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Finnish parties unveil EU election candidates, Soini quits politics

A number of newly-elected Finnish MPs say they will also run for European Parliament seats.

Finland's main political parties released their full lists of candidates for next month's European Parliament election. They include quite a few politicians who were just elected to the Finnish legislature this week. If elected to both bodies, they will have to pick one, leaving the other seat open to be filled by a runner-up deputy from their own party. The number of so-called 'double candidates' indicates that the parties have had difficulties attracting enough candidates for the back-to-back elections, says University of Helsinki political science researcher Antti Ronkainen. Kerfuffle at Finns Party press event Thursday was the deadline for Europarliamentary candidates to announce their intentions. One of the biggest remaining question marks was whether outgoing foreign minister Timo Soini would seek a seat in Strasbourg and Brussels. Soini co-founded the nationalist Finns Party, the second largest bloc in the new Finnish Parliament, but left the party two years to join the breakaway Blue Reform party – which did not win a single seat in last weekend's election. The party has vowed to press ahead anyway, but suffered a blow as Soini announced in a Thursday blog post that he is leaving politics. Three other former Blues ministers, Sampo Terho, Jari Lindström and Jussi Niinistö, have also said they will not run, while two former Blues MPs, Ari Jalonen and Kari Kulmala, will seek European seats along with seven other candidates. The Finns Party revealed its roster of candidates, headed by deputy chair and MP Laura Huhtasaari. The rest of the list includes current MEP Pirkko Ruohonen-Lerner,two newly-elected MPs convicted of hate speech, Teuvo Hakkarainen and Sebastian Tynkkynen, as well as Mika Raatikainen, who just lost his seat in the Finnish Parliament after one term. He originally got that seat by replacing party chair Jussi Halla-aho, another convicted hate speech offender, when the latter opted to join the European Parliament in 2014. At a press conference announcing the party's candidates on Thursday, a Helsingin Sanomat reporter asked Halla-aho about the old blog posts that earned him that conviction. Social Democratic Party chair Antti Rinne, who is beginning efforts to form a new government, cited the anti-immigrant posts twice this week as a potential obstacle to government cooperation between the SDP and the Finns Party. Halla-aho, however, refused to answer the journalist's question, ordering a staffer to take the microphone away from him and moving on to the next question. Veteran politicians and young hopefuls Leading the Social Democratic list are incumbent MEP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, former finance minister Eero Heinäluoma, along with former MP Satu Taavitsainen, Helsinki city councillor 'Husu' Hussein and SDP youth wing chair and Rovaniemi city councillor Mikkel Näkkäläjärvi. Candidates from outgoing prime minister Juha Sipilä's Centre Party include Mauri Pekkarinen and Pekka Puska, who have both just left Parliament, current MEPs Elsi Katainen and Mirja Vehkaperä, as well as Jouni Kemppainen, editor in chief of the rural newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus and former news chief at Yle. The best-known Christian Democratic Party candidate is party chair, MP and former world-champion race walker Sari Essayah. Others include MP Peter Östman and party secretary Asmo Maanselkä. Essayah says that if she is elected to the European Parliament, she will return as an MEP during Finland's EU Presidency term in the second half of this year and then switch back to the Helsinki legislature. However if the small party is included in the next government coalition and she is offered a ministerial portfolio, she would then give up her MEP seat. The conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) announced its candidates earlier. Among them: present MEPs Sirpa Pietikäinen, Petri Sarvamaa and Henna Virkkunen, as well as another former government minister, Kimmo Sasi and ex-MEP Eija-Riitta Korhola. The main Green candidates are MEP Heidi Hautala and former environment minister Ville Niinistö. Among the others is Iiris Suomela, who was just elected as Finland's youngest MP. On the Left Alliance candidate list are Hanna Sarkkinen, newly re-elected as an MP, and Silvia Modig, who this week lost her seat in Helsinki, as well as current MEP and ex-transport minister Merja Kyllönen. She too is a newly-elected MP who says she does not intend to return to Brussels even if she wins – apparently aiming to gather votes for the party to help fellow candidates vying for an EU seat. Meanwhile the small Swedish People's Party's best-known candidate is MEP and former presidential candidate and journalist Nils Torvalds. 14th candidate may hang in limbo pending Brexit The European Parliament election is held in all EU member states between 23-26 May, in Finland on Sunday 26 May. Advance voting is available for European citizens in Finland 15-21 May and for Finns abroad 15-18 May. Finns abroad may also now vote by mail-in absentee ballot. As it now appears that Britain will take part in the European election, Finns will elect 13 MEPs as before. However if the UK does eventually leave the EU, the candidate with the 14th-highest vote tally would then take Finland's new 14th seat in Brussels and Strasbourg. However it could take many months before the eventual size of the Finnish delegation is finalised. The European Parliament now has 751 MEPs with 73 from Britain. If the UK leaves the union, 27 of its seats will be distributed to other countries and 46 left empty. Finland was among those arguing that the extra seats should not be distributed, but that the legislature should simply be shrunk in size in the event of Brexit.

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 19:24:11 +0300

Finland ranked second on Press Freedom Index, behind Norway

Yle journalist Jessikka Aro, cited in the press freedom report, speaks at the index's launch in Washington on Thursday.

After several years of lower ratings, Finland is again ranked near the top of the World Press Freedom Index. Finland is now in second place behind neighbouring Norway, with another neighbour, Sweden, in third. The Netherlands, which was second last year, now slides to fourth. The annual list, issued on Thursday by the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF), evaluates the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories. The head of RSF's Finnish branch of the organisation, former Yle reporter Jarmo Mäkelä, says there are several reasons for Finland's return to the top echelon of the list. Besides good fundamental structures and a scandal-free year, he cites a positive court ruling and a clever messaging campaign during last year's US-Russian summit in Helsinki. Finland was ranked first in press freedom from 2010 to 2017, when it dropped to third, falling to fourth the following year. The first drop was linked to pressure from Prime Minister Juha Sipilä regarding Yle reporting, while last year's decline followed police confiscation of a Helsingin Sanomat reporter's material related to her reporting on a secret military installation. Aro speaks at Washington launch Last autumn, Helsinki District Court convicted Johan Bäckman of harassing and defaming Yle journalist Jessikka Aro and inciting others to defame her. It also convicted Ilja Janitskin, founder of the anti-immigration website MV-lehti, of aggravated defamation of Aro, who had investigated and reported about his website. She has also done investigative reports revealing the operations of Russian 'troll farms'. "In October, a district court in Helsinki handed heavy sentences to two pro-Putin activists for defaming and stalking a female journalist with the purpose of trying to silence her. The court drew the line: extreme hate speech cannot hide behind the pretense of free speech," the organisation said in its annual report. Aro has been invited to appear as one of the keynote speakers at the World Press Freedom Index launch event in Washington on Thursday, hosted by the Washington Post. The event will be streamed live on Yle Areena beginning at 4pm Finnish time. Aro was originally invited by the US State Department to a March 7 ceremony in Washington where she was to have been honoured with an International Woman of Courage Award. However US officials rescinded the invitation and award shortly before the event without explanation. She said the abrupt cancellation came after US officials inspected her social media accounts, which included criticism of US President Donald Trump. "Welcome to the land of free press" The RSF report also notes a Finnish media response to the Helsinki visit of Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last July. The leading daily Helsingin Sanomat placed large billboards along the two leaders' motorcade routes with the English text: "Mr. President, welcome to the land of free press". Mäkelä says the campaign aroused much discussion during and after the summit by the presidents, who have both faced accusations of infringing on press freedom. The year the US drops to 48th on the list, while Russia was down one notch to 149th. The lowest-ranked countries on the list are Turkmenistan in 180th place, just behind China, Eritrea and North Korea.

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 15:40:00 +0300

Finland's racialised minorities worry after nationalist gains

Many observers across the country say that Finland's general election mainstreamed discrimination.

People working with equality and discrimination issues in Finland say the parliamentary election result has exposed deep-seated racism. The Finns Party surged in the election to second place with 17.5 percent of Sunday's vote, showing the strength of Finland’s anti-immigrant far-right. Members of Fem-R, a feminist peer support network for racialised people in Finland, is convening in Helsinki on Thursday to mull the results of the parliamentary elections, which saw the Finns Party, led by convicted hate speech offender Jussi Halla-aho,become Finland’s second biggest party. Halla-aho has previously likened Islam to pedophilia and has said Somalis are predisposed to stealing and living off welfare. In 2006, he wrote that he hoped women members of the Green Party would become the victims of rape. In the run-up to the election, cinema chain Finnkino played a Finns Party campaign film rife with racist tropes ahead of movies. Nationalism here to stay Following the election, editor-in-chief Erja Yläjärvi of tabloid Iltalehti said, "Finland is now clearly one of the numerous European countries where in election after election, anti-immigration sentiment and nationalism are permanently important values." “Perhaps now residents in Finland who are not racialised will believe what people of colour have been saying for years,” said Saida Mäki-Penttilä, parliamentary aide to outgoing Green MP Jani Toivola, Finland’s first legislator of colour. Mäki-Penttilä added that the result may open residents' eyes to the discrimination that many racialised people encounter on a daily basis. Racialisation describes the process of attributing racial meaning to people's identities. “The result shows the true extent of racism in Finland. It’s not just affecting a few individuals, but speaks to how systemic it is in Finnish society,” Mäki-Penttilä explained. Polarised climate Attitudes towards migrants have become harsher in Finland in recent years, from street patrols by the anti-immigrant Soldiers of Odin to violent crimes perpetrated by extreme nationalist organisation Finland First during a months-long sit-in at Helsinki Central Railway Station. Last Independence Day, police intervened to forcibly remove swastika flags from Neo-Nazi demonstrators. Violence also entered into the campaign trail, with Somali-born Helsinki city councillor Suldaan Said Ahmed saying he was assaulted last month while waiting for the metro in Itäkeskus. Meanwhile a man wearing clothes adorned with the logo of anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin attempted to strike Foreign Minister Timo Soini at a Blue Reform campaign rally in Vantaa. In the summer of 2017 Soini and a group of around 20 MPs and ministers split from the Finns Party, creating what became the Blue Reform. "We are wondering what will happen next now that populist nationalists have become a permanent fixture in Finland," Aurora Lemma, co-chair of Fem-R, told Yle News. Lemma said the election results were no surprise, given the polarised societal discussions on immigrant issues leading up to polling day. "Since last autumn, and given the Finnish media’s attention on the Oulu sex abuse cases, the election result was expected," Lemma said. Finland’s growing anti-immigrant sentiment also caught the attention of international media, with Bloomberg reporting that ‘Trump-style campaigning’ had taken root in the 'world’s happiest country'. ”What worries our members the most is that other political parties will adopt the same rhetoric to appeal to voters in the future,” Lemma explained. "In the past two days, we’ve seen a lot of people applying for membership," said Lemma, whose NGO aims to amplify the voices of racialised people in Finland. Poor result for immigrant candidates Candidates of immigrant background running in the election failed to gain traction with voters. ”What are your chances of getting elected as a minority candidate?” Lemma asked, adding that many voters don’t seem to engage with messaging around discrimination. Iraqi-born Hussein al-Taee and Bella Forsgrén, who was adopted from Ethiopia as an infant, are the only minority-background MPs joining the new legislature. The organisers of Thursday's Fem-R event will give racialised people in Finland a chance to unpack poll results as well as the campaign rhetoric preceding the election. Looking ahead to the next four years, Mäki-Penttilä emphasised that the government needs to draw up an anti-racist plan of action that will address racism in all areas of society. Meanwhile Suldaan Said Ahmedclapped back at racist tirades directed at him on Twitter, noting that he was close to winning a parliamentary seat on the Left Alliance ticket. “Things can be difficult - and even dangerous now - but nothing can stop me when I envision future generations living in a Finland where no one's Finnishness is questioned, and everyone can be who they are,” he tweeted after the election.

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 14:33:00 +0300

Textile firm Finlayson buys rights to retro Reino and Aino slippers

The new owners said production of the popular slippers needs to be moved abroad.

Finnish textile firm Finlayson announced on Thursday that it has bought the branding rights to Reino and Aino slippers. PK Kappi, the North Karelian-based company which made the easily-recognisable plaid slippers declared bankruptcy earlier this year. Finlayson's creative director, Kukka Kurttila, said the firm is looking for a reliable European manufacturer that meets its demands on quality, cost and responsibility. Kurttila said it is regrettable that the shoes can no longer be feasibly produced in Finland, noting that PK Kappi went bankrupt even though the slippers still sell well. He characterised Reino and Aino as a "national property." "Therefore we want to secure continued production," he said, adding that product development and sales will continue to be handled in Finland. The slippers - Reinos for men and Ainos for women - have been keeping feet warm since the 1930s. The soft shoes have been worn at home, in offices, outdoors and even local shopping centres by people of all ages. The brand received a shot in the arm in the mid-2000s after the vintage-style slippers became popular with youths. Kurttila said Finlayson plans to restore the nearly century-old brand to its roots. "There have been attempts to make it a fashion brand. But that's not our plan. I think the heart of Reino and Aino is one that does not follow trends," he said, but added that there is a possibility of expanding other products under the brand. Factory closed Thursday PK Kappi's manufacturing facility in North Karelia's municipality of Lieksa officially closes on Thursday. The bankruptcy forced the company to dismiss 17 employees, including Satu Turunen, who's worked at the factory for the past decade. Story continues after photo. Satu Turunen has worked at the PK Kappi factory for the past ten years.Marja-Liisa Kämppi / Yle "It seems quite shocking that a Finnish product is now being exported abroad. The slippers have been made in Finland since the '30s," Turunen said, adding that most of her work colleagues are now unemployed.

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 13:23:11 +0300

Easter weekend shuffles transport, postal schedules

Maundy Thursday and Easter Monday are two of the busiest travel days of the year.

The pre-Easter travel rush begins on Thursday ahead of national holidays on Friday and Monday, when schools, banks and most offices are closed. Maundy Thursday and Easter Monday are two of the busiest travel days of the year. Most of Thursday's long-distance trains are fully booked, according to State Railways VR. Trains run according to Friday schedules on Thursday, and then on Sunday schedules through Monday. The same is true for most local transport services throughout the country, as well as for most long-distance coaches. There is still some space on long-distance coaches on Thursday, reports bus station operator Matkahuolto. The firm lists holiday weekend schedule changes on its website. No postal deliveries Most post offices are closed from Friday through Monday, although postal counters and services within stores and kiosks are open on some days. The Santa Claus Post Office in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland, is open every day all year round. There are no postal deliveries from Friday through Monday. Pharmacies have limited opening hours over the weekend; check their websites for details. State alcohol monopoly Alko's outlets are closed on Friday, Sunday and Monday. They are open until 9pm on Thursday, and from 9am to 6pm on Saturday. Late Easter Finland's state-supported Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox churches both celebrate Easter on 21 April this year, while some other Orthodox churches observe it on the following Sunday. Easter is unusually late this year. That is because it is dated to the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. This year the equinox was 20 March and the full moon immediately the following day. However old church calendars assumed that the equinox was always on 21 March, meaning that Easter could fall anytime between 22 March and 25 April.

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 12:04:17 +0300

Easter-time demand for domestic lamb outstrips supply in Finland

Finnish lamb producers boosted lamb production for the holiday, but were forced to export some of it to Sweden.

For many families in Finland, lamb is the main course during Easter, but finding domestically-raised lamb in shops is increasingly difficult even though production levels were raised in the run-up to the holiday. Finland's slaughterhouses were apparently unable to keep up with the increased amount of available lamb, so a good amount of the excess was exported to Sweden, according to agriculture newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus. Lambs are sheep which have reached a maximum of one-year of age. Chair of the country's slaughterhouse association, Eero Polso, said it would be possible for Finland to double the amount of domestic lamb during Easter, but that it would require the animals to be slaughtered more regularly during the year and frozen. Polso said the availability of domestic lamb products would be improved if grocery stores took more of it in frozen. A whole domestically-raised lamb bought directly from the farm costs around 13-14 euros per kilogramme, while butchered steaks cost around 17 euros per kg. The price of Finnish lamb tenderloin runs around 32 euros/kg, while lamb loins cost 16 euros/kg and ground lamb is about 13 euros/kg. Meanwhile, imported frozen lamb and mutton can be found at significantly lower prices in supermarkets. Eggs and unique Easter dessert mämmi Grocery store egg shelves are often bare in the run-up to Easter, but this year that does not appear to be the case. Egg prices have also remained steady for the past few years. A pack of 10 conventionally-raised eggs in Finland normally costs around 1.30 euros, and often sold for less than a euro around Easter-time. The demand for organically-raised eggs has steadily increased over the past few years, and production has started to meet consumers' needs. The price of organic eggs - which not long ago were much more expensive than conventional ones - has gradually been dropping. Story continues after photo. Mämmi with cream and sugar.Yle Mämmi, Finland's unique, malt- and treacle-based Easter dessert treat, can also be found in organic and other variations. One gluten-free version of mämmi replaces rye flour with potato and buckwheat and the malt is substituted with honey. The most affordable 700-gram packages of the thick, brown and sticky dessert cost well under two euros, but prices can vary substantially.

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 11:28:37 +0300

Thursday's papers: Tricky government formation talks, church exodus and multilingual Helsinki

The SDP faces rocky government formation talks, half of the capital's residents have left the church and one in five Helsinki kids speak a foreign language.

Business magazine Talouselämä reports that government formation talks will begin next week with SDP chair Antti Rinne sending a questionnaire to political parties. The Social Democrats want to know the parties' stance on issues such as the economy, climate and energy policy. As the biggest party in the election, the SDP will take the lead on government formation talks, though it will face pressure as it only gained one more seat in the new legislature than the Finns Party and two more than the National Coalition Party, writes TE. Talouselämä predicts that the Social Democrats will partner with the National Coalition party, though the NCP is likely to stick firmly to its election programme, which could prove troublesome for the SDP. Yle News' podcast All Points North released an episode on Wednesday that examines how party negotiations might play out, and which parties might ascend to government in the coming weeks. Church losing appeal Ahead of the Easter holiday, national daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church continues to lose members. Around 52 percent of Helsinki residents now belong to the church, down from some 62 percent in 2010. Helsinki has seven parishes in which fewer than half of residents belong to the church. HS noted that many newcomers to Finland have no connection with the state church. Sakari Enrold, rector of Kannelmäki parish in Helsinki, said the downward trend was likely to continue, but that a "global catastrophe could encourage people to seek solace in churches." Leavers include people who find the church too conservative as well as those considering it too liberal on issues such as gender-neutral marriage. Multilingual kids enhance peer communication HS reports that some 20 percent of under school-age children in Helsinki speak a native language other than Finnish, Swedish or Sami. Families’ home languages, however, vary greatly by district. In Länsi-Pakila, northern Helsinki, Finland's domestic languages are the native tongue of 98 percent of kids, but the same is true for just 44 percent of children living in Kallahti in the east of the city. Helsinki estimates that by 2025, nearly a quarter of kids in daycare will speak a language other than Finnish or Swedish at home. Satu Koistinen, an educational expert with the city, said that polyglot immigrant-background kids are helping stave off the erosion of the Finnish language thanks to their linguistic agility which rubs off on their peers.

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 10:20:49 +0300

Corrupt cop Aarnio could face prosecution over gangland hit

Ex-narcotics cop Jari Aarnio could be prosecuted for a 2003 murder.

Jari Aarnio, the former head of Helsinki police department’s narcotics department, could be prosecuted over a 2003 murder because investigators believe he knew in advance it was going to happen--but he didn’t stop it. An investigation into the hit has concluded, and the file will now pass to the prosecutor’s office. Aarnio is suspected of knowing the killing was about to happen but not doing anything to prevent it. If a police officer knows a murder is about to occur and does nothing to stop it, he can be convicted of murder and given a life sentence in prison. He is suspected alongside Keijo Vilhunen, a former organised crime boss who has previously been convicted with Aarnio on drug charges. That conviction is being appealed. Vilhunen is not suspected of direct involvement in the killing, and neither are two former Aarnio subordinates who are suspected of official misconduct. Four convictions already Four people have already been convicted for the killing of Volkan Ünsal, a Swedish citizen, in the Vuosaari district of eastern Helsinki in 2003. He had stolen money from an accomplice in a robbery at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, went into a witness protection programme and then left it. Three Finns were convicted of the killing, along with the Swedish man who ordered the hit. STT reports that investigators found a notebook in Sweden, according to which Aarnio had warned his Swedish colleagues about the plan before Ünsal arrived in Finland and was killed in October 2003. Peculiar original investigation The original investigation into the killing was marked by several peculiarities. For one thing, police collected evidence and searched an apartment before any kind of note of suspicions a crime had been committed was made in the police system. In addition, police sent a crime scene investigation team to the flat the day before anyone had reported Ünsal missing. Aarnio has been convicted of aggravated drug and official misconduct offences, which are currently being appealed. He was also convicted of offences related to police procurement of surveillance devices, and his appeal against that conviction was rejected. Aarnio also faces prosecution over failures in the management of confidential informants, a case in which current and former senior police officers are also under suspicion.

Wed, 17 Apr 2019 19:24:00 +0300

All Points North #50: Finland veers left and right - and seeks consensus after a divisive election

APN reviews a nail-biting parliamentary election and speculates about an SDP-led coalition as populism becomes the "new normal".

Populism has come to Finland to stay and the days of big-three political parties shaping the government or the opposition are over, say analysts Sini Korpinen and Sam Kingsley as All Points North wraps up its special parliamentary election series. The populist Finns Party led by immigration hardliner Jussi Halla-aho, swept into the top three to claim 39 seats and push Finnish politics hard right, with a voter mandate that Korpinen and Kingsley say other politicians and the general public should not ignore. That groundswell of support is what will complicate the task of coalition talks for Antti Rinne, whose Social Democratic party claimed 40 seats and the commission to form a new government from the fragmented result. According to the experts, although Petteri Orpo's National Coalition Party and Juha Sipilä's Centre Party -- which was soundly trounced in the poll -- are the only groups with any appetite for working with the Finns Party, sending them into opposition could ultimately lead more voters to rally to their side in subsequent elections. Overall, opposition parties the Greens and the Left Alliance look to be solid potential partners for the SDP, but their MPs may not be enough for a parliamentary majority. That means Rinne will likely have to invite other parties to join his administration, taking the new government in the direction of an unwieldy "rainbow coalition". Whatever happens, Finland can look forward to more thrills as coalition formation talks progress and a new government takes office just as Finland assumes the rotating EU presidency from 1 July. Back again after Easter with new content! 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. Our landmark 50th podcast was presented by Denise Wall and Mark B. Odom, with additional reporting by Pamela Kaskinen and Tom Bateman. The producer was Pamela Kaskinen and the sound engineers were Pasi Ilkka and Jami Auvinen.

Wed, 17 Apr 2019 18:13:21 +0300

Reported sex crime up 28% as activists criticise low conviction rate

Police have seen an uptick in reports of child sexual abuse and rape, but statisticians stress that figures change a lot from year to year.

Reported cases of rape and sexual abuse cases by 28 percent in the first three months of the year compared to one year earlier, according to new figures released on Wednesday by Statistics Finland. The data jibes with the experience of the Tukinainen rape crisis centre, which supports victims of rape and sexual assault across Finland. "There are lots of reports but few convictions," said Riitta Silver, a lawyer at the Tukinainen rape crisis centre. "One big reason for this is the lack of legal help for victims in police interviews. Victims have the right to free legal advice when they report a crime and to free legal assistance when they’re interviewed by police." "Police have the obligation to direct victims to support services but that often happens too late, as the victim has already given an interview. It would be better if they were informed about support services before making the complaint." One in six reports lead to conviction Amnesty International reported recently that in 2017, the last year for which figures are available, police received 1,245 rape reports but just one in six, 209 cases, resulted in convictions. Police concluded investigations and sent cases to the prosecutor in 70 percent of reported rapes, with 29 percent going to trial and just 17 percent resulting in a conviction. Chief Superintendent Mons Enqvist of the National Police Board says that officers are required to inform victims of their rights, and mostly do so. "We do tell victims about right to free legal assistance, that’s part of our guidelines," Enqvist said. "This right has been expanded in recent years to include potential victims of trafficking." "For the past few years we have proritised sex crimes because we cannot investigate every crime, but sex crimes are a priority," he added. Training programmes and specialist sex crime investigators are also cited by Enqvist as evidence of police efforts in the area, but Silver argued that more needs to be done. She mentioned a "lack of expertise" in the police force. Resource question "Police have made general decisions about where to direct resources, and it's clear that some criminal reports are not investigated right to the end," Silver noted. "Only some cases proceed to the prosecutor, or the prosecutor brings a charge like sexual harassment which is the mildest sexual offence, and quite often the case will be closed early and then it’s not investigated to the end." Statistics Finland reported that altogether 379 rapes were reported to police over the first three months of the year, which was 27.6 percent more than the January-March period in 2018. There were 417 reports of child sexual abuse, a rise on 2018 of 28.7 percent. The stats agency reports that during the 2010s the highest level of reported child sex abuse cases during a three-month period came in April-June 2013, when police received 612 reports. Overall, the number of criminal complaints received by the police, Customs and the border guard dropped three percent this year compared to the first three months of last year. New laws toughening the maximum jail terms for child sex abuse came into force in Finland this week.

Wed, 17 Apr 2019 16:40:52 +0300

Espoo to pilot first gravel recycling effort

Recycling the sand and grit used to help with slippery roads is possible and ecological, says Espoo's city road manager.

Each winter the cities of Finland sprinkle tens of thousands of tonnes of gravel onto their roads to keep cars and people safer. However, all that grit goes to waste as there are almost no recycling methods in place in the country. Road manager Teemu Uusikauppila for the southern city of Espoo said that it used 35,000 tonnes of crushed stone in its anti-skid efforts in 2018. But next winter the city has plans to take back some of that stone, to rinse it and reuse it. The first-time programme means to recycle 10-15 percent of the annually used anti-skid gravel. Even this scale is unprecedented, said Uusikauppila. The only other attempt to clean and recycle gravel was in 2016, and not enough was produced with the process at the time to warrant reuse. Uusikauppila said Espoo does not expect to make gains or savings the first year. "Cleaning and recycling anti-skid crushed stone is about as expensive as buying new gravel," he said. "This is something that needs to be seen as climate action, pure and simple." Uusikauppila said recycling the gravel is environmental because cities will mine less natural granite and rock, and CO2 emissions will decrease as far less grit will need to be transported via truck. The same anti-skid gravel could even be used several years in a row. "I believe Espoo can show the way in this," said Uusikauppila. Oulu sand ends up in construction In the northern city of Oulu, a type of sieved natural gravel is used that does not contain sharp stones. This material is often referred to as anti-skid sand, even though it is not produced by natural erosion. Oulu gathers up this sand every year, but instead of recycling it for the same purpose, the material is used for other useful purposes. "The sand we've collected this past winter will be taken to a snow-dumping site," said Oulu maintenance manager Kai Mäenpää. "We fix bad angles in the snow heaps, and we're able to direct the runoff in the right direction." Oulu has also used anti-skid sand to build noise barriers and jogging tracks. Using the sand for anything else is still problematic. "The sand would have to be cleaned before it could be reused, as it may contain impurities such as heavy metals. The sand may also be crushed further when recycled, causing more dust to accumulate in the air," he explained. Mäenpää said his city would be following Espoo's pilot programme very closely. "We have to use natural resources sensibly," he said. "Cleaned, recycled anti-skid sand may be the future."

Wed, 17 Apr 2019 14:36:06 +0300

Report finds room for improvement in Finnish clothing brands' ethics

A new report on the social responsibility of clothing brands found serious problems.

A report on corporate social responsibility published by ethical trade NGO Eetti found that a majority of Finnish clothing brands rank very low in terms of climate, environmental and human rights transparency. Eetti advocacy coordinator Maija Lumme said that while some companies fared better than others, every brand could do better. "Responsible production, especially in countries where job security is low, requires strict measures and metrics to improve working conditions and salaries," Lumme said. "There are also many hurdles to face in minimising the effects of clothing production on climate change." The Eetti report utilises a set of international criteria maintained by consumer community Rank a Brand, which ranks companies into five categories (A-E) based on how clearly brands include responsibility clauses on their official websites and in their other PR. A total of 23 Finnish clothing brands were ranked against 1,500 other international companies. Majority in lowest category The best-ranked Finnish brand in the report was children's clothing company Papu, the only firm to make it into the B category ("On track towards sustainability"). The next category ("On its way, but can do better") included companies Sail&Ski and Vimma. These brands all produce their products either solely in Finland or in some other low-risk countries. The vast majority of the brands in the report fell into the lowest two categories. Category D ("should do better") included Noom, Lindex, Marimekko, By Pia's, House, Mywear, Nosh and R-Collection. The lowest category, E ("Better put your wallet away"), held Halti, Reima, Nanso, Pola, Peak Performance, Sasta, Gugguu, Luhta, Makia, Rukka, Torstai and Your Face. Luhta Group is the only company that did not reply to Eetti's contact attempts. Spurious promises broken The report is the first of its kind, and so the data cannot be compared with previous findings, said Lumme. She said she finds it heartening and even surprising that most of the companies considered openness and responsibility important, at least on the surface. What Lumme said is really needed is a corporate social responsibility law that would obligate companies to assess and report on their standards on human rights and climate action. According to Lumme, more consumers than ever are seeking information on the origin of the products they buy but companies tend to offer misleading promises, thus making it harder for consumers to hold the brands accountable. "A responsible company must provide accurate information on the measures it is taking to ensure ethical production," Lumme said.

Wed, 17 Apr 2019 12:16:39 +0300

Wednesday's papers: Ex-Finns Party MPs, Kela benefits change, Posti electronics theft

Finns Party defectors get left behind, Kela changes its basis for benefits and postal workers steal 60K euros in electronics.

Former Finns Party members who defected to other parties in 2017 did not fare well in Sunday's parliamentary elections, writes tabloid Iltalehti. A group of defectors founded the Blue Reform group in summer 2017 to distance themselves from hard-right Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho. Their efforts were in vain, however, as nobody from Blue Reform managed to secure a seat in parliament on Sunday. While some MPs such as Veera Ruoho jumped straight to the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP), long-term politician Kaj Turunen went a different route, as IL notes: he first defected from the Finns Party to Blue Reform (then called "New Alternative"), from whence he defected once more to the NCP, only to be ejected from parliament altogether. Turunen's support figures fell substantially since the previous parliamentary elections. In 2015 he received 6,929 votes, but on Sunday only 545 people voted for him. Ruoho said in IL that while she is grateful for the support she did receive (1,487 votes, more than a thousand fewer than in 2015) her time in the legislature was overshadowed by a harassment case. In 2017 Finns Party MP Teuvo Hakkarainen was convicted of assault and sexual harassment against Ruoho and ordered to pay 80 day fines. Ruoho received hate mail after the incident, Iltalehti writes. Ruoho said she will return to her profession as a police officer, calling her low support numbers "a blessing for my family". Rehabilitation, parental benefits to change Meanwhile regional daily Aamulehti reports that Finnish national pension institution Kela will change the way rehabilitation allowances, parental allowances and sickness benefits are determined. Previously Kela calculated the sums based on each recipient's annual income from the full previous calendar year's tax returns. Starting in 2020, the amount of benefits will be based on the recipient's income from the previous 12 months preceding the benefit decision, even mid-year. Kela said this method would bring allowances more in line with people's actual income levels, AL writes. Thieves caught by hidden tracker Daily Helsingin Sanomat writes that two men in Vantaa were found guilty of aggravated theft on Tuesday after they systematically stole electronics from postal shipments in 2015 and 2016. The men, born in 1983 and 1969 and working for an outside logistics company, got away with 60,000 euros in phones and tablets while working at the primary Posti hub, HS writes. The duo was caught after a GPS tracking device in one of the shipments raised the postal service's suspicions. HS reports that video surveillance footage of the men improperly loading packages for their own purposes finally landed both men one year's probation each. Both workers appealed to have their sentences commuted, but the Helsinki Court of Appeal found no reason to change the original ruling.

Wed, 17 Apr 2019 09:46:44 +0300

30 of Finland's "unknown soldiers" to be laid to rest

More than 70 years after they fell, the remains of 30 unidentified Finnish soldiers will be laid to rest with honours.

The remains of 30 unidentified WWII-period Finnish soldiers recovered from Russia will be interred in a war grave on Finland's Memorial Day, 19 May. The remains were recovered during searches of former battlefields in Russian territory over the past two summers. It has not been possible to establish the identity of any of the remains. They were all identified only as Finnish soldiers on the basis of associated artifacts such as uniform buttons, belts and other objects discovered along with the remains. All unknown Finnish soldiers are buried at a war grave located in the southeastern city of Lappeenranta. When it is possible to identify remains, for example through dog tags or DNA testing, the dead are buried in the local parish war grave nearest their homes. Over 1,000 now found The bodies of around 13,000 Finnish soldiers who fell during the Winter War (1939-1940) and the Continuation War (1941-1944) were not recovered after battle. Over the past more than 70 years, about one-tenth or some 1,300 remains have been found and returned to Finland. For the past 20 years or more, groups of Finnish volunteers have carried out searches for remains in Russia. In addition, some Russian searches have recovered the remains of Finnish soldiers. However, it is not expected that the remains of all the fallen will ever be found. Cpl Uuno Johannes Jantunen was interred in the war grave of his home parish of Parikkalan Saari in May 2017 after his remains were discovered the previous summer on the Ihantala battlefield in the Karelian Isthmus.Mika Albertsson Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia and Finland agreed to permit Finnish searches of the sites of wartime battles inside Russia. Numerous finds were made during the early years, later in declining numbers. Even so, searches are still carried out every summer. Military honours The latest group of remains will receive graveside blessings and a burial with full military honours in Lappeenranta in a ceremony starting at noon on 19 May. The burial will be preceded by a memorial service at the nearby Evangelical Lutheran church St. Mary's of Lappee. The last burial of unknown soldiers was in 2017. As a result of searches of Russian battlefields, 782 unknown soldiers were interred in Lappeenranta between 1993 and 2018, and another 18 identified remains elsewhere.

Tue, 16 Apr 2019 19:55:00 +0300

Finland's Turku Cathedral to host charity concert for Paris' Notre Dame

Mozart’s Requiem Mass will be performed during the charity event.

The Turku Cathedral in southwest Finland will organise a charity concert on Wednesday evening to assist with the reconstruction of the badly burned Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. The proceeds of the event, which begins at 9.30pm, will be contributed to a global reconstruction fund set up for the church. One of the performances will be a rendition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s "Requiem Mass", widely considered a masterpiece. According to the Turku and Kaarina parishes, performers at the concert will be appearing pro bono. The patron of the concert, titled Pro Notre Dame, is Tapio Luoma, Archbishop of the Finnish Lutheran Evangelical Church. Tickets will be sold for 20 euros each at the church door half an hour before the event, from 9.00pm. The blaze caused extensive damage to the Parisian landmark on Monday night and was front-page news in almost every Finnish newspaper on Tuesday morning. President Sauli Niinistö commiserated with France and all Parisians in a Twitter post late on Monday night. Writing in French, Niinistö said, "Finland shares the sadness in the face of this terrible fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. Our thoughts are with France and Parisians tonight."

Tue, 16 Apr 2019 19:15:00 +0300

Greens chair Haavisto: Not likely to join a govt with Finns Party

"It is very important that the government is positive toward EU development," Haavisto said.

Green Party chair Pekka Haavisto has said that he would like to see his party join the incoming government, but noted that issues like education, climate and measures against social marginalisation need to be emphasised if it does. "It is very important that the government is positive toward EU development," he added. On Tuesday Haavisto said he would not yet speculate on the various coalition-building possibilities that may take shape over the coming days. He said other matters - particularly the potential size of government's majority - need to be examined, for example whether it is even feasible to form a government with support from fewer than 110 MPs. After that's sorted out, Haavisto said, it will be time to begin considering government programmes. Finns Party cooperation? Haavisto was diplomatic about whether the Greens would join a government with the populist Finns Party, suggesting he thinks the two parties would not likely join forces. "In that scenario, one side will need to change, and it's not the Greens," he said. Haavisto also said the work load of coalition building may be lightened by the Centre Party's change in leadership. On Tuesday outgoing Prime Minister Juha Sipilä announced he was leaving his Centre Party chair post in September. Haavisto thanked Sipilä for cooperation in efforts that both parties worked on, specifically noting their work regarding climate policy. The Greens leader said he believes a government will be formed by the end of next month. EU elections loom Finland's EU Presidency period begins on 1 July, a situation that will likely help along the process of government formation in good time, he said, saying that Finland cannot afford to have freshly-minted ministers when it assumes the presidency. Sunday's elections brought five more Greens into parliament, for a total of 20. "It is an interesting new group of three men and 17 women. Of the members, 14 are new and their range of ages is large," he said. He said last Sunday's good results for the Greens' female candidates will likely carry over to the party's leadership elections next month, and suggested that the party's next chair would likely be a woman. Haavisto reiterated that he still has no plans to run for the chair post himself, which the party will elect this summer. He took over the job last autumn after the party's previous chair Touko Aalto stepped down for health reasons. Edited at 7:52 pm 16 April 2019 to reflect that Haavisto said he thinks his party's next chair will be a woman.

Tue, 16 Apr 2019 18:30:00 +0300

Finland’s lionesses to take home smaller bonuses than lions

Each player on the women's team will receive 5,000 euros compared to a possible 12,000 for each of their male peers if the men's team wins silver in May.

In spite of an historic silver-medal performance during last Sunday’s Women’s Ice Hockey World Cup Championships, Finland’s national players will receive less than half of what their male peers are likely to get for a silver in the men’s tournament in Bratislava, Slovakia later this spring. The lionesses, who were denied gold when a goal was disallowed in the dying minutes of their final against the USA, will each receive a 5,000-euro bonus for their sterling performance, compared to a possible 12,000-euro bounty for each of the players on the men’s team. If Finland’s men’s team manages to cop gold at the upcoming men’s championship in Bratislava, each player will receive a 27,000-euro cash prize. Finnish Ice Hockey Association CEO Matti Nurminen said that it is not possible to compare the two situations – or the financial reward. He noted that the men’s and women’s games are at different stages in their life cycle. "The International Ice Hockey Federation IIHF pays generous bonuses in the men’s world championships based on the level of success. The size of the men’s bonuses depends on how we divide the IIHF premium between the players and the association. On the other hand, the women’s bonuses come exclusively from the association’s budget, in other words, it is funded by the organisation’s income," Nurminen explained via email. No IIHF prize money for women's games The Finnish Ice Hockey Association SJL could also adopt a different approach to distributing the international federation’s prize money, Nurminen said, noting that it is not specifically earmarked for the men’s team. "The SJL does in fact, do this. In practice, both the men’s and women’s bonuses are funded from our other income. It is just a question of which income stream it comes from," he noted. The SJL has previously said that it has aspired to promote equality in the IIHF by increasing competition prize money, and it continues to do so. During the 2017 women’s ice hockey world championship, the SJL budgeted a bonus of 2,000 euros per player for a gold medal outcome. Two years later, a win would have earned each player 7,000 euros. It said that it is still pushing for a boost to women’s bonuses at the international level. "We have sent the IIHF a written petition asking for prize money for women’s games as well," Nurminen commented. According to Nurminen the SJL’s total annual budget runs to about 20 million euros. The women’s tournament that wrapped up on Sunday night in Espoo resulted in a six-figure loss. "Every year the SJL’s decision-making bodies consider how to use the money to develop ice hockey from an educational perspective. Organising the women’s ice hockey world championship is an investment by the association in women’s and girls’ ice hockey," Nurminen concluded.

Tue, 16 Apr 2019 17:40:00 +0300

Finnish parliament still mostly middle-aged, male

Finland ranks about tenth in the world with respect to lawmakers' gender balance.

Finland's parliamentary election on Sunday has been touted by some as a victory for "red-green" female candidates. Red-green parties include the Social Democrats, Left Alliance and Greens. A total of 92 women were elected to national office in Finland this year - nine of them for the first time - making the country's incoming 200-member parliament 46 percent female. Depending on the source, Finland is generally ranked tenth in the world regarding lawmakers' gender balance, and this election helped to improve gender equality in Finnish national politics. Now, Finland trails just behind Sweden (by a tenth of a percentage point), a country which also recently saw an increase in females elected to parliament. Veteran MP Janina Andersson was just 24-years-old when she first won a seat in parliament in the mid-90s, says she was unsure of on-the-job etiquette at first. But she quickly learned the rules after making headlines for breastfeeding her child at Parliament House. "In 1995 there was no room for babies in politics, but quite quickly the female Speaker of Parliament made arrangements for female MPs with a baby care room for mothers with children. It was a psychological win for me that something so wrong became completely acceptable," she said. Out of the Greens' 20 incoming representatives, 17 are women, a situation that Andersson doesn't consider balanced. "I think there should be an even representation of ages and genders. When it comes to age [demographics] I think it looks very good, but within the Greens the gender split is rather lopsided and that's not good, either," Andersson. Fewer new young MPs, but average age dropped slightly The average age of Finland's next parliament dropped by a year, but at the same time the number of young MPs actually fell. Out of the 200 available seats they were vying for, only eight candidates under the age of 30 managed to get elected in Sunday's general election. The average age of incoming MPs is 46, while the average age of parliamentarians elected in the 2015 parliamentary election was 47.3. However, the age decrease was not prompted by a slew of millennial 20-somethings being elected - the number of incoming MPs under the age of 30 - eight of them -actually declined this year. In 2015 there were 14 MPs under 30 who were elected and in 2011 there were 11. The youngest incoming female MP this year will be the Greens' 24-year-old Iiris Suomela.

Tue, 16 Apr 2019 16:33:11 +0300

"Room to manoeuvre in some areas": NCP chair signals openness to govt talks

The National Coalition Party nabbed the third-highest number of seats in Sunday’s election, behind the Social Democrats and Finns Party.

National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo emerged from a party leadership meeting on Tuesday to carefully signal his party's readiness to join government formation talks following Sunday’s parliamentary election. Orpo said at a news conference Tuesday that there may be room to manoeuvre in some areas and noted that according to tradition, the position of Speaker of Parliament goes to the party that captured the second-highest proportion of votes, in this case, the Finns Party. The NCP came away from the election with 38 parliamentary seats, just behind the populist Finns Party’s 39 and the Social Democratic Party’s 40 seats. NCP not the "bad cop" Orpo told journalists that he believed that it would be possible to agree on a government programme with SDP chair Antti Rinne, adding that he was distancing himself from the concept of "red lines" that cannot be compromised. He noted that the larger the government’s majority the stronger its parliamentary base would be. "I am distancing myself from that term. Responsible economic and employment policies are among the important issues for the NCP. However the NCP isn’t hankering after joining the government. It all depends on the policy programme," he noted. "We will not join the government at any cost. It is possible for the NCP to participate in the work of government if we can create a shared and realistic picture of the state of the national economy. And agree on what kind of change the government wants to effect in Finland," he added. However he stressed that his party would not be the "bad cop" in government that always says "no". Commenting on the possibility of the Finns Party joining the governing coalition, Orpo said that the nationalist party’s election surge should be taken seriously. "The NCP respects the election result," he remarked.

Tue, 16 Apr 2019 14:49:05 +0300

Finnish police suspect Qatar Airways cabin crew of working while intoxicated

According to reports filed with police, the crew members in question appeared to be under the influence on the plane.

Police said Tuesday that they are looking into the case of a Qatar Airways purser and flight attendant suspected of flying while inebriated. Police said they were following up a report lodged at 8.28am on Tuesday morning while the plane was on the tarmac at the Helsinki Airport. Officers from the Itä-Uusimaa police department said that they received a report that the two male cabin crew members appeared to be under the influence as the flight was about to take off. Airports operator Finavia said on its website that the flight was due to leave Helsinki at 9.50am for the Qatari capital of Doha, but it was delayed and will now leave at 10.00pm on Tuesday night. Finnair media relations director Päivyt Tallqvist said that the airline will not comment on the case, since it concerns flight operator Qatar Airways.

Tue, 16 Apr 2019 13:40:00 +0300

Sipilä to step down as Centre chair, party heads to opposition

"The election result left me no choice," Sipilä wrote in his blog on Tuesday.

Centre Party chair and outgoing prime minister Juha Sipilä announced on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election as party leader. Writing in his blog on Tuesday, Sipilä said that Sunday’s election result, in which the party turned in its worst election performance ever with just 13.8 percent of the vote, left him no choice. He added that he has asked the party leadership to convene a special convention on 7 September to elect a new leader. Until then he will continue to operate as chair, he said. Sipilä had become known for his "show results or go home" (tulos tai ulos) principle, which he invoked when he tendered the government's resignation in early March over its failure to get an ambitious social and health care reform into the goal. He also declared in March that he would quit the party's chairmanship if the Centre was not able to improve on its 14-percent-polling in pre-election voter surveys. "Voters have relegated party to opposition" "The Centre Party deserves a new and inspiring start. The party will begin its transformation and draw up a reform program. The party’s strong future will be established with a new chairperson," he wrote. Sipilä said that the party is thoroughly reviewing its election result and that an in-depth analysis of the reasons for its election loss is required. "Party leaders and the prime minister in particular quickly become stale as figureheads of their parties. This has also happened to me. As party chair my responsibility is to think about and safeguard the party’s interests in every situation," he added. Meanwhile the party leadership said in a release on Tuesday that "based on the election outcome, voters have relegated the Centre Party to the opposition." It added in the statement that the Centre is used to serving the country from the position to which it has been assigned by the people.

Tue, 16 Apr 2019 12:27:32 +0300

Fuel from solar energy and air - Finnish startup gets funding

Work by startup firm Soletair Power is considered an important step towards establishing carbon neutral societies.

The technology group Wärtsilä is providing 500,000 euros in seed funding to Soletair Power Oy, a Finnish startup company that has developed a concept to improve air quality in buildings by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) and converting it to a synthetic renewable fuel. Based in the southeastern city of Lappeenranta, Soletair has tested a plant that uses solar power for separating carbon dioxide and water from the air, producing hydrogen, and then synthesising a crude-oil substitute from the carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The company has now developed a device for installation in the ventilation systems of buildings. "Our intention is to make buildings carbon sinks," explains CEO Petri Laakso. The end product of the process is the formation of hydrocarbons that can be used as synthetic fuel. "It can be used to make, for example, natural gas," says Laakso. The process also generates waste heat that can be used for purposes like heating water. The system is based on technologies developed at the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology LUT and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Better indoor air According to Petri Laakso the production of fuel is not, at least yet, a significant economic factor for the adoption of Soletair Power's system. He sees the biggest immediate benefit in the improvement of indoor air quality by reducing the level of carbon dioxide. This, he says, could be a boon to companies in keeping employees more alert. "For example, people can start to tire in a conference room when the level of carbon dioxide goes up. This is a way to prevent that by keeping the air fresh. Productivity improves when minds are alert," Laakso points out. Announcing its funding decision, Wärtsilä described the concept as representing an important step towards carbon-neutral societies. Soletair Power will next launch a pilot installation. Petri Laakso says that several alternative sites are being considered, but that he expects the project to move ahead no later than by this coming summer.

Tue, 16 Apr 2019 10:52:01 +0300

Tuesday's Papers: Govt speculation, measles threat, sadness over Notre Dame

Many of the nation's newspapers are speculating about the composition of a new government after Sunday's elections in Finland.

Aamulehti is among the papers that Tuesday carried a syndicated Lännen Media analysis of the prospects for upcoming government formation talks. According to this article, climate issues and taxation may be the main stumbling blocks in finding a smooth path for the creation of a working coalition. As the head of the party that came in first place in Sunday's voting, SDP chairman Antti Rinne will be sending out a list of questions to other parties on policy issues on the 26th of this month. The paper says that it is clear that some of the questions will concern climate change. It will be difficult to find a fit between the ambitious climate programme promoted by the SDP and comments by Finns Party representatives about "over-ambitious" climate targets. This could well be one reason that the SDP will not invite the Finns Party into a coalition. As for taxation, the SDP and conservative NCP are far apart, Aamulehti notes. Demands by Rinne for a return to centralised labour agreements could also put the two parties on a collision course. The day after the election, the SDP leader stated that his immediate feeling was that the Left Alliance and the Greens would make for more natural allies in government. As the paper points out, these are also the three parties that made the biggest gains in Sunday's vote. The Centre Party has not declared itself out of the running for a place in a new cabinet. However, according to this paper, following its massive losses at the polls, the Centre has a lot of dirty laundry to wash before it will be fit to join in a coalition. The SDP and the Centre Party, though still have major differences, especially over Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's economic and employment policies. Regardless of what constellation of parties ends up in the cabinet, according to this analysis, in practice the Greens are all but certain to be a part of it. If so, it is likely that the Green chair, Pekka Haavisto will have the foreign affairs portfolio. EU election impact Turku's Turun Sanomat points out that the campaign for elections to the European Parliament will be underway at the same time as government formation talks are going on. It quotes Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho as saying that this could have an effect on the negotiations. Halla-aho pointed out that the various parties have to emphasise their differences in an election campaign, something that is not necessarily harmonious with the process of forming a new government. Political parties will be formally filing lists of candidates for the EU parliamentary elections on Thursday of this week. Channel surfing The Kuopio-based Savon Sanomat carries a Finnish News Agency STT report that over half the nation's population tuned into Yle television coverage of the elections on Sunday evening. Altogether 2.7 million viewers watched Yle's election reporting with a peak of almost 1.6 million between 9:30 PM and 9:44 PM. They were not all, however, glued to coverage, but bounced back and forth between TV1 and TV2 which was carrying the finals of the Women's World Ice Hockey Championships, a broadcast that drew some 2.4 million pairs of eyes. Danger of measles growing Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, Tuesday warned that the dangers posed by measles could be growing in Finland again. The paper points to the latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) showing that the number of cases of measles has risen this year, especially in France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Bulgaria and Ireland. According to Helsingin Sanomat, the spread of measles in Finland could rise as well, as the overwhelming majority of cases last year and this year were infections picked up in other parts of Europe. Last year there were 15 cases of measles identified in Finland. So far this year, there have been six. Last year three of those originated in Asia, the rest in Europe, both from EU countries and other nearby areas. The paper says that this may have influenced the rise registered in the number of inoculations against measles. According to figures released by Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare in February, 96.1 percent of children born in 2016 had received inoculations providing immunity against the measles. During the years 2014 and 2015, that figure was 94.9 percent. Notre Dame fire The blaze which heavily damaged Paris' Cathedral of Notre Dame Monday night was front-page news in almost every Finnish newspaper on Tuesday morning. As reported by most papers, including Iltalehti, among the outpouring of sympathy from world leaders was a tweet by Finland's President Sauli Niinistö addressed to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. Screen capture of tweet by President Sauli Niinistö.Yle Writing in French, President Niinistö said, "Finland shares the sadness in the face of this terrible fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. Our thoughts are with France and Parisians tonight."

Tue, 16 Apr 2019 08:54:03 +0300

Finnish researchers create corneas using 3D bioprinters

In future, organ transplant recipients won't need to wait for donors, but instead will get new organs created using their own cells, according to a researcher.

Biomedical engineer Anni Mörö is part of a world-leading team of 3D biological printing researchers at Tampere University in southern Finland. Last year Mörö - a postdoctoral biomedical engineering researcher - and her team were the first in the world to successfully "print" portions of a human cornea using 3D bioprinter technology. The cornea is a transparent membrane that covers the eye. Millions of people around the world are affected by corneal blindness due to trauma or disease and the emerging technology may someday be able to help those afflicted, Mörö said. Bioprinting is a fast-growing technology, and research on the topic has been moving along quickly. Researchers around the world have recently made headlines after having successfully printed human tissue like cartilage, heart muscle, and nerve tissue using bioprinters, she said. "The number of scientific publications as well as the number of commercial firms in the industry is growing exponentially." While her team's research is moving along, it will take years before printed cornea transplants become a medical reality, she said, noting that her team hopes to be able to print an entire cornea this year. Story continues after photo. Biomedical engineer Anni Mörö.Wille Nyyssönen "Printed tissue as such would be suitable for the treatment of some eye diseases but the replacement of an entire cornea requires additional layers of new cells. Then there are the clinical tests which are needed to ensure that the tissue is suitable for use," she explained. Even so, Mörö said activity within the emerging 3D bioprinting industry is staggering, saying that nearly all of the tissues found in the human body can already be printed. But a good deal of research still needs to be done regarding how various tissues, blood vessels and nerves would connect to manufactured biomedical parts. "I reckon that the first [3D printed tissues] that will be used will be simpler ones like skin, cartilage and corneas. It will take decades before printing of complex organs like the heart and liver happens," Mörö said. However, in the meantime, 3D-printed tissues can soon be used in drug development and testing, possibly removing the need to use animals in such trials. Stem cell tech Three-dimensional bioprinting technology utilises similar principles and techniques as traditional 3D printing does, but instead of making objects with nylon or resins, bioprinters use stem cells and other bio materials to create biomedical body parts from scratch. "The cells are alive but after being printed one must allow them to interact with each other to create functional tissue. This 'maturation' takes a few days," Mörö said. Some of the stem cells Mörö and her team uses are excess embryonic cells from fertility treatment procedures. University scientists have also developed a new method to "reprogram" normal blood or skin cells into stem cells, she said. "This opens up completely new avenues. When this kind of cell reprogramming becomes commonplace, tissue and organs can be printed from a person's own cells. In this scenario, [organ] rejection is no longer a problem," Mörö said. The researcher explained that in the future individuals needing an organ transplant will no longer need to wait in donor queues but rather head to a medical modelling clinic to create a new organ out of their own cells, according to Mörö.

Mon, 15 Apr 2019 19:04:00 +0300

Inflation slows slightly in February as trade picks up

Growth was strongest in the electrical and electronics industry, with turnover leaping by 14.4 percent in the past year.

Finland's annual inflation rate stood at 1.1 percent in March, edging down from February's 1.3 percent, according to Statistics Finland. Product segments where prices dipped included vegetables, mobile phones, televisions, detached houses and children’s day care fees. Pushing the inflation rate up meanwhile were higher costs for electricity, house repairs, cigarettes, petrol, banking fees and rents. Finland's inflation rate was slightly lower than that of the whole eurozone. According to the preliminary data on the EU's Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices, the inflation rate in the euro area was 1.4 percent in March, down by one tenth of a percentage point from February. Electronics and forest sectors growing briskly Among a raft of other economic data released by the central statistics bureau on Monday, overall trade turnover was by up by 1.7 percent in February compared to a year earlier. Turnover grew across all trade industries. The biggest jump in turnover was in the motor vehicle sector, where it rose by 2.6 percent. Automotive sales meanwhile increased even more briskly, by 3.2 percent year-on-year. In the wholesale business, turnover edged up by 1.4 percent, but sales actually dipped by the same amount. On the retail side, turnover rose by 1.8 percent with sales lagging somewhat at a 1.6 percent increase from February 2018. Manufacturing turnover was up by 5.3 percent from the previous February. Growth was strongest in the electrical and electronics industry, leaping by 14.4 percent, followed by the forest products sector at eight percent and metals by just under six percent.

Mon, 15 Apr 2019 18:12:00 +0300

Vote recount in Finland sees SDP maintain slim lead over populist Finns Party

A recount confirmed the legitimacy of a seat that went to the Social Democrats in western Finland's Satakunta district.

Election officials in the electoral district of Satakunta in western Finland confirmed on Monday that Antti Rinne’s SDP won three seats in the Satakunta district by razor thin margins The recount followed Sunday's general election in which the SDP came away with 40 parliamentary seats, barely squeaking past the populist Finns Party, which finished the night with 39 seats. The results of Sunday's election is scheduled to be confirmed by the Justice Ministry on Wednesday. If just additional 100 votes were to be awarded to Juha Sipilä’s Centre Party in the recount, it could have won an additional seat in the district and the SDP’s elected MPs in the region would have fallen to two. Losing one seat would have meant that the Finns Party and the SDP would have drawn level with 39 seats each overall, although the centre-left party garnered a slightly larger share of the vote than the populists. The Centre meanwhile, would have seen its parliamentary seat count rise to 32. That outcome could have upended the calculus with regard to government formation talks. Lapland district also closely contested Chair of the electoral district, Vappu Laukkanen said that it is very rare for recounts to yield any major surprises. She noted that they generally involve a few votes that have either been miscounted due to negligence, or assigned to the wrong candidate. Justice Ministry election director, Arto Jääskeläinen, said that it is extremely uncommon for seats to be re-assigned from one party to another following a recount. However he noted that it is more likely for the votes counted in favour of different candidates from the same party to change. In addition to Satakunta, the situation in the Lapland electoral district was also close. In that case the Greens needed fewer than ten additional votes to sweep one seat from the Centre Party. Based on Sunday night’s results, the Centre Party won three seats in Lapland, followed by the Finns Party, the National Coalition Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Left Alliance, all with one seat each. The election saw government parties with the exception of the National Coalition Party suffer heavy losses, while opposition parties gained additional seats or hold their ground in the parliament.. Edit: Updated at 7.36pm to reflect that the recount confirmed the original result.

Mon, 15 Apr 2019 17:14:00 +0300

Accenture to slash up to 200 jobs in Finland

Redundancy talks are scheduled to start next week.

The Finnish branch of management consulting giant Accenture has plans to cut its workforce in the country by up to 200 employees. The company said it's downsizing in order to meet a rapidly-changing operating environment. Accenture Finland management is scheduled to begin employer-employee negotiations with worker reps on 24 April. The company currently employs around 1,200 people in Finland. Globally, there were nearly 450,000 employees working at Accenture as of last year. The firm's managing director in Finland, Frank Korsström, said the company is committed to further developing its business in the country. "We will continue to recruit consultancy and technology experts to meet our customers' demand," Korsström said.

Mon, 15 Apr 2019 16:30:29 +0300

Failed extortion plot against MP

Police suspect an attempt was made to use fraudulent invoicing to extort 13 million euros from a member of parliament.

The newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported that the extortion attempt being investigated by police targeted businessman and National Coalition Party MP Eero Lehti. Lehti has confirmed the report by the paper. According to police, Lehti first received fraudulent invoices and demands for payment by post and email in 2015. Following that, an action for payment was filed against Lehti with the district court in Tuusula. Police said in a release on Monday that the same MP had been involved at the start of the 2000's with the company from which fraudulent invoices originated and the individuals behind the company. The release states that a preliminary investigation found no legitimate reason for the debts being claimed. The head of the investigation, Detective Harri Saaristola of the Helsinki Police, described it as a case of "process fraud" in which an attempt is made to mislead authorities into providing a ruling favourable to a party in a dispute. Even if claims are found to be baseless and are rejected by a court, there can be significantly detrimental consequences for the target, including expenses and negative publicity. Saaristola added that the case in question is by no means exceptional, with similar cases coming to the attention of the police from time to time. The results of the preliminary investigation will be turned over to the prosecutor's office where a decision will be made on bringing charges in the case.

Mon, 15 Apr 2019 14:05:00 +0300

Meet Brother Christmas and other new Finnish MPs

The 83 new representatives joining Finland's Parliament include celebrities and others with familiar names.

Following Sunday's hard-fought election, Finland's 200-seat legislature will feature 83 new MPs – some of whom aren't so new after all. Ari Koponen, who runs a charity service under the name "Brother Christmas," was elected on the nationalist Finns Party from the Uusimaa electoral district, which includes Helsinki's surrounding municipalities. In early April, Koponen was charged with violating fundraising laws. Among the MPs chosen in the Savo-Karelia electoral district is Marko Kilpi of the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP), who is best known as the author of eight books, mostly crime fiction. He is also a Kuopio police officer who appeared in a popular police TV show and has made documentary films. As seen on TV Another well-known media figure, Pirkka-Pekka Petelius, was elected on the Greens ticket in Uusimaa. He has appeared in Yle comedy and nature programmes as well as dozens films – including one based on a Marko Kilpi novel – and as a voice actor in the Finnish version of The Lion King. Another new Greens MP is the party's deputy chair, Maria Ohisalo, from Helsinki. She served as the party's acting chair after party leader Touko Aalto stepped due to health issues last autumn. She's joined by the youngest member of the new legislature, fellow Green Iiris Suomela, 24, was ushered into parliament by voters in the Pirkanmaa district, which includes the city of Tampere. Pirkanmaa Greens voters also returned city councillor and government climate advisor Oras Tynkkynen to parliament, where he previously served from 2004 to 2015. New Finns Party MPs include party secretary Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo from Uusimaa and the former chair of the party's youth wing, Sebastian Tynkkynen, from the Oulu district. The latter, a former reality TV show star, has made headlines due to a hate speech conviction and being expelled by his church due to his open bisexuality. Like father, like daughter Other MPs making comebacks include former transport minister Merja Kyllönen of the Left Alliance, who was sent back to parliament by Oulu region voters after a stint in the European Parliament. Three former Social Democratic Party representatives return to the legislature after years off: Olympic silver medallist wrestler Marko Asell from Pirkanmaa, former justice minister Johannes Koskinen from the Häme district, and Uusimaa author and academic Kimmo Kiljunen, recently in the headlines as mastermind of the ill-fated Hamina Flag Park. A new generation is literally stepping into the legislature, as Centre Party veteran Timo Kalli's daughter Eeva Kalli was elected from south-west Finland while former SDP finance minister Eero Heinäluoma's daughter Eveliina Heinäluoma won a seat from Helsinki. Another former minister, Ole Norrback of the Swedish People's Party, saw his son Anders Norrback elected by Vaasa voters. All three carry on their fathers' party lines. Electoral districts are to certify their results by 6pm Tuesday. MPs are to present their credentials and form parliamentary groups on 23 April. The following day, MPs elect new speakers ahead of the formal opening of the four-year legislative term on 25 April.

Mon, 15 Apr 2019 12:40:00 +0300

Posti to cut another 120 jobs

The postal service cites a drastic decline in the volume of mail deliveries as the reason for further staff cuts.

Finland’s state-owned postal service Posti announced on Monday it will begin discussion to reorganise administration and supervisory roles in its group production unit. This is the second round of workforce reductions announced by the company this year. According to its preliminary estimate, the personnel reduction needed is a maximum of 120 permanent employees. Formal talks with employee representatives on the cuts are expected to start on the 23rd of this month. Growing competition Parliament liberalised postal services in 2016, leading to intense competition in delivery services. Although a fully state-owned corporation, unlike many other postal sector operators in Europe, Posti does not receive any financial support from the state. Posti says it needs to reduce costs by at least around 150-200 million euros over the next three years. The number of letters delivered in Finland has decreased by half during the past decade, and the delivery volume of printed newspapers has fallen to 1950s levels. The declining volume of letters no longer covers the cost of weekday deliveries. At the same time, Posti said it is targeting strong growth in e-commerce and logistics services, both of which are growth markets.

Mon, 15 Apr 2019 11:18:11 +0300