices, teachers say.

The city of Kotka, southeast Finland is bringing new technology to its daycare centres in a pilot effort to boost children's learning. The new digital learning environments are being developed together with the children themselves. So far three centres have employed GoPro digital cameras, tablets and green screens as part of their education. The children at the Lankila daycare said the devices are great fun, and teachers are calling the tech-inspired games an educational success. Children are able to develop their information gathering skills and media literacy in an interactive environment by placing themselves into the shared images, teachers said. Children get to use the devices themselves, supervised by teachers.Juulia Tillaeus / Yle "Daycare children have been born into the digital age, and these devices are almost second nature to them," said kindergarten teacher Karin Klemola. "Creating and observing pictures and videos in a safe, controlled space helps them to learn new concepts." In one game the children stand or sit in front of a green screen that is hung from the ceiling. Another child then films the other with a GoPro camera and the image or video is embedded in a predesigned 2D setting, such as an imaginative cityscape. Long-form play encourages learning The sauna-bathing cats and picnic scenes produced by the software have brought children together very quickly, teachers said. "It's been a surprise how well the children get along with these devices," Klemola said. "Even kids who don't usually play together now have something new and exciting to share." One game or scenario created with the new tech may last for several weeks at a time. Playing long-form games of this kind helps develop the children's social skills and spurs them on to engage their imaginations, Klemola said. Children gather around a tablet to see what they've captured with the GoPro camera.Juulia Tillaeus / Yle "I don't know where all this creativity has been hiding, but with these long media games the kids have really blossomed, and it's really great." Klemola said the educational potential of the devices and their programmes are many and varied. One application teaches children about shapes. "A child can inspect a 3D pyramid on a tablet, for instance, and then actually get up and make one out of cardboard themselves." The city of Kotka intends to extend the use of digital learning devices to all of its daycares after the initial pilot phase.

Fri, 22 Feb 2019 11:56:26 +0200


Friday's papers: Child marriage ban, disgruntled farmers and stray dog attack

Parliament's approval of child marriage ban, falling support for Centre Party among farmers and a stray dog attack on a 5-year-old Finnish boy on a Thai beach.

Parliament has unanimously approved a proposal to ban child marriages in Finland, daily Turun Sanomat writes. Until now, 16-17-year-olds have had the right to apply at the justice ministry for a special permit to marry under the age of 18. The justice ministry, which has received between 10 and 30 applications each year, said that a majority of the minors granted permission to marry have been 17-year-old girls. The most common reason given in the applications was religious beliefs. Some 16-year-olds have been given permits to marry due to pregnancy, TS said. "In most cases, an underage girl applied to marry an older man, based on their religion or culture. I don't agree with this custom and therefore I proposed to ban it. We must protect children and we must show this in our policies," Minister of Justice Antti Häkkänen said in a statement. Banning the special permits will also send a signal internationally that Finland does not approve of underage marriages. "A marriage is a union of two adults who willingly agree on it. Children should remain children until they turn 18," he added, according to TS. Practices that made child marriage possible have been given up in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, the paper said. "It's an ongoing goal within international development to stop child marriages and it is also part of Finnish foreign policy. In many developing countries, child marriages are a huge problem and a risk to girls' health and educational opportunities," Häkkänen added. Waning support for Centre Party Support for the Centre Party among Finland's farmers has fallen dramatically, reports daily Maaseudun Tulevaisuus. According to a poll by the paper, about 65 percent of farmers plan to vote for the traditionally agrarian party in the next election – a drop of 20 percentage points from 2015. In contrast, popularity for the National Coalition Party and the Finns Party has risen to 11 and 13 percent, respectively. The Centre Party MPs who are farmers themselves are unhappy about the results. "This feels really bad as we have really tried to have an impact and defend the farming profession," said MP Anne Kalmari, chair of Parliament's Agriculture and Forestry Committee. Fellow MP Eerikki Viljanen agrees. "While we have managed to push through many issues to help profitability of farming, profits have not grown. Our emergency help packages to aid distressed farms have not been completely successful," he said. Nevertheless, support for the Centre Party among farmers remains considerably higher than among the general population, where approximately 15 percent said they would vote for the party, based on a Helsingin Sanomat poll published on Thursday. The poll organised by MT excludes the Åland Islands and Swedish-speaking farmers so it does not adequately measure the popularity of the Swedish People's Party, the paper noted. Stray dog attack In other news, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports that a five-year-old Finnish boy who was attacked by stray dogs on a beach in Thailand will have to spend several days in hospital. A pack of dogs attacked the boy, who sustained serious injuries, in Ao Nang near Krabi on Wednesday. Based on reports by the Bangkok Post, the boy had been vaccinated against rabies and tetanus, but will be kept at the hospital for three days for outbreak of fever or other signs of infection, IS said. Thailand's prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited the boy in the Krabi hospital on Thursday. The paper said a three-year-old Swedish boy was also attacked by dogs in the same place on Wednesday. The governor of the area has given an order to remove two dozen dogs from Ao Nang and the neighbouring Nopparat Thara beach that have been left there by construction workers, the paper said.

Fri, 22 Feb 2019 09:48:17 +0200


Police allowed to stop drones if new law steps into effect

New tighter laws regarding drones will step into effect in March once President Sauli Niinistö approves a draft bill on Friday.

Police will be able to prevent and forbid drones from flying, for example near an accident site, if a new draft bill steps into effect. Drone flying can also be totally forbidden if necessary "for public order and safety,” according to a government draft bill that goes to President Sauli Niinistö on Friday, 22 February. Once Niinistö approves the bill, it will become law on 18 March. In practice, this means that flying drones could be prohibited at the scene of an accident. The dangers and disturbances caused by drones are usually not intentional, though drones have been used for criminal purposes such as transporting illegal goods. Twelve close calls According to Traficom, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, there were 12 dangerous situations involving drones last year in Finland. These include situations where a drone flew near an airplane and a collision was avoided only by chance. These types of incidents have mainly taken place near Helsinki Airport. The draft bill also warns that drones can be used to transport explosives or false base stations that can capture data traffic. Flying above nuclear power plants forbidden The current aviation act forbids all types of aviation activity over nuclear power plants and near oil refineries. However, the current laws don’t specify anything about unmanned flights. This will change if the draft bill steps into effect.

Thu, 21 Feb 2019 18:30:44 +0200


"Painfully clear, political": Academic slams govt's immigration crime prevention plans

The psychologist called government's proposals to thwart immigrant crime a "painfully clear" example of politics at play before the upcoming election.

Forensic psychologist Tom Pakkanen has described government's plans to combat migrant crime as "disappointing" and said the administration gave a misleading picture of the problems at hand and that their message was inaccurate. On Wednesday the Finnish government announced a package of measures it said would help prevent and combat crimes – especially sexual offences – committed by foreign-background individuals. "I wouldn't give [Wednesday's government press conference] terribly high marks. I have to say it was mostly disappointing. The focus was wrong. The first 15 minutes was straight-up immigration politics." "That's also an important debate that needs [adequate] time to be addressed, but mixing up the two issues [immigration and crime] is a misrepresentation about the problem of sexual abuse, and in the worst case targets immigrants to a degree that is not objective at all," Pakkanen said. The proposals follow news of several cases of suspected child abuse in Oulu involving alleged perpetrators with foreign backgrounds. Not the only problem Part of the government's crime prevention package specifically addresses dealing with individuals with foreign backgrounds. Pakkanen said that such measures are needed but noted there is a bigger picture to the issue of crime prevention. "It is clear that people with refugee backgrounds are over-represented among suspects in cases like these. It's a risk, if one thinks about it like that. It's probably appropriate to consider measures against [the problem] as well, but it is certainly not the only risk factor or problem, nor the biggest problem, either," Pakkanen said. Pakkanen works at Helsinki University Central Hospital's Forensic Psychology Unit for Children and Adolescents and has more than eight years experience investigating sex abuse crimes and said there are several measures authorities use to counteract these kinds of crimes. "If we're talking about the population as a whole, then sex education is very important and the proposals package touched on this a little; that children and youths should learn about what grooming is and so forth. I suspect that this [type of information] isn't as novel to young people as it can be for adults," he said. Kids' marginalisation plays major role "Another thing is that we generally know that marginalised kids face the biggest risk of being abused. In these cases, preventative measures include supporting children and families who don't otherwise have access to help," Pakkanen continued. "Reducing the income gap would also be an effective preventative measure. We also need more - and more foundational - support in rehabilitating people convicted of sex abuse crimes and for those who are drawn towards children," he said. Pakkanen has also worked at the National Bureau of Investigation as a consulting forensic psychologist, and has helped train officers in threat assessment, alongside his work at the hospital. Made into political issue "My unit and I [at the hospital] examine research about the problem of sex abuse to see which measures help to prevent it. At this press conference, it became painfully clear how it was made into a political issue right before the parliamentary elections. [Their] questions and issues were mixed up in a way that surely will create headlines, but are not necessarily based on research," Pakkanen said. The forensic psychologist said that according to European comparisons, kids in Finland are more connected on the internet than children in other countries and they largely understand the pitfalls of being online. "They understand that they shouldn't give out personal information to others online or to send nude pictures of themselves to people who request them," he said. "But this is on a general level; children who are already marginalised are at greater risk of being exploited. We often talk about how parents should be discussing these issues with their kids, but marginalised children can have very difficult relationships with their parents," Pakkanen explained. When asked to describe the ongoing debate surrounding the alleged sex abuse cases in Oulu and Helsinki, Pakkanen said "In one word: frustrating." "Not one aspect of [the cases] was something new to us, the people who [regularly] deal with these questions. Again, it became [an issue of] political agendas; why exactly these questions were raised now before the elections," Pakkanen said.

Thu, 21 Feb 2019 17:45:00 +0200


Police warn parents about WhatsApp group targeting kids with graphic content

A WhatsApp group called 3tuntimerkinnät that's popular with kids has been sharing violent and pornographic images, according to Finnish police.

A WhatsApp group called "3tuntimerkinnät" that’s popular with hundreds of children in Finland has been sharing disturbing and illegal pictures, along with indecent images of children. Police made the information public on their Facebook page. Detective Chief Inspector Sakari Tuominen from the Central Finland Police Department says that a tip-off about the group came from the Tampere Police. "The police received information about the group, which has been sharing pictures and videos that are very violent and pornographic," says Tuominen. Children in the group have been between the ages of 9 and 13 years old. 3tuntimerkkinät is a reference to the a system in Wilma, an app widely used in Finnish schools for managing school to home communications. The term "tuntimerkintä" references a tool that teachers use to make notes about students' absences from class as well as their behaviour or performance in class. For older students three notifications of unauthorised absence from class usually means serious consequences such as a failing grade in the course in question. Up to 250 children in the group at a time It’s been possible to join the WhatsApp group through a link advertised on Instagram. There have been up to 250 members in the group from different parts of Finland. According to Tuominen, the open WhatsApp group in question "3tuntimerkinnät" has been advertised via links from a Tuntimerkinnät-Instagram account that has 32,000 followers. The link from Instagram to WhatsApp has since been removed, Tuominen says. "We know who the group administrator is," Tuominen notes, adding that the individual in question is underage. Consequences may be serious Several complaints of spreading indecent images via the WhatsApp group in question have been filed with police. Police are encouraging parents to talk seriously with children and youth about what they view on social media, instant messaging, and the internet and how they share that information. "Parents need to monitor what their children are doing on social media. This is not the only group like this," Tuominen says. Police also recommend that parents and guardians underline the fact that sharing certain types of images may have serious criminal consequences. According to criminal law, spreading indecent images is punishable by up to two years of imprisonment.

Thu, 21 Feb 2019 16:42:14 +0200


Legal reform boosts alcopop and beer sales, report finds

Alcopop and beer sales increased last year, owing to new laws that allow grocery and convenience stores to sell the beverages.

Sales of drinks such as alcopops (pre-mixed alcoholic beverages) and beer containing 5.5 percent or less alcohol grew five-fold in 2018 over 2017 owing to the new alcohol laws that took effect at the start of last year and allows grocery and convenience shops to sell them. The findings come from an advance report commissioned by Finnish Grocery Trade Association and carried out by market survey firm Taloustutkimus that was released on Thursday. The report says that alcopop sales increased five-fold, with an additional 26 million litres sold in 2018 over the previous year. Stong beer (so-called class IV) sales also grew, with 23 million more litres sold in 2018 than in 2017. Taxation favours alcopops The increased alcohol tax on alcopops, a mixture of gin and soft drink, was only five percent last year over 2017, while for beer it rose over ten percent in 2018. Before the legal reforms took effect last year, only the state-owned alcohol monopoly Alko was allowed to sell the alcoholic mixture. The report claims that these two factors helped to boost sales. Medium strength beer retained its position as Finland's most-sold light alcoholic beverage, with 315 million litres sold last year. Meanwhile, cider sales decreased seven percent compared to 2017. The Ministry of Finance estimates that the alcohol tax yielded an increase of 150 million euros in 2018 compared to 2017. Heatwave boosted soda sales According to the advance report, sales of alcohol drinks increased by more than 15 percent last year during the warmer-than-usual months of May, July and August 2018, compared to the same months in 2017. The warm weather also saw an increase in bottled water and soda sales. During the cooler month of June 2018, alcohol sales fell by four percent compared to the previous year. State alcohol monopoly Alko recently reported that sales of strong beers and alcopops had tumbled as consumers turned elsewhere to purchase these items.

Thu, 21 Feb 2019 14:48:44 +0200


Court dismisses final charges against Turku geriatric psych care worker

The appeal court ruled that the nurse's conviction for aggravated abuse of a patient could not be soley based on witness testimony.

Turku's Court of Appeal has thrown out the last of the charges against caregivers accused of abusing patients at the senior psychiatric care unit G1 in the city's Kupittaa district during 2009-2013 on grounds of insufficient evidence. A police investigation into allegations of abuse at the facility began in 2016, shortly after which four nurses were charged. The charges against two of the nurses were thrown out during district court proceedings, while the third was cleared of the charges last summer. A nurse who was convicted of aggravated abuse of a patient and received a 14-month suspended sentence had the sentence and conviction dismissed by this week's decision, with the appeal court ruling that there was insufficient evidence. The court said that - based solely on witness testimony - it could not be proven that the crimes actually took place. The court also freed the nurse from having to pay compensation fines. The appeal court ruling marked the fourth and final G1-related case. An internal audit by the city of the abuse allegations resulted in written warnings issued to three officials at the hospital, while a fourth official was verbally reprimanded.

Thu, 21 Feb 2019 12:00:00 +0200


Tampere tram exhibition to wow crowds

The city is hoping trams will run on its streets in 2021, and residents can get a taste of light rail at an exhibition this week.

Visitors to the city of Tampere can experience the wonders of trams this week, as a prototype tram goes on display in the city’s main concert hall. The city plans to host the country's first modern light rail system outside Helsinki when its new tram network opens in 2021. Tampere residents reluctant to venture to Helsinki to see what a tram is like in real life, can board and view a test tram at Tampere Hall this week. The project has long been controversial, with some politicians and residents opposing the 330 million euro venture on grounds of cost and some equally strident voices supporting it as a bid to reduce car usage. Yle / Marko Melto A 2016 discussion in the city council included so many outlandish and poorly-grounded opinions from elected councillors, and was ridiculed so widely, that it was made into a short film the following year to showcase the ‘best’ of Tampere’s elected representatives. In that debate Aamulehti reported that comic schlager singer Mikko Alatalo reportedly expressed the concern that ‘Audi men’ would not leave their cars far from the city centre to be vandalised, dashing the hopes of those planning a park and ride system. His Centre Party comrade Timo Vuohensilta proclaimed that if the tram system is built “only unemployed people will move to Tampere. If the tram comes, there will only be unemployed people riding around in the tram out of boredom.” Christian Democrat councillor Satu Sipila was also worried that people might use the tram as a means of ending their own lives, and that “trams are dangerous, because they are silent and deaf people won’t hear them”. Yle / Marko Melto The model has been christened ‘Maketti’ and is just under half the length of a full tram at 16.8 metres. It’s situated next to a ramp simulating a platform, and the everything from the drivers’ cab to the seats is as close to the finished article as possible. They are available to view from Thursday 21 February until Tuesday 26 February, with the exhibition open from 2pm-6pm on Thursday and Friday and 10am-7pm on the other days. Tampere has ordered 19 of the ForCity Smart Artic X34 trams from the Transtech factory in Kajaani.

Thu, 21 Feb 2019 10:44:00 +0200


Thursday's papers: Professors vs minister, polling analysis and a Bolivian ski star

The newspapers on Thursday include stories on a fierce row between a minister and legal experts, a new political poll and a Finn skiing for Bolivia.

Finnish media has in recent days been aflame with escalating rhetoric about the finer points of constitutional law, thanks to Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö of the Blue Reform Party. Helsingin Sanomat reports on the spat which started on Tuesday when Niinistö described professor Martin Scheinin’s background in the Communist Party, which the Defence Minister apparently regards as disqualifying. “Tweets from admirers of the totalitarian Soviet system cannot in future have significance in Finland’s representative democracy,” wrote Niinistö. The issue at hand is ostensibly the decision by parliament to return a much-trailed intelligence law to the committee stage after criticism by constitutional law experts. Scheinin and his fellow professor Juha Lavapuro had previously tweeted criticism of the way lawmakers had ignored criticism from parliament’s constitutional law committee. In his blog post Niinistö slammed ‘extra-parliamentary forces’ who want to get their way. “Constitutional law Talibs hide their own ideological goals behind a fake cloak of expertise and apply pressure via social media to the democratically elected parliament,” said Niinistö, whose party is currently polling within the margin of error two months from parliamentary elections due on 14 April. On Wednesday Prime Minister Juha Sipilä said that the tone of the discussion about the intelligence law was ‘approaching the limits’, signalling he may prefer a more constructive approach to parliament’s experts. “The government’s job isn’t to direct parliament or the experts called by parliament,” Sipilä told journalists. Polling pressure HS publishes a poll by TNS Kantar today which suggests the Finns Party's support is on the rise. The party fractured in 2017 when hardliner Jussi Halla-aho took over as leader, leading to a dip in support, but the HS poll suggests their support stands at 11.4 percentage points. The bigger parties' numbers are down, especially Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's Centre Party, so HS goes to his home town of Oulu to see a party meeting to try and find out why. The answer is unambiguous: people like their anti-immigration line, especially in the wake of a spate of alleged sex crimes in which asylum seekers are the suspects. Sipilä, remember, famously offered his own home to accommodate refugees in 2015 and the Finns Party faithful believe that has played a role in their current boost in support. The group that splintered from the Finns Party, Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö's Blue Reform Party, registered one percentage point in the same poll. Bolivian ski star Iltalehti has a story on Bolivia's distinctly Finnish-sounding cross-country skiing star Timo Grönlund, who is competing in the World Championships in Seefeld, Austria this week. Grönlund grew up in Kitee, eastern Finland, before moving to La Paz in 2014 with his Bolivian wife. He started gathering points under the Federation International du Ski (FIS) qualification system and, once he passed the threshold to compete in the world championships, the Bolivian ski federation ("yes, there is one!" says Timo) paid for his trip to Austria. It wasn't the most direct route, and it took 36 hours, but it did get him there and he came 29th in the heats, more than four minutes behind the leaders. That's not too bad, considering how irregularly he gets to ski: he managed a couple of runs in Chile in December, but not much else recently. La Paz-based Grönlund does have one trump card, however, in his location. At 3,860 metres above sea level the Bolivian capital is twice as high as many of the camps used for 'altitude training' by endurance skiers.

Thu, 21 Feb 2019 09:00:09 +0200


Many govt MPs a no-show for heated debate on rolling back activation model

Labour Minister Jari Lindström admitted that the scheme contained certain injustices that government had attempted to address.

Parliament met on Tuesday to discuss a citizens’ initiative aimed at undoing the Juha Sipilä government’s activation model, which aims to get unemployed people into jobs. Left Alliance MP Ann Kontula wasted no time in slamming the empty seats of government MPs who failed to show up for the debate. "From the composition of the hall you can see that everyone knows what’s going on. Everyone knows how embarrassing the activation model is. All the threats that have been embedded in it have come to pass," she charged. She was not the only lawmaker to comment on the sparse representation of the government side, as shouts of "Where is the government!" echoed through the chamber. Government MPs did indeed appear to be missing in action – initially, the only parliamentarians to represent it were Labour Minister Jari Lindström and Social Affairs and Health Minister Pirkko Mattila. Many other opposition MPs took turns in condemning the government for its empty benches and speculated that the administration was experiencing pangs of conscience. However as the discussion progressed, National Coalition party MP Juhana Vartiainen arrived, followed by the Blue Reform’s Simo Elo and Antti Kaikkonen of the Centre Party. The citizens’ initiative being debated calls on the government to dismantle the unpopular programme, which requires jobseekers to meet certain conditions or have their unemployment benefits cut. Minister admits injustices in model The Social Affairs and Health Minister referred to a memo from the Social Affairs and health Committee, which concluded that the activation model has already changed, given that compared to the original proposal, jobseekers now have additional means of proving that they are pursuing training or that they are attempting to land a job. However Mattila’s comments failed to placate the opposition. "Humiliating, disrespectful and evil are some of the words used about the activation model," said Finns Party MP Arja Juvonen. Pia Viittanen, of the largest opposition party the Social Democrats continued in the same vein. "When this activation model came, I asked ministers why they needed to do this. I remember Minister Lindström, that you said something along the lines of this is just a bitter pill that needed to be swallowed. But surely common sense would prompt you to ask what’s the point of baking a stone in your bun? Everyone will tell you to take the stone out and it will taste better," she commented. During his speaking turn, Lindström admitted that the scheme contained certain injustices that government had attempted to address. “The philosophical question is, ‘what should we replace it with?’ I am confused that on the one hand people are saying that we have to get rid of these cuts. Ok that’s one thing. But then people are saying let’s get rid of the entire model. To replace it with what? Was the philosopher right when he said that you will be punished if you don’t do what needs to be done and you’ll be rewarded if you do? It’s quite clear to me that’s the way it should be,” he said. The labour minister repeatedly said that the state-owned research hub VTT was currently assessing the impact of the model and that everyone would be wiser when it completed its work. He added that the government’s aim was not to lay blame on the unemployed. Vartiainen stirs up opposition The discussion heated up when former state think tank head Juhana Vartiainen spoke. He declared that the activation model had proven its functionality since some people had been able to satisfy the conditions for maintaining their benefits while others hadn’t. “If it were the case that all of the unemployed had succeeded in meeting the activation criteria then there would hardly have been any unemployment reduction impact and satisfying the conditions would have been as easy as flipping off the lights,” he remarked. He added that the system should not be watered down to allow jobseekers to sign up for any kind of easily- attainable training programme to meet the activation requirements. The SDP’s Antti Lindtman described Vartiainen’s comments as uncharitable. "But the core of this is that the activation model does not work and it is unjust. It is not right that even the unemployed who are doing the best that can be reasonably be expected and are still not finding work are losing their benefits," he observed. Silvia Modig of the Left Alliance said that she was shocked by the government’s view of people. "The majority of people want to be active, they want a good life for themselves," she pointed out. "I can assure representative Modig that my view of people can stand up to scrutiny. I do not think of unemployed people as superfluous or that they can be kicked [around]," minister Lindström countered. The committee report includes dissenting statements from four opposition parties indicating that the government should accept the citizens’ initiative, which proposes terminating the programme. MPs will vote on the initiative in the weeks ahead.

Wed, 20 Feb 2019 18:55:18 +0200


Faster asylum process, civics test, proof of study or work: Govt’s plans to combat immigrant crime

Migrants who want to stay in Finland will have to pass a nationality test and to provide proof of studies or work.

Government has announced a package of measures it says aims to provide additional tools for preventing and combating crimes – especially sexual offences – committed by foreign-background individuals. The flurry of proposals follows reporting on several cases of suspected child abuse in Oulu involving alleged perpetrators with foreign backgrounds. Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen stressed on Wednesday that Finland will continue to protect persons fleeing persecution but that it will react to serious crimes. "We should show no mercy in such cases," Mykkänen declared. The government’s proposal contains 14 groups of measures which each include four different sets of proposed domestic actions. "The first group requires us to ensure that the behaviour of a small minority does not stigmatise a majority that behaves well," Mykkänen said. Faster asylum decisions Otherwise, government will aim to process asylum applications in six months, since delayed outcomes may cause risks, he said. In addition it will prepare measures to withdraw protection in cases where persons who have been granted asylum are convicted of aggravated offences. "It has become clear that the most severe deterrent is the threat of deportation," he noted. If someone’s asylum application is denied, police would have the option of holding them in a detention centre in the event that they pose a threat. In addition, persons whose asylum applications have been rejected will be obligated to register their place of residence with authorities, if authorities see fit. Mykkänen said that it is essential for authorities to detain individuals who may pose a threat immediately after the first negative asylum decision. "We are not proposing taking thousands of people into detention, but we suggest that at each stage of the asylum process we have the option of applying tougher measures in cases that pose a threat," Mykkänen commented. New border procedures for asylum seekers In a bid to manage immigration into Finland, the government says it wants to be able to detain people at the border before allowing them into the country. The main border points for this purpose would be the Russian border and the Helsinki-Vantaa airport and in cases where people are detained at these locations, the aim would be to process asylum applications in four weeks. Minister Mykkänen said that this particular move is more of a precautionary measure meant to deal with large numbers of asylum seekers entering the country. Dealing with the grey economy According to the minister, Finland will also aim to crack down on the grey economy. “If an asylum seeker receives an enforceable negative decision, we will regularly apply the obligation to register,” he noted. Mykkänen said that another domestic step would be to ensure that persons who receive permission to remain in Finland put down roots. This would require them to pass basic civics tests and to build up a history of study and work. Mykkänen presented the raft of proposals along with MPs Simo Elo of the Blue Reform and Antti Kurvinen of the Centre Party. Back in January, the government had indicated that it would review international agreements on the asylum process as well as the grounds for granting international protection and that it would compare them with practices in other EU states. At the time it also said that it wanted to speed up the return of rejected asylum seekers, especially to Iraq. Several measures already in the works Additionally the government has already earmarked an additional 10 million euros in a supplementary budget for programmes to prevent sex crimes against children and young people as well as for immigration-related security protocols. Parliamentary groups had also previously agreed to fast-track three pieces of legislation to impose stricter penalties for sexual offences against children and to allow police broader access to personal information to prevent crime, among other things. Parliamentary groups had also called for the government to determine the possibility of reforming nationality laws to allow persons to be stripped of citizenship for committing serious sexual or violent crimes. One draft bill currently before lawmakers would cause dual nationals convicted for treason or terrorism to lose their Finnish citizenship. Provisions have already been expedited to deport residence permit holders found guilty of aggravated offences.

Wed, 20 Feb 2019 17:29:00 +0200


Unvaccinated child linked to Espoo shopping centre measles scare

HUS has confirmed that an unvaccinated child was suspected of carrying the disease that forced the partial shutdown of the Iso Omena shopping centre on Tuesday.

The Helsinki University Hospital HUS said that the suspected case of measles that caused the partial shutdown of an Espoo shopping mall on Tuesday was detected in an unvaccinated child. The case caused the closure of the services section of the Iso Omena retail centre in Matinkylä for the rest of the evening, for fear of the infection spreading. The services promenade of the mall includes a library and children's play area that also functions as a waiting room for maternity care patients and visitors to the health care centre. HUS' infectious diseases division head Asko Järvinen said he believes that infection suspicions have increased significantly in the last few years. He says last year's incidents in Ostrobothnia have further quickened the pace of new reports. "It's backed up by more incidents of diseases in European countries and more public discussion of the issue, so people are more likely to have suspicions," he says. HUS doctor: No risk of epidemic The National Health and Welfare Service's senior specialist in infectious diseases Mia Kontio says that in practice all of the cases of measles that have been reported in Finland in recent years have been contracted abroad. There have only been a handful of cases in which the highly infectious disease has spread from someone who contracted it abroad to someone else in the vicinity. A February THL bulletin says vaccination coverage of children in Finland is actually very good at present, with some variation between different vaccines and regions. Coverage for the MMR vaccine (MPR in Finland) protecting against measles, mumps and rubella has improved the most, as it was administered to 96 percent of children born in 2016. This is over two percentage points higher than the percentage of vaccinated children born in 2015. "The news about measles and its related complications have highlighted the importance of vaccinations. However, there are regional differences in vaccination coverage. As measles spreads very easily, it is worth aiming at the highest possible coverage both regionally and in different population groups," THL medical specialist Ulpu Elonsalo says in the release. HUS chief Asko Järvinen emphasises that the measles reports in Finland to date have all been isolated cases. He says that Finland has such strong coverage rates that there is no risk of an epidemic.

Wed, 20 Feb 2019 15:55:00 +0200


Finland won’t strip citizenship from ISIS fighters, minister says

Government is currently reviewing legislation that would allow it to strip Finnish citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorist acts in certain cases.

Finland will not prevent the return of nationals who’ve left the country to fight among the ranks ISIS, Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen said on Wednesday. "However we will not try to tempt any ISIS fighters to return or get them back to Finland. Of course the premise is that if [someone] has Finnish citizenship, and their travel documents are in order, then nationality is established," Mykkänen said. The minister said that authorities in Finland will prepare for the return of people from ISIS-controlled areas as they get information about possible returnees from local embassies. "Before the individual is transferred to Finland, we will prepare so that the threshold for beginning a preliminary is very low is the person is suspected of committing crimes in the combat area," Mykkänen explained. Number of returnees "surprisingly low" The minister said however that the number of Finns who left to fight alongside ISIS and now want to return home is "surprisingly low". During 2016 an estimated 80 adults left Finland to go to conflict regions, taking with them a few dozen children. Some children were also born in ISIS-controlled areas. About half of the adults who left for Syria were killed. "As reprehensible as these peoples’ actions were, there were also children born these areas who did not choose their fate. We must be very careful about how we treat their situations," the minister observed. "Important to send a signal" Government is currently reviewing legislation that would allow the state to strip Finnish citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorist acts in certain cases. If passed, the reform would apply to crimes committed with terrorist intent and which are found to be against Finland’s vital interests. "It is essential to send a signal that it’s not advisable to join terrorist groups and that doing so has serious criminal consequences." Finland will not apply punishments retroactively however. In December 2016 another law came into force to punish the act of travelling abroad to join the ranks of terrorist organisations. The new law was introduced after several people had already left for conflict zones in 2016. The minister said that public debate on the return of ISIS fighters demonstrates the need for new legislation.

Wed, 20 Feb 2019 15:02:00 +0200


Consumer protection agency issues warning over ticket reseller Viagogo

Consumers have complained of Viagogo's hidden fees, overcharging on their credit cards and the inability to use tickets bought at a premium.

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority has issued a warning about using the Swiss-based ticket reseller Viagogo. The consumer ombudsman said that over the past two years the agency has received about 500 complaints from consumers who had difficulties when they were buying tickets for concerts or other events. The ombudsman said it found that Viagogo's website contained misleading information about the quantities and prices of tickets that were available for sale. The country's Consumer Advisory Service and the consumer authority said that many consumers were under the impression that Viagogo is the official ticket vendor for various concerts and events. But the agencies say that is not the case. Murky process Viagogo's front page states that it is the "world's largest secondary marketplace for tickets to live events," and says that the firm guarantees tickets sold on the site. The site enables individuals to sell - as well as buy - tickets via the site "Prices are set by sellers and may be below or above face value," the statement continued. Links to tickets for major concerts and music festivals, as well as sporting events and comedy shows are also on the site's front page. A click on The Rolling Stones link brings visitors to the site to a page listing dozens of scheduled shows this spring and summer. When the prospective ticket buyer reaches the available tickets for sale, there is a timed lock on what appear to be the cheapest available tickets - in this case they were 66 euros apiece for a show in Glendale, Arizona in May. As seconds ticked by, animations of the pricier tickets on the page began to disappear, with a message stating the pricier tickets had "sold out" during the wait. After ticket buyers reach the page to purchase their chosen seats, the site asks for email and address information before indicating the final price. Only after entering personal information and reaching the payment page is the final price revealed, which included the ticket price, handling fee, VAT and booking fee. Each of the steps had a time-out feature of around four minutes. If a buyer did not make the purchase in time, the tickets would become unavailable, so consumers are encouraged to buy quickly. The handling fee was three euros for each ticket, while the booking fee was 21 euros apiece. The two tickets, which were listed for 132 for a pair, were then offered for 179 euros, after the added fees and tax. One star on Trustpilot.com But many consumers around the world have reported having difficulty even after having secured tickets on the site, according to news reports. In one example, a 70-year old woman told the UK's Telegraph news outlet that she paid ten times the regular ticket price for an opera ticket bought on Viagogo. She bought a ticket for about 344 euros from the secondary seller when the original ticket cost only 34 euros. On the night of the opera, the woman said she found herself in the "nosebleed seats" with an obstructed view. There are many other accounts of unhappy Viagogo customers to be found online, as well. Viagogo has an average rating of one out of five stars on the international consumer site trustpilot.com, with 42 percent of more than 25,000 reviews calling the ticket seller's services "bad." A Trustpilot review by "John in Dublin" two days ago gave Viagogo two stars, writing "I will never deal with this company again. Had one experience and that was enough. Shame on you for charging such [inflated] prices." Tickets sold on site may be useless The Finnish consumer watchdog said Viagogo's extra, unseen charges were only part of the problem and that the firm is at the centre of an ongoing civil case in a Swiss court over their practices. In October 2017 the ombudsman asked the company for explanations about problems that had been reported by consumers in Finland, but since the civil case is still pending, the ombudsman said it would wait for a ruling before taking further action. The consumer agency said that Viagogo does not clearly explain to ticket buyers that there may be restrictions associated with buying resold tickets. For example, many event organisers require tickets to be used by the original buyers. The agency also said that consumers told them the site contains misleading information about the actual number of tickets that are available to buy. When the site informs potential buyers that tickets are about to run out, it doesn't mention that it only refers to the ones on their site. The agency said many consumers paid more for tickets on Viagogo than they would have from the original vendor. The consumer agency recommended that consumers who have bought tickets on Viagogo with a credit or debit card and charged more than they agreed to pay should contact their bank. Troubled ticket buyers are also encouraged to contact the Consumer Advisory Services.

Wed, 20 Feb 2019 13:30:00 +0200


Finland's largest business school opens new home in Otaniemi

The School of Business has moved to the Aalto University campus, where all six departments will be under the same roof for the first time in almost 50 years.

An era came to an end last week when the former Helsinki School of Economics moved premises from its old location in Helsinki's Töölö district to a new 40-million-euro custom-built building in Espoo's Otaniemi, on the Aalto University campus. Bachelors degree instruction in the now-named Aalto University School of Business has been held at the Otaniemi campus since 2015. Aalto University was the result of the 2010 merger of three major Finnish universities: the Helsinki School of Economics (established in 1904), the Helsinki University of Technology (1849) and the University of Art and Design Helsinki (1871). The new space accommodates about 2,000 peoplePetteri Juuti / Yle The new building in Otaniemi has four floors, and features a restaurant, café and teaching premises on the ground floor. The upper floors contain more teaching facilities, a learning hub for students, meeting and team space for both staff and students, and offices for faculty and staff. "My first impression of the whole building is really good. My personal favourite is the learning hub; there are a lot of people there all the time," said fourth-year student Maria Aalto. Students Heikki Helaniemi and Maria Aalto are happy with the new facility.Petteri Juuti / Yle The staircase in the lower lobby is made of natural stone from Portugal.Petteri Juuti / Yle The move means that for the first time in almost five decades, all six of the School of Business departments will be located under one roof, allowing collaboration between management studies, accounting, marketing, finance, economics and information and service management departments' students, researchers and faculty. The relocation also means that all three universities that were merged in 2010 are now finally located at the Aalto University campus in Otaniemi. "Now it really feels like we are part of the Aalto community because we are located right here in the centre of everything. It is very big motivator," says Perttu Kähäri, development manager of the business school. The new School of Business building is a part of a larger block of buildings, including the School of Arts, Design and Architecture’s new building called Väre, the shopping centre A Bloc and an entrance to the Otaniemi metro station. The Finnish architect firm of Verstas designed the new buildingMika Huisman / Aalto-yliopisto A learning hub on an upper floor is open to students 24 hours a day.Petteri Juuti / Yle The entire block was designed by Verstas Architects, alumni of Aalto University, who won the international architectural competition in 2012-2013. The School of Business' old main building, located in Töölö at Runeberginkatu 14-16, will now be fully renovated, and the plan is for the Aalto Executive Education programme to use these premises after the renovation is completed in 2020. The Arkadia and Chydenia buildings that once belonged to the complex have been sold to new owners. The facade of the new building is made of red brick and glass, in order to blend in well with the rest of the Otaniemi campus.Petteri Juuti / Yle

Wed, 20 Feb 2019 12:22:29 +0200


Wednesday's papers: Swedes live longer, interest rate caps, and Berner's exit

Today's print press looks at an EU comparison of "healthy life years", legislation on payday loans, and Anne Berner's decision to not run for re-election.

Helsingin Sanomat starts out the day with news of a Eurostat comparison that suggests that Swedes live about 15 years longer than Finns. Among the EU member states (plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland), Sweden led "the number of years a person is expected to live in a healthy condition at birth" list in 2016 with an age of 73.3 for women and 70.0 for men. Finland's male age of 57 was ranged third from last on the list, ahead of Slovakia and Latvia, and eighth from last for females, at the age of 59.1. The EU's statistical body calculated that the EU average was estimated at 64.2 years for women and 63.5 years for men. To reach these numbers, it used information relating to "healthy life years" at birth, age 50, and age 65, using mortality statistics and data on self-perceived long-standing activity limitations. The self-appraisal asked respondents to answer the question: "For at least the past six months, to what extent have you been limited because of a health problem in activities people usually do?" In Finland, one in three reported some kind of problem. Sweden's results indicate that men and women there live 15 more "healthy life years" than Finland's residents. HS advises its readers, "If you want to stay well and keep functional, it would be a good idea to move to Sweden – or at least that's what the EU member state comparison leads us to believe." Keeping loan companies in check The Turku-based newspaper Turun Sanomat reports on ministerial plans to crack down on payday loans in Finland. Justice Minister Antti Häkkinen is concerned that peddlers of easy credit are growing more aggressive in their advertising, using images of dream vacations to sell loans that often have high interest rates. New companies are also entering the Finnish market at a brisk pace. TS points out one new firm, Aurora Laina that set up shop in January of this year. Its advertisement specifically targets people with a bad credit history, offering those that own their own flat a fast loan of between 1,000 and 6,000 euros with a payback time of 1 to 5 years. Häkkinen's ministry has put forward a bill to legislate a mandatory cap on interest rates (30 percent) and services fees on loans that would likely come into effect in September, if the Parliament approves it. The Bank of Finland calculates that Finnish residents owed 660 million euros to payday loan firms in late 2017, up 52 percent from the previous year, TS reports Transport minister opts to leave Parliament The Oulu newspaper Kaleva carries an analysis piece this Wednesday on Transport and Communications Minister Anne Berner's announcement that she will not be seeing re-election at the end of the parliamentary term. The paper reports that the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri has indicated that Berner may be moving to the board of the SEB Bank in Sweden. Main owner of the Vallila Interior design company, Berner first gained a seat on Arcadia Hill in 2015, winning close to 10,000 votes in the capital city Uusimaa region. Her appointment to a minister's position already during her first term as MP was seen as highly unorthodox. Kaleva says that Finland wasn't ready for a businesswoman with high-flying ideas as minister. Her ambitious project to reform the country's transport infrastructure and introduce private ownership caused friction, while another proposal to eliminate vehicle taxes and set up a road usage fee never even got off the ground. Berner has said that both she and her family have had to face intimidation, name-calling and even death threats since she took office. "I've seen a part of Finland or Finns that I never would have wanted to see or confront," she is quoted as saying in her book on leadership that was published last autumn. Kaleva says that Berner's Centre Party is probably not too happy about yet another MP voluntarily leaving the ranks before the election. Berner has said in the past that some of the worst opposition to her ministerial efforts came from within her own party.

Wed, 20 Feb 2019 09:21:30 +0200


Espoo shopping mall in partial shutdown over suspected measles case

The suspected infection was detected shortly after 5.00pm on Tuesday.

A suspected measles case has caused officials at the Iso Omena mall in Espoo to quarantine part of the facility. The top floor of the shopping centre located in Espoo’s Matinkylä district was sealed off on Tuesday evening when officials received news of the possible infection from a heath centre located in the mall. "The health centre issued a request to seal off the service level and to collect customers’ contact information," said shopping centre manager Siim Rosenthal. Elina Jakovlev-Markus, who is responsible for development operations at the Iso Omena health centre, said that the suspected infection was detected shortly after 5.00pm on Tuesday. Jakovlev-Markus said shopping centre officials made contact with infectious diseases specialists from the Helsinki and Uusimaa health district, after which they began to take action. The health centre’s deputy chief medical officer also arrived on the scene to assess the situation, following which the health centre was shut down, the entire service floor was cleared and officials collected customers' contact details. "I stress that this is just a suspected case and the situation is completely under control," Jakovlev-Markus added. She said that the health centre was scheduled to open for business as usual on Wednesday morning. However it was not due to close until 8.00pm on Tuesday evening, while the service floor usually serves customers until 9.00pm on weekdays.

Tue, 19 Feb 2019 18:54:16 +0200


Planned social, health reforms call for changes to pension system, working group says

A government working group has proposed merging private and public pension systems in Finland.

If government's plans to overhaul the social and health care system (known colloquially as "sote") proceed, they will require further reforms to the national pension system, a government working group said on Tuesday. The group was appointed by the finance and social affairs and health ministries, and consists of ministry experts, members of major trade unions and employer groups, municipality unions and representatives of the business community. The group has proposed a merger of the country's private and public pension systems, saying that the national pension agency Keva should establish a new pension insurance firm that can assume responsibility for the pensions of workers in the private sector. When and if Finland makes long-planned reforms to its social and health care system, private companies are expected to play increasingly major roles within those sectors. In practice, that will mean that several thousand publicly-employed health and social care workers will be transferred from the public to the private sector. As the number of municipal workers decreases, there will be a parallel decrease in pension payments at the municipal level. Keva, which operates the municipal pension system, risks losing both clients and money. On top of that, according to the working group, the municipal finances will also weaken. Keva CEO, Timo Kietäväinen, said decision-makers in Finland have talked about possible reforms to the pension system for 20 years. "But this is the first time that anyone even tried to examine whether a reform is actually possible," Kietäväinen said. Keva is Finland's largest pension provider Chair of the working group and director of the Finnish Centre for Pensions, Heli Backman, said systemic reforms of the pension system would solve the issue of workers making the public to private shift. Keva is Finland's largest pension insurance firm; it has around 1.2 million clients who work in the public sector and employs about 550 workers. Keva's investment holdings amount to around 50 billion euros. According to the working group, merging the public and private pension systems should be cost neutral. It added that pension premiums and fees should not change in the long run - for workers or their employers. The reforms should not affect pension levels for affected workers, either, according to the group. After any eventual reforms, public workers should be protected by the same laws that shield private sector workers, the working group said. Future uncertain The exact form eventual pension system reforms will take is heavily dependent upon how "sote" reforms take shape - when and if they do. With little time left before the parliamentary elections in April, it remains unclear whether Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's government will be able to get the reforms implemented as planned. The Constitutional Law Committee has not yet approved the reforms and there is the possibility that the broad reform package could collapse - or be watered down before it gets a green light. Despite these unknown factors, the working group said that the current separate pension systems are also problematic in light of other major organisational changes affecting the public and private sectors. Minister of Local Government and Public Reforms Anu Vehviläinen has recommended that the working group send its report for referral so that the next government will be able to work on the reforms further.

Tue, 19 Feb 2019 18:30:00 +0200


Police investigating 30 allegations of elder care neglect across Finland

Some of the allegations contend that neglect in care homes may have resulted in injury or death.

Police said Tuesday that investigators are currently probing 30 allegations of neglect, some of which may have resulted in injury or death, related to elder care. The revelation follows several widely publicised instances of suspected neglect at senior care homes in Finland and recent reports that Valvira, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health is probing up to 15 deaths at senior care homes. The deaths that Valvira is investigating occurred in private and public care homes across Finland between 2017 and 2018. Valvira and the Police Board met on Monday to exchange information and discuss cooperation. Police said that they have been asked to investigate cases involving the Attendo Care Home Pelimanni and Esperi Care’s elder care operations, for example. At the Pelimanni care home in Alavus in western Finland, operations were suspended earlier in February because of alarming shortcomings in the quality of care. In January, Valvira closed an Esperi Care facility in Kristinestad, also in the west. Police say no rise in reports of alleged abuse However, according to police chief inspector Heikki Lausmaa there has not been a rise in the number of investigations compared to previous years. "Each year several suspected crimes against the elderly in care homes are brought to the attention of police," Lausmaa said in a statement issued on Tuesday. Speaking about the current 30 allegations, Lausmaa said that each case is unique and the alleged crimes vary. "Police departments receive requests to investigate from family members as well as other people and start preliminary investigations independently" he noted. Each investigation is being carried out by the local police department in the area where the request for a probe has been made, the statement added.

Tue, 19 Feb 2019 17:00:02 +0200


Winged, sea-skimming GEVs planned for half-hour Helsinki-Tallinn trips

An Estonian transport firm said it hopes its low-flying ground effect vehicles will whisk travellers at a speed of 200kph, just two metres above the sea.

Estonian firm Sea Wolf Express is planning to offer travellers the chance to cross the Gulf of Finland in about 30 minutes aboard its 12-seater Russian-built ground effect vehicle (GEV). The company said it aims to put its GEV into service next year, but plans hinge on approval from safety regulators. So far, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, Traficom, has been positive about the company's efforts. But Traficom unit chief, Max Wilhelmson, said the firm still has a considerable amount of planning to do, particularly regarding the vehicle's safety. Sea Wolf Express has yet to apply for the permits required to operate the GEV between Finland and Estonia, but when it does Wilhelmson said the firm needs to be able to prove the vehicle is at least as safe as other means of transport on the route. Wilhelmson noted that when risk assessments are carried out, they need to be taken into consideration, particularly because of the speeds at which GEVs travel. The sea route between Helsinki and Tallinn is very busy. Several large passenger ferries shuttle between the cities at all hours of the day and night. Since Linda Line's catamaran service went out of business last year, the fastest ferries still take more than two hours, but a GEV can travel the same distance in about 30 minutes. Soars over sea at 200kph The company's GEV can reach about 200kph, according to Sea Wolf Express CEO Ville Högman. He said the vehicle will provide a safe way to get across the Gulf for travellers who want to do it quickly. "Unless you live in a utopia, you can't completely rule out the possibility of an accident. There aren't that many GEVs in commercial use in the world yet, but no major accidents have occurred in the ones that are in use," Högman said. "Compared to airplane travel, [GEVs] are much safer because they can't tumble down," Högman said. Ferries, planes and hovercraft The technology behind GEVs is a combination of airplane, boat and hovercraft. Their wings make the vehicles look like planes, but they only reach an altitude of about two metres above the water. Combined with its high speed, the wings help to give the vehicle lift, creating a cushion of air above the surface, Högman explained. "Hovercrafts use a motor to generate that cushion of air, but GEVs use high speed, instead," he said. While the vehicle flies at extremely low altitude, the experience of boarding it is more like that of a traditional passenger ferry. "Passengers will go to the terminal and board it just like they do when they travel by boat, but during the trip they'll sit in airplane seats. People will be able to move around during the voyage, except during departures and arrivals," Högman said. Story continues after photo. Sea Wolf Express representatives with a company display.Sea Wolf Express Sea Wolf Express said it had hoped to start offering rides across the Gulf this year, but those plans have been delayed by technical problems on the manufacturer's side and the company is uncertain when it will be able to open for business. "There have been some problems with hydrodynamics. The takeoffs and landings were uncomfortable [for passengers], but those issues have been addressed," Högman said. Now the company is carrying out test runs and plans to open its Helsinki-Tallinn route sometime next year. The company's mostly-bare website said the firm plans to offer 12 daily trips to and from the cities every day, year-round. Not likely popular among booze cruisers When and if the Sea Wolf Express starts welcoming passengers, Högman said it is unlikely that so-called booze cruisers will be buying tickets. "The vehicle operates like an airplane in that passengers pay for each piece of baggage they have with them. In other words, I don't think that passengers who are bringing home large amounts of alcohol will choose it," he said. However, Högman does think Sea Wolf will attract business customers, because ticket prices will be so much higher than those of traditional ferries. "It's mostly about the 'time is money' factor for those who are willing to pay more to save a couple hours," Högman said. The company has not announced exact ticket prices but Högman said rides on the GEV will cost more than they do on ferries - but less than planes. Estonian public broadcaster reported last month that one-way tickets would cost around 100 euros. ERR also reported that the GEVs cost about one million euros apiece and that Sea Wolf Express is mainly being financed by investors in Finland. Apart from overall safety of the vehicle, Traficom is also concerned about weather conditions it will be exposed to, according to the agency's Wilhelmson. "We're positive [about the plans] but there have been questions about how the firm's vessels will be able to operate on the route when there's ice on the sea," Wilhelmson said. Sea swells and waves are also an issue that could cause delays or cancellations for the novel vehicle, he said. The company CEO said he anticipates that trips would be cancelled due to high waves caused by poor weather a maximum of twice a year. Many try to cross quickly Several companies have made efforts - and continue to try - to offer passengers a chance to cross the Gulf of Finland as quickly as possible. While some have succeeded, few have stayed in business for very long. More than a decade ago, Finnish helicopter firm Copterline offered deep-pocketed travellers quick jaunts across the Gulf. Fourteen people were killed when a Copterline craft headed from Tallinn to Helsinki crashed into the sea shortly after takeoff in 2005. The route was discontinued some time later. The company continued to struggle after it declared bankruptcy in 2010. Estonian catamaran ferry firm Linda Line also offered quick rides between Tallinn and Helsinki but also declared bankruptcy last year. These days, there are also two sub-sea train tunnels between the two capital cities being planned. Former gaming marketing chief Peter Vesterbacka has said his FinEst Bay Area company will offer passengers rapid train transits between the cities by the end of 2024. Another state-planned tunnel project is also reportedly in the works, according to comments made by Finland's Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner towards the end of last year. Vesterbacka, however, said in December that there are not two separate tunnel projects, but only one - his.

Tue, 19 Feb 2019 15:30:00 +0200


Helsinki's Palace restaurant regains coveted Michelin star

A revamped Palace restaurant received a Michelin star while five other Helsinki eateries retained their one-star status at an awards ceremony in Denmark.

At the restaurant world’s Oscars, the Michelin Awards, which were celebrated on Monday night in Århus, Denmark, Helsinki's re-launched Palace restaurant received a Michelin star while five other Finnish restaurants retained their Michelin-star status. The star has an historic significance: many incarnations ago the landmark restaurant received Finland’s first Michelin star in 1987. Then called Palace Gourmet, the restaurant held onto its Michelin star for two years, until 1989. The other five Michelin one-star restaurants on the prestigious 2019 Michelin list are all in Helsinki: Ask, Demo, Olo, Ora, and Grön. The Palace restaurant made its comeback under chef Eero Vottonen -- the legendary restaurant was closed for extensive renovations and re-opened in 2017 with Vottonen at the helm. The Michelin Guide is an international ranking that has been awarding stars to the world’s best restaurants since 1930, with a three-star rating being the highest ranking on the scale. One star means that the restaurant is very good and worth a stop. Two stars mean that the restaurant is worth a detour and offers excellent quality and skillfully crafted cuisine. Three stars signify that the establishment is worth a special journey for its exquisite food.

Tue, 19 Feb 2019 14:10:00 +0200