YLE - Финские новости по-русски

Helsinki police suspend repatriations to Iraq

Finland will pause asylum seeker repatriations to Iraq following criticism by the European Court of Human Rights.

Police tweeted the news on Saturday, saying that the suspension does not cover convicted criminals. Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo immediately took to Twitter, saying Finland will now have time to investigate the case of Ali, an Iraqi man who was denied asylum in 2017, deported to Iraq and killed a few weeks later. Earlier this week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Finland violated the European Convention on Human Rights in Ali's case on the point that everyone has the right to life. The Finnish authorities repatriated Ali even though he had produced evidence he had been the target of assassination attempts in his home country before fleeing to Finland. ”I’ve asked leading civil servants to explain how we can ensure this never happens again,” Ohisalo told Yle. While the minister said Ali’s case should not have been possible in a country like Finland, the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) has disclosed that it does not know how many other rejected asylum applicants may have been wrongly repatriated.

Sun, 17 Nov 2019 16:33:47 +0200


Postal workers' strike attracting sympathy action

The Transport Workers' Union AKT says it will ban overtime and shift swaps early next week.

The ongoing national postal strike continues to garner sympathy action. The Transport Workers' Union AKT is threatening a ban on overtime and shift swaps within road and rail transport starting Tuesday, 19 November. In addition, logistics personnel will no longer handle deliveries from national mail carrier Posti. By Wednesday, 20 November the ban on shift swaps and overtime will extend to AKT members working in docks, terminals and within the travel industry. This will bring 40,000 members under the support measure, which could last through 8 December--the entire duration of the postal workers' strike. Meanwhile the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) and Railway Union (RAU) have said they will suspend freight traffic on Monday and Tuesday. This sympathy action will not affect passenger train traffic. Negotiations between the postal workers' union PAU and employer group Palta resume with national conciliator Vuokko Piekkala on Sunday afternoon. Postal workers’ representatives announced the strike after a failure to reach an agreement with Posti on a new deal covering wages, terms and conditions in the sector. Some 9,000 Posti workers are participating in the industrial action. Employee representatives are particularly irked by Posti’s plans to transfer 700 packaging and e-commerce workers to a different collective bargaining agreement.

Sun, 17 Nov 2019 14:04:24 +0200


Romantic relationships reduce alcohol abuse, study finds

A new study suggests that people genetically prone to alcoholism benefit from living in committed relationships.

The study, which drew on the longitudinal Finnish Twin Study (FinnTwin12), found that being in a romantic relationship reduced the association between genetic predisposition and drinking. Results indicated that being in a relationship reduces drinking among both sexes. However, for high‐risk drinking, the protective effect was limited to males, who tend to drink more than women. Studies have often suggested that men draw more health benefits from romantic partnerships than women. Genes and environment Scientists from the United States, Finland and Turkey collaborated on the study. "Social context plays a role in whether genetic predisposition for alcohol misuse is expressed," Peter Barr from Virginia Commonwealth University told the Finnish News Agency STT via email. Barr said the study can help bridge the gap between genetics and social science. “We can’t fully understand one without the other,” he added. But how exactly do relationships prevent excess drinking? According to Barr, relationships offer emotional support, giving people less of a reason to drown their negative feelings in alcohol. Relationships also carry an element of social control as partners tend to monitor each other’s behavior and will likely say something if their other half is drinking too much, explained public heath professor Jaakko Kaprio from the University of Helsinki. "It’s easy for single guys to go pub hopping with friends, but men in a relationship are more likely to cut the evening short by saying they promised to be home by 11pm," Kaprio added. Relationships also carry certain expectations, according to the scientists. Alcohol misuse doesn’t fit into the framework of being a good partner or parent, they said. In the future, Kaprio said he would like to see similar studies include people from different parts of the world to help determine how well the findings apply to broader populations. The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Addiction, examined interview and genetic data of 1,200 Finnish people between the ages of 20 and 26, who are part of the Finnish Twin Study, which aims to tease out environmental and genetic influences on traits.

Sun, 17 Nov 2019 12:33:58 +0200


Iron Age DNA sheds light on Finns’ genetic origin

A new study suggests that during the Iron Age Finland was home to separate and different populations.

Researchers at Helsinki and Turku universities mapping ancient Finno-Ugric ancestry say modern-day Finns carry genes from diverse populations living in the region of Finland during the Iron Age. They said they were able to reconstruct 103 complete mitochondrial genomes from archaeological bone samples, allowing them to trace maternal lineage. The samples were collected from burial sites across Finland and the Republic of Karelia, Russia. Scientists found that genes associated with ancient farmer populations were more common in the east, whereas lineages inherited from hunter-gatherers were more prevalent in the west. The SUGRIGE Finno-Ugric genome project said its study is the most extensive investigation to date focusing on the ancient DNA of people inhabiting the region of Finland. (Story continues after photo) A Middle Age burial site in Hiitola, Russian Karelia.Stanislav Belskiy Hunter-gatherers in west, farmers in east Scientists discovered mitochondrial hunter-gatherer DNA at burial sites in Eura and Hollola in the west, whereas samples from Hiitola in Russian Karelia and the Mikkeli area displayed genetic lines often associated with ancient farming populations. A burial site in Levänluhta in southern Ostrobothnia turned up DNA present in Finland’s indigenous Sámi population today. "This indicates that the studied Iron Age populations have had an impact on the gene pool of contemporary Finns,” Sanni Översti from Helsinki University’s Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, said in a statement. Professor Päivi Onkamo, who headed the study, said a lack of archaeological bone material has made it difficult to study ancient DNA in Finland. The acidic soil combined with annual freeze-thaw cycles have a detrimental effect on bone material, according to researchers. “Usually 2,000 years is the longest time bone will survive in these conditions. The samples we studies date from 300 AD to the 1800s,” she explained. Last year, SUGRIGE researchers suggested that ancient DNA showed that the Sámi and Finns share identical Siberian genes.

Sat, 16 Nov 2019 18:13:15 +0200


NCP: Finns Party has turned Parliament's question hour into immigration debate

The National Coalition Party says the Finns Party’s immigration rhetoric has hijacked Parliament’s weekly question hour.

The conservative National Coalition's online Verkkouutiset says the subject of immigration has dominated Finns Party MPs' speeches during parliamentary question hour since Antti Rinne's government took office. The publication reports that hard-right populist Finns Party MPs have either raised the issue of immigration or foreigners during nine of the 11 parliamentary question hours this term. These weekly sessions are an opportunity for legislators to put questions to the government about its policy on current topics. The Finns Party has only on two occasions last month—3 and 17 October—brought up issues other than immigration. As the largest opposition party in Parliament, the Finns Party has the right to pose the first question, which generally leads to a half hour discussion, swallowing half of the 60-minute session. The National Coalition Party is the second-largest opposition party after the Finns Party, following general elections earlier this year.

Sat, 16 Nov 2019 14:30:00 +0200


Finland goalkeeper Hradecky: “It’s been a long journey”

Finland goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky said the team’s success was at least partly down to ‘good karma’. 

Fans flooded the field and gathered to celebrate in city centres across Finland on Friday, when the men’s national team qualified for a major international tournament for the first time in their history. Goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky put the success down to togetherness among the squad. Two years ago he had told the media he did not want to celebrate a draw with Greece, and that Finns are often satisfied with too little from their national team. Now he has something worth getting excited about. “I’ve said many times that this team behaves like a group of mates who happen to play for Finland,” said the Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper. “That has always been our strength. What has happened in the past, that has only strengthened us.” “It’s been a long journey,” said Hradecky. “It was great when the fans invaded the pitch. To see their expressions and see their emotions, I got emotional.” Good karma Around 5,000 fans watched the match on screens outside the new Helsinki Central library Oodi, and many then went down to the market square by the harbour to continue the celebrations. They have never experienced success like this before, and Hradecky thinks there’s a reason this is happening now. “I believe that good karma follows you in life, and this team has deserved it,” said Hradecky. “But now we’ll celebrate and take in what we have achieved. This is a big achievement. The whole country, the whole football community has deserved this. We’re going to fully enjoy it.” Hradecky, who is known for taking a beer or two from the hardcore Finnish fans when celebrating victories, was dimly aware of Finland’s last match to be played against Greece in Athens on Monday. “Yes, we’ve still got a game, but we can even take care of that drunk!” Draw this month Finland’s Prime Minister Antti Rinne congratulated the team on Twitter, saying that Finland is ‘finally at a men’s major tournament’. Finland’s women’s team have qualified three times, reaching the semi-finals in 2005. Their male counterparts will find out on 30 November exactly where they are going next summer, when Uefa draws the groups. The possible host cities are London, Glasgow, Baku, Bilbao, Paris, Munich, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Saint Petersburg, Rome, Bucharest, Dublin and Budapest.

Sat, 16 Nov 2019 13:09:57 +0200


Survey: Majority supports better pay for nurses

Many say nurses deserve a bigger raise than other groups whose collective agreements are also up for renegotiation.

Some 70 percent of Finns want practical and registered nurses to gain bigger raises than other workers whose collective agreements are also expiring next spring, finds a survey commissioned by local news conglomerate Uutissuomalainen. Left Alliance and Green voters were most in favour of raising nurses’ pay. Overall, women were more open to the idea than men. One in five respondents opposed favouring nurses' wages over employees in other sectors. Practical nurses working in the public sector currently earn a gross monthly base pay of 2017.41 euros while registered nurses pull down 2,323.84 euros, according to the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals (Tehy). Finland has practiced collective bargaining since the 1970s, whereby employers and trade unions regularly negotiate wage agreements on the national and industry-specific level. Respondents earning annual salaries exceeding 100,0000 euros as well as those affiliated with the Centre Party or National Coalition Party were the most strongly opposed to increasing nurses’ salaries. Next spring, Finland's largest trade union for health and social care professionals, Tehy, plans to join forces Super, another union representing practical nurses, to demand a 1.8 percent annual wage increase every year until salaries in the sector are on par with salaries in male-dominated fields. The survey, carried out by Tietoykkönnen, polled 1,000 residents at the end of October. The margin of error was 3.1 percentage points.

Sat, 16 Nov 2019 12:13:12 +0200


Finland make history with Liechtenstein win

Finland went wild on Friday as the male national team qualified for its first-ever major tournament.

It has been 80 years in the making, but Finland’s qualification for the European Championships next summer sent the nation into raptures on Friday evening. It will be the first time the country's men's team have ever played at the finals of a World Cup or European Championships. Jasse Tuominen’s goal on 21 minutes set them on their way, when the ball broke to him and he slotted the ball past Liechtenstein goalkeeper Benjamin Büchel. Tuominen could have added a second on 47 minutes when he hit the post. The second goal came on 64 minutes when Norwich striker Teemu Pukki slotted a penalty past Büchel after Pyry Soiri was brought down. The Finland bench cleared, the ground exploded and, with a two-goal cushion offering Finnish fans some reassurance, the celebrations began. It's official When the ex-KTP forward added a third goal eleven minutes later, even the most pessimistic fan of the eagle owls could accept it: Finland are going to the European Championships. They were Pukki’s eighth and ninth goals in nine qualifying matches for Euro 2020, and it could have been scripted. Post-match, Pukki was emotional. "When I was small I didn't even dream I would play for the national team, I couldn't have hoped for this," said Pukki. His club Norwich City were an incongruous but joyful presence in the Finnish capital in the leadup to the game, setting up a pop-up store in a shopping mall so Finnish Pukki fans could buy his official club merchandise. Norwich also organised a big screen event near the stadium for fans who couldn’t get tickets, and an official ‘Pukki Party’ in the city centre for Friday evening. Some 10,000 fans were lucky enough to get tickets for the match, but many thousands more watched at outdoor big screen events across the country. Temperatures were one degree Celsius in Helsinki, and significantly colder further north. Summer plans It’s traditional in Finland to gather in market squares and public places to celebrate sporting victories, but very few of those have involved football. Now the country’s football fans finally have something to celebrate. While they do have a game against Greece on Monday to complete the qualification group, Finland fans’ eyes are casting further ahead to next summer when they will follow their men’s team in a major tournament for the first time. They will have to wait for the draw on 30 November when they will find out which of twelve host cities they will visit for the group stage of the final tournament. For now Finland fans are just enjoying the unprecedented success.

Fri, 15 Nov 2019 20:49:21 +0200


Highest rate of deer accidents in southwest Finland

The town of Raseborg averaged one white-tailed deer accident every day last year.

November is the most hazardous time of year for road accidents involving game animals. Last year there were more than 12,000 such accidents, peaking in November, according to Statistics Finland. More than 6,200 collisions involved deer, of which there are several species in Finland, while nearly 2,000 involved elk. For elk-related accidents, September has the highest rate. Last year the largest numbers of deer and elk crashes were in Southwest Finland, Uusimaa (which includes Helsinki) and Pirkanmaa (which includes Tampere). According to data collected by the insurance company LähiTapiola, the southwestern town of Raseborg (Raasepori in Finnish) had the highest number of white-tailed deer accidents, 365, or an average of one per day. Story continues after photo A white-tailed deer fawn.Jouni Minkkinen Close behind was the neighbouring town of Salo with 318, and Loimaa, just to the north, with 258. There were also many in Sastamala and Urjala, both in Pirkanmaa. Most elk crashes in Kouvola and Kuopio Kouvola and Kuopio both reported the highest number of elk collissions, 36, followed by another eastern city, Mikkeli, with 31. Close behind were Jyväskylä in central Finland and Kurikka in Southern Ostrobothnia. Elk hunting season begins in September in northern Finland. It is allowed by permit throughout the country from 15 October through 15 January. White-tailed deer may be shot from late September through mid-February. European elk (Alces alces) are known in the United States and Canada as moose, a name that stems from the indigenous Algonquian languages. They're not related to the smaller species of deer known as elk or wapiti in North America. Finland's rapidly expanding population of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), meanwhile, stems from five animals brought from the US state of Minnesota in 1934 as a gift from Finnish-Americans.

Fri, 15 Nov 2019 18:29:00 +0200


Legal reform allows drivers to use mobile phones at stop lights

Drivers are still not allowed to use communications devices while their vehicles are in motion.

New traffic laws to take effect next June will allow drivers to use electronic devices such as mobile phones while their vehicles are at traffic lights or otherwise at a standstill. However the legal reform states that the use of such devices should not prevent drivers from being responsive to changing situations. Apart from this change, the legislation regarding the use of electronic devices while driving is much the same as it had been before: drivers of motorised vehicles are not allowed to hold communications devices for use while the vehicle is in motion. Although the law is not as strict as before, a 2014 study by the Finnish Road Safety Council found that drivers in Finland have stern views on people who use mobile phones while behind the wheel. Up to 80 percent of respondents surveyed at the time said they considered texting or social media use while driving to be serious or very serious offences – comparable to driving without a license or running a red light. Another study by the University of Jyväskylä last year found that drivers often used social apps such as WhatsApp and Tinder on the road, even on busy city streets. "No good reason for change" Senior transport adviser Kimmo Kiiski led a transport and communications ministry team working on the legal reforms. He said that the new regulations governing the use of communications devices are not especially problematic. "This is not about traffic safety if the car isn’t moving. People are still not allowed to use devices so that they affect their attentiveness or disrupt the smooth flow of traffic," he noted. MPs also did not see a problem with the legal changes when the reforms were being considered in parliament. Instead, they approved the planned reforms as they were proposed in summer 2018. However the road safety council has opposed the change. Managing director Anna-Liisa Tarviainen said that section of the legislation should not have been amended. "I don’t see any good or justifiable reason for the change. There are all kinds of pedestrians at traffic lights and mobile phones provide unnecessary distractions," she argued. According to Tarviainen police will have to assess what constitutes disruptive use depending on the situation in question. The council’s report noted that mobile phone use slows drivers’ reaction time by half a second. Meanwhile ministry adviser Kiiski pointed to the number of electronic devices and systems currently available in modern vehicles. He noted that the law no longer specifically mentions phones but talks about communications devices in a general way. "The rapid digitalisation and automation of vehicles make it difficult to set legal limits about which devices should be allowed and which should not. All actions affect concentration while driving. We cannot prohibit everything," he added. According to Kiiski, inattentiveness is a major problem for all road users, not just drivers, but also pedestrians and cyclists. He added that the new regulations also anticipate the future, since cars are becoming more modern and electronic equipment is proliferating and becoming more sophisticated. A threat to traffic flow? Oulu traffic police head Pasi Rissanen said that he was surprised when he first heard of the legal reform. He said that apart from traffic accidents, he is worried about how the change would affect traffic flows in urban areas. He noted that dividing attention between a phone and the road could affect concentration in traffic. "It remains to be seen whether there’ll be more delays at traffic lights. Then nowhere near the number of vehicles will necessarily get through intersections as what traffic planners aimed for," he pointed out. Rissanen said that in future police will have to check for phone use in cases when drivers don’t respond to traffic lights because they are on the phone. "The use of smart devices has exacerbated the situation in traffic. There has been a marked increase in texting day-to-day," he noted. Tarviainen said she also has concerns about the smooth flow of traffic. "How many social media users will drop their phones when the lights change at intersections and move on smartly?" Esko Kurkinen, a driving instructor from Kajaani in eastern Finland, pointed out that even if drivers use devices at stop lights, they will be distracted by their phones even before they come to a stop and afterwards as well. Kurkinen said that in his driving classes he teaches students to always mute their phones while driving. He added that even in a training situation it possible to see how drivers lose focus when phones can be heard. "People get the feeling that they must answer the phone, even if it’s not such an important message or call," he concluded.

Fri, 15 Nov 2019 17:46:54 +0200


Churches cancel concerts over ex-tango star's child sexual abuse charges

The popular entertainer was convicted on narcotics charges last year.

Two churches have announced the cancellation of proposed concerts by former tango star Jari Sillanpää over child sexual abuse charges. On Friday, best-selling Finnish solo artistSillanpää was charged with child sex abuse and disseminating indecent images of children. The suspected abuse is believed to have taken place in August 2017, while the distribution of the indecent material was alleged to have occurred in September 2017. The offences were alleged to have taken place in Helsinki. On Friday, the Jyväskylä parish of the Lutheran Evangelical Church announced that a concert scheduled for 4 December at the Taulumäki church had been called off. "As soon as we received the information we began to think of the next steps. We don't want to assume the role of a judge, but these are very serious charges. After due consideration we decided that we would not have the concert," Jyväskylä vicar Arto Viitala said. He added that other parishes were considering pulling Sillanpää concerts from their Christmas calendars. "It's not certain but it's in the air," Viitala continued. Another event due to take place at the Ristinkirkko church in Lahti was also cancelled. "You cannot come to sing in a church with these kinds of allegations," Keski-Lahti vicar Miika Hämäläinen commented. Allegations surfaced last August Yle first reported on the suspicions of child sexual abuse involving the solo artist in August 2018. Prosecutor Nina Keskinen told Yle that the charges filed are related to the previously reported case. However the charge sheet outlines a more serious offence than originally considered. According to previous reports, Sillanpää was suspected of being in possession of indecent images. However current charges involve alleged child sexual abuse as well as disseminating indecent photo material. The case will be heard in the Helsinki district court at the end of February next year. According to the prosecutor, the charges are not related to any other larger cluster of cases. "It [the case] will likely be heard behind closed doors and the documents will be sealed," Keskinen said. Singer denies charges In late summer last year, Sillanpää took to Facebook to say that police had questioned him because devices seized at his home suggested that he was in possession of illegal material. At the time, he said that officers had been able to retrieve from his computer images and videos that he denied having ever seen. Sillanpää then added that anyone attending the same parties he had participated in could have used his computer. "I have not had in my possession any offensive material about children," he wrote. The singer’s lawyer Riitta Leppiniemi told news agency STT that her client denied both charges. She added that the child sexual abuse charges relate to suspicions not linked to physical contact. "The charges do not contend that Sillanpää had physical contact or physical intercourse with a minor. According to the charge, it [the alleged offence] was about something besides physical contact," Leppiniemi told the agency. "I can say that Sillanpää denies the charges. Whether or not the act that the prosecutor is alleging meets the criteria for abuse, will be determined in court," she continued. Child sexual abuse may also be suspected in cases that do not involve touching or sexual contact. For example, sexual messages with someone who is 16 or younger can meet the criterion. Prosecutor Nina Keskinen told STT that Sillanpää’s charges relate to one victim. "I can also confirm that the charge has to do with something other than physical contact," she commented. Autumn concerts planned The charges have cast a shadow over the fate of other concerts the entertainer has planned this autumn. His calendar includes church concerts in locations such as Fuengirola in Spain as well as Vihti and Helsinki in Finland. Sillanpää’s concert producer told daily Helsingin Sanomat that a concert scheduled for Saturday in Joensuu as well as the autumn tour will take place as scheduled. In August last year the Helsinki district court convicted Sillanpää on two narcotics charges and sentenced him to a 10-month suspended prison sentence. The court ruled that the singer had acquired 108 grams of amphetamine and that he had brought another half-gram of methamphetamine to Finland from Thailand. Sillanpää admitted to using drugs himself and to giving them to his friends for free.

Fri, 15 Nov 2019 16:50:00 +0200


Steep rise in hard-to-fill job openings

This year more than 32,000 jobs, or two-thirds of vacancies, are considered difficult to fill.

Employers in Finland say some jobs remain difficult to fill despite improved employment levels. As in recent years, the sectors with the biggest numbers of open positions were retail, transport and storage, accommodation and food services, says Minna Wallenius, a senior actuary at Statistics Finland. The biggest declines in vacancies were in manufacturing and other heavy industry as well as mining and quarrying. In late summer and early autumn, there were 48,500 vacancies, about 1,500 more than a year earlier, according to the central statistics office. More than 32,000 of these, or just over two-thirds, were classed by employers as being difficult to fill – but researchers don't know of any clear single reason for this. That number was up by more than 5,000 compared to July-September 2018. Its share rose by 10 percentage points, from 57 percent in the third quarter of last year. Construction, wholesale and retail were the sectors with the largest volume of hard-to-fill vacancies. The proportion of jobs considered tough to fill was the highest since the statistics office began tracking this metric in 2013. No clear reason Before the current 67 percent level, the highest ever rate was 60 percent, says Wallenius. "That share has risen in the past few years, while as the overall number of open positions has also grown," she tells Yle. Wallenius said there is no clear reason why so many positions are now difficult to fill. The figures are based on a survey of employers at some 2,500 workplaces around Finland. "We don't ask employers exactly what kinds of difficulties they're having, or what they see as the reasons – whether it's because they haven't received applications, whether the applicants' know-how has not met their expectations, or whether it's related to other issues," she says. Municipal openings double The number of recruitment ads posted by municipalities almost doubled to 6,000. The number of unfilled spots rose in Uusimaa, which includes the capital region, but dipped elsewhere in southern and western Finland. There was a slight increase in eastern and northern areas. In the third quarter of this year, more than eight out of 10 job vacancies were at private companies, up slightly from a year earlier. Meanwhile the number of unfilled jobs declined at small workplaces with less than 10 employees but rose at larger ones. Nearly a quarter of open jobs were fixed-term positions, about the same as last year, while 18 percent were part-time jobs.

Fri, 15 Nov 2019 15:30:00 +0200


Kamppi shooting suspect faces three counts of attempted murder

The case will go to trial at the end of November.

Prosecutors have charged a 32-year-old man in connection with a shooting incident in Helsinki's Kamppi district in July. In addition to three counts of attempted murder, the defendant is also facing traffic endangerment charges, a firearms offense and a violation for possessing a dangerous object. The suspect has been held in police custody since the incident last summer, which occurred at the intersection of Hietalahdenkatu and Porkkalankatu. Police have said that the Kosovar-background suspect and victims knew each other, although authorities have not released further details on the shooter’s motive. Prosecutors said the defendant’s actions showed premeditation. He fired several shots, targeting three people. The case is unusual in Finland as public acts of violence are relatively rare. Information obtained by Yle showed that the Vantaa-based defendant managed a construction company that turned over a million euros last year. The defendant has no previous criminal history. Police earlier reported that the defendant was battered in the capital region on three different occasions ahead of the shooting incident. The court will handle these battery charges brought by the defendant as part of the case. The case will go to trial at the end of November.

Fri, 15 Nov 2019 14:26:00 +0200


Friday’s papers: Cannabis legalisation, Finland's cheapest groceries and the end of tax mail

High and low earners favour cannabis decriminalisation, grocer price competition and the carbon cost of mail.

Last week Minister for Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen came out in favour of decriminalising cannabis use, but agricultural newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus reports that 60 percent of Finns do not support decriminalisation, citing a poll by Kantar TNS Agri that surveyed over 1,000 residents. Rural dwellers took a stricter line on cannabis than urban residents. In the capital region a third would be open to legalisation. Middle-class earners were the least in favour of decriminalisation, whereas people on the polar ends of the wage spectrum want to make cannabis legal. Overall, men took a more favourable view of decriminalisation than women. Competition in Finland's grocery market German discount supermarket Lidl remains Finland’s cheapest grocer, finds a triannual survey commissioned by business daily Kauppalehti. In September pollster Analyse2 examined the prices of 46 brand-name goods across 56 stores belonging to six chains in the country. It was most expensive to shop at K-market, where a basket of popular items averaged 90.69 euros, as compared to 72.55 euros at no-frills Lidl, which carried the lowest prices among stores surveyed. The study, however, found that Lidl’s low-cost advantage is narrowing, with Prisma outlets becoming very close competitors to Lidl. The Finnish Grocery Trade Association reports that food prices rose 1.6 percent between January and September compared to the same period in 2018. No more tax mail Amid the national postal strike, Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet reports that state agencies want to stop sending hard mail altogether. HBL reports that letters sent by Finland’s tax administration resulted in 1,500 tons of CO2 emissions last year. Going digital would also save the taxpayer 15 million euros annually, according to the tax office. To minimise the paper load, the tax administration and the Population Register Centre have launched a campaign to encourage people to use the messaging function in the suomi.fi web portal, a platform covering some 250 state agencies.

Fri, 15 Nov 2019 09:48:48 +0200


Why no fast north-south trains?

Passenger traffic between Oulu and Helsinki has shot up, but the focus is still on rail services in the south.

The fastest passenger rail connection between Oulu and Helsinki takes 5 hours and 24 minutes, too long for many travelers. As a consequence, air links between the two cities are the most heavily traveled in the country, with more than a million passengers annually. Even though the journey is not fast, north-south travel by train is showing a sharp upward trend. In October of this year, the number of passengers was 43 percent higher than during the same month of 2018. That is the biggest increase on any rail route. Not only do more than 1.1 million people travel by rail between the two cities annually, there is a large volume of freight traffic on rail lines in and out of Oulu. Residents of Oulu, as well as local business and industry, have pushed for faster connections to Tampere and Helsinki for years. It is hoped that improved connections could trim travel time to Tampere down to three hours and to Helsinki down to four. A four hour city-centre to city-centre connection between Oulu and Helsinki would be a solid alternative time-wise to air travel. In addition, it would help cut the nation's fossil fuel emissions. Sweden on the wish list, too According to Juho Hannukainen, the planning director for the state railways VR, bringing travel time between Oulu and Helsinki down to under 5 hours is not possible on the present tracks. "Cutting a half-hour from travel time would require rather large increased investment in straightening out some sections of track," says Hannukainen. It has been estimated that the rail improvements needed to increase speeds on the route between Oulu and Tampere would cost 1.1 to 1.2 billion euros. There have also long been calls to start regular passenger traffic between Oulu and the Swedish city of Luleå. The problem is a stretch of track from about 100 km north of Oulu to Tornio on the Finnish-Sweden border is not electrified. The electrification of this section of track is contained in the programme of the present coalition government, but so far no decision on the project has yet been made. Funds from privatisation? Proponents of northern rail improvements were disappointed by the lack of project funds in the government's latest state budget. "There is talk of this being a climate government, of climate change, carbon-neutral transport, and yet there is no fast action on northern rail projects," says Janne Heikkinen, opposition National Coalition Party MP from Oulu. Story continues after photo. The state railways VR will be increasing the number of daily departures on the route between Oulu and Helsinki in December.Paulus Markkula / Yle Heikkinen believes that the money needed for these projects could be taken from funds from the privatisation of state assets. "Since the government is selling three billion euros worth of state assets, a large share of that should be used for transport projects," he argues. Jenni Pitko, a Green League MP from Oulu, filed a formal written question to the government about the absence of funding for northern rail line improvements. She believes that the importance of these projects is not understood down south. The focus has been on cutting rail travel time between Helsinki and Turku to one hour, even though passenger volume between Oulu and Helsinki is nearly the same. "The one-hour trains have taken over the narrative. A lot has been invested in lobbying, and the money has spoken," says Pitko. In her reply to Pitko's question, Minister for Transport and Communications Sanna Marin stated that the need for main track development is a part of a 12-year transportation system plan that Finland is just starting to formulate. Pitko was not satisfied with the answer, as she hoped for some concrete pledge for the financing of planning work. Left Alliance MP Merja Kyllönen, who is also a former minister of transport, notes that decision makers in Turku and Tampere have been under a lot of pressure to get rail projects serving those cities moving ahead. She adds that any "leftover" funding tends to go to the home districts of government ministers. The Kainuu region would also be keen on seeing faster trains on north-south routes in hope of, for example, a 5-hour rail connection between Kajaani and Helsinki. Finland should be in a hurry to implement its new 12-year transport system planning process, if it wants to be able to tap into EU rail project funding. The next funding period covers the years 2021–2027 and could cover 15-30 percent of rail project costs. However, according to Kyllönen, Finland itself must quickly decide what it wants to use the money for.

Thu, 14 Nov 2019 20:02:00 +0200


Kamara tight-lipped on future as Premier League clubs circle

Rangers star Glen Kamara tells Yle News he is focused on Finland as speculation about his future gathers steam in Scotland.

As Finland prepare to meet Liechtenstein and potentially qualify for their first major tournament in 80 years, midfielder Glen Kamara was his usual cool, calm and collected self. With Friday night’s match possibly the biggest in Finnish football history, he told Yle News he no longer gets nervous when he joins up with the national team. "When I was younger yeah but not any more," Kamara said. "I wouldn’t say I’m an old veteran but I kind of got used to it. I feel fine, I’m just excited for the game as usual. I feel like we can just go out there and do what we can do, and do our best, and hopefully we can go and get a result." Kamara grew up in Finland before moving to London as a teenager. His current success has helped him reconnect with some old friends. "I’ve got a few childhood friends coming to see the game tomorrow who I haven’t seen in years upon years, so that’s going to be exciting," the young midfielder said. "Everyone’s been really good, supportive, messaging me and that." Happy, for now At the Finnish team’s waterfront hotel in Helsinki, Kamara was happy to ponder the impact of uprooting again when he moved from Arsenal to Dundee in 2017. "Going up to Scotland’s been good for me, for my career," Kamara said. "You have everything there, nutrition, the coaches, you’ve got your team-mates, better players who make you better yourself, so it’s been great." In January Kamara moved on to Glasgow giants Rangers, and has excelled again in his new environment. There has been speculation linking him with a move back down south, but Kamara declared that nothing would distract him from the task at hand--beating Liechtenstein. "You know what, I’m a Rangers player until told otherwise, I have no relevance to anything else so I’m focused on Rangers and Finland at the moment," the diminutive midfield dynamo hedged. Once Liechtenstein are out of the way he can make plans for next summer--and maybe after that as well.

Thu, 14 Nov 2019 18:29:54 +0200


How high can the Huuhkajat fly?

Finland is on the verge of a footballing celebration, and this week's All Points North joined in the fun.

Finland's male footballers are set to qualify for their first-ever major tournament, with only Liechtenstein standing in the way of a historic progression to the final stages of the European Championships. It's almost a foregone conclusion. Teemu Pukki discarded the usual Finnish reserve on Monday and promised a victory, so APN skipped on to consider the implications of a market-square based national celebration that is, for once, focused on football. "It’s going to give a little bit more popularity," said Elmo Lehti features editor Topias Kauhala on this week's podcast. "People will be more interested in football. We are one of only two European countries where football is not the number one sport--Lithuania and basketball being the obvious second country." "It’s not only ice hockey, it can be basketball when they’re doing well or it can be volleyball when they’re in a major tournament with the national team and it could be about skiing and track and field," said Kauhala. Why now? There have been famous Finland teams before. In the early 2000s a team including Jari Litmanen and Sami Hyypiä came close to getting to a major tournament but always failed at the final hurdle. Kauhala says that’s probably down to the tactical and organisational level of the national team at the time. "That was probably the main reason why they as a generation under-performed," said Kauhala. "They actually did really well towards the end of this golden generation period, the qualification for the 2008 euros under Roy Hodgson." The current team can be viewed as building on the foundation laid by Hodgson in terms of professionalism and tactical sophistication around the national team. "You could see what the potential could have been, they were left behind by Portugal which is not really a bad result. You can kind of see it in the tactics and the mentality, the continuity from what was then with Hodgson and what we have now with [current Finland coach] Markku Kanerva." Fortune favours the Huuhkajat Finland have been a little bit lucky along the way, according to Kauhala. Their group includes Greece, Bosnia, Armenia and Liechtenstein, alongside table-toppers Italy. The other sides have under-performed while the tight-knit Finnish squad has outperformed expectations. "At the national team level the level is not that high so they meet up every now and then and train a couple of days, so you don’t have the possibility to work on certain things, but Finland is actually maximizing that time," said Kauhala. "So it helps that you’re playing against a team like Greece, they’ve changed their coaches every now and then and Bosnia have not gotten the most out of that group of players so definitely there was some luck that Finland ended up playing in a group that was quite good for them." "In a different group it could have been a completely different story, even if the basic level had been the same but the results could have been different." Internationalisation process This team differs from its predecessors in that many of its key players moved abroad at a young age. Kauhala believes that's a crucial part of the squad's transition to one capable of mixing it with Europe's elite. Historically Finnish players have stayed in Finland for longer, with the bad pitches, short season, low salaries and less professional set-up that has been common in Veikkausliiga. That domestic league has improved in recent years, but players have also utilised their right to freedom of movement under the EU treaties--and that's helped them improve. "There are about 6 or 7 players in this national team who left before the age of 18 and quite a lot more who left before the age of 20," noted Kauhala. "So you can see that, if you look at them as footballers of course they are Finnish but if you look at their professionalism there is a kind of mix of their Finnish background and stuff that they’ve learnt playing all around Europe." Join the conversation If you have any questions or comments or would like to participate in the discussion, just contact us via WhatsApp on +358 44 421 0909, on our Facebook or Twitter accounts, 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 show was presented by Egan Richardson and our reporter and producer was Denise Wall. Our audio engineer was Joonatan Kotila.

Thu, 14 Nov 2019 17:11:41 +0200


Ombudsman receives complaint over Nazi sign above town bar

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman has informed the owner the sign could be considered unlawful harassment.

A member of the Jewish community complained to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman on Thursday over a Nazi sign that was found installed above the doorway of a small-town bar. Juha Koskinen, the owner of a military-themed pub in Kärkölä, Southern Finland installed a metallic sign with the German inscription "Arbeit macht frei" above the entrance to his bar. The German phrase, meaning "work makes you free", was written on the gates to the Auschwitz concentration camp. On Tuesday the Auschwitz Museum wrote on Twitter that "Arbeit macht frei was a false, cynical illusion the SS gave to prisoners of the #Auschwitz camp. Those words became one of the icons of human hatred. It's painful to see the symbol misused this way." The person behind the complaint held the text to be ethnic agitation against Jews and demanded the Ombudsman take decisive action. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman's office contacted Koskinen and informed him that the sign is considered to be a clear case of harassment under the Non-Discrimination Act. Koskinen said on Wednesday that he put up the sign "for fun" and had no ideological motive for the stunt. He also said he knew there would be backlash. "I'm no Nazi. The sign stays for now. Maybe I'll change it later to a sign about rehabilitative work programmes," Koskinen responded. His sarcastic reference is to the Finnish government's so-called activation model. There is no word yet on when the sign is likely to be removed. More than one million Jews and other minorities were murdered at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in the 1940s.

Thu, 14 Nov 2019 16:39:46 +0200


First official step in Sámi reconciliation commission

An independent five-person commission will be chosen to investigate claims of oppression of the Sámi people.

After years of negotiations and planning in the Sámi Parliament, the Finnish government has agreed to the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for Sámi peoples in Finland. When formed, the independent five-member commission will closely investigate the historical background of what the indigenous inhabitants of Lapland consider the decades-long oppression of the Sámi peoples at the hands of the Finnish government. On Wednesday the government held an evening meeting to discuss the mandate prepared for the coming commission. The government concluded that the designation process for the commission could now begin. The Finnish government has prepared the commission's mandate throughout 2019 together with the Sámi Parliament and the Skolt Sámi village meetings. The TRC designation and strategy process will begin once the mandate has been reviewed by both Sámi assemblies in December, the government announced. Years of work pay off Sámi Parliament chair Tiina Sanila-Aikio said she considers the government's decision to be a significant step in the formation of the commission, after waiting a long time for a concrete response. Story continues after photo. Sámi Parliament chair Tiina Sanila-Aikio said the final report is years away.Vesa Toppari / Yle "We started work on the commission almost four years ago, when the formation of the TRC was first logged in our Parliament's strategy," said Sanila-Aikio. "After many hearings and meetings, this is the first official step." Skolt Sámi representative Veikko Feodoroff echoed the sentiment. "This is an important issue. We've worked very hard to get the commission off the ground in Finland." After government adjourned on Wednesday Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo went on social media to say she was pleased that the TRC process has taken a step forward. She said that Finland must take responsibility for the wrongs of the past. Story continues after photo. Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo said the Sámi Parliament's work has been "invaluable".Laura Kotila/valtioneuvoston kanslia "Sámi people have had a weak status in Finland in many ways. The government has not respected Sámi land rights, and Sámi people were forced to integrate into Finnish culture all the way up to the 1970s. Finland has been scorned by international groups concerning its treatment of the Sámi, even in recent years," Ohisalo said. The goal of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is to investigate the extent of the Finnish government's responsibility in committing historical atrocities, and to find a way to reconcile those wrongs by dealing with the facts of the past. "The Sámi Parliament and many Sámi activists have had to work very hard to make this commission a reality. Their work has been invaluable." Psychological support an ethical prerequisite The Finnish government held a total of 29 TRC hearings across the Sámi region and in various Finnish cities in 2018. A total of 300 Sámi people took part in these talks in person or via email, representing some 2.5 percent of Finland's Sámi minority. Sanila-Aikio said that the commission's work will take years before completion. "It's hard to know in advance how long the proper hearings and interviews will last. The commission must gather all relevant information and listen to Sámi people's experiences. We also need to scrutinise the part that the government and the authorities have played in Sámi history. It will be a couple of years at least until we have a final report," Sanila-Aikio said. The TRC will likely deal with sensitive issues and traumatic experiences among Europe's northernmost indigenous peoples. That is why organising a psychological and social support structure has been one of the conditions of the commission's founding. "We do not have culturally sensitive Sámi-language mental health services in Finland. The experts we have spoken to have strongly emphasised that psycho-social support must be guaranteed for the process to be ethical," Sanila-Aikio said.

Thu, 14 Nov 2019 14:40:00 +0200


Court rules Finland violated human rights of murdered asylum seeker

The decision is the first time Finland has been found in breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Finland has been found guilty of violating Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of Ali, an Iraqi man who was denied asylum in 2017, deported to Iraq and killed a few weeks later. The Finnish authorities repatriated Ali even though he had produced evidence he had been the target of assassination attempts in his home country before fleeing to Finland. For this reason, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Finland violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to life. This decision marks the first time Finland has been found guilty of breaching Article 2. The court also found that Finland had violated Article 3, which prohibits torture and inhumane treatment. Story continues after photo. According to Ali's death certificate, he was killed in Iraq on December 17, 2017, of three gunshot wounds to the head and body. His personal details have been hidden in order to protect the identity of relatives. Lähde: kuolintodistuksen toimittivat Ylelle Alin lähiomaiset The complaint to the court was made by Ali's daughter Noor, who also received a negative asylum decision from Finland in 2016. Finland's Immigration Service, Migri, justified the decision to return Noor to Iraq on the grounds that both her mother and father would form a safety net for Noor and her daughters in their native country. The court ordered Finland to pay 20,000 euros to Noor in compensation for the treatment of her father.

Thu, 14 Nov 2019 13:15:56 +0200


Thursday's papers: Unused paternity leave, dashboard cams, and jobs go begging in Lapland

Finnish dads could take more leave, police say dashboard cams are OK, and Lapland needs more workers.

Looking at a newly released study, Helsingin Sanomat reports Finnish fathers on average take only 11 percent of the paid paternity leave they are entitled to after the birth of a child. While the figure is close to the same in Denmark, in Norway it is around 20 percent and in Sweden and Iceland nearly 30 percent. The paper notes that according to Finland's social insurance institution Kela some 70 percent of Finnish fathers do take time off right after the birth of a child, but fewer than half take advantage of full benefits. Around a quarter don't take paternity leave at all. While noting that attitudes have changed, making it more acceptable for fathers to take a break from their careers to look after their children, HS says that we are still far from an equal division of child care between men and women. This new study shows that women in all the Nordic countries still spend more time at home and more time with their children than do men. The study claims that the determining factor in how much paternity leave is taken does not depend so much on personal choice or the employer's attitude, but more on social policy. The more weeks of childcare leave that are specifically reserved for fathers, not split between parents, the more time they take off. In Finland, where paternity leave levels are low, nine weeks of leave are available specifically for fathers and a further 26 can be taken by either parent. In contrast, in Sweden both the father and mother can each take their own 13 weeks off work and then divide up a further 43 as they see fit. The study, carried out by the Nordic Council of Ministers, indicates that fathers who take longer paternity leaves are on average happier with their relationships with both their partners and their children, and more satisfied with life in general. Postal strike and "scab labour" Several papers, including Tampere's Aamulehti, report that the government's minister in charge of state ownership steering, Sirpa Paatero, has issued a demand for the Posti postal services company to put an end to the use of temporary agency-supplied personnel for the duration of the ongoing postal workers' strike. In a statement to the STT news agency, Paatero said that state-owned companies, under no circumstances, should use what she described as "scab labour". "The position of the state as an owner is extremely clear. For this reason I have instructed Posti management, in order to avoid any ambiguity and to promote a settlement, to end the use of temporary workers for the duration of the strike," she said. Paatero added that she will have talks with Posti directors on Thursday about how her demand is to be met. Since the start of labour action on Monday, Posti has replaced some striking employees by contracting temporary workers from employment agencies. Dashboard cam caveat The Oulu-based Kaleva writes that increasing numbers of dashboard-mounted digital cameras are to be found in cars here in Finland. "Dashboard cameras have clearly become more common in vehicles, and the police have nothing against this, if they are used correctly," Oulu police inspector Pasi Rissanen told the paper. "They can be a help in determining what has happened during an accident, as generally the parties to an accident have very different views of what happened." According to Rissanen, nowadays when investigating accidents police patrols always check to see if any of the vehicles involved have dashboard cameras. However, he noted that it is not yet common that a party to an accident immediately offers up a video recording. However there are some legal issues that need to be considered regarding these devices. Posting recordings online may, in some cases, violate privacy laws. "Here we move from traffic laws to a different type of legislation. One should consider if it offends someone or alleges guilt. Also, defamation laws may come into play in such cases," says Inspector Rissanen. Workers for Lapland Rovaniemi's Lapin Kansa writes that the region of Finnish Lapland is likely to soon see the creation of thousands of new jobs, but it asks the question, where new workers will be found to take up these jobs. The paper points to the likely opening of two new mines and two new wood processing plants in Lapland within the next few years. According to Lapin Kansa, the impact of these projects will be dramatically positive for the region's economy, creating perhaps more than 3,000 new jobs and pushing up employment by 5 percent. This could boost the population by 3 percent, bringing more people to live in Lapland than move away. Regional services should improve. Regional and local governments should take in more tax revenues. The paper admits that "the big bears have yet to be shot", meaning that none of projects are 100 percent certain, but they all look very likely. The problem is that even as early as during the construction phase, these projects will need thousands of workers who are not to be found in Lapland. Additionally, some of the mining operations will be in remote areas, far from anywhere, and it will be hard to recruit professionals, especially those with families. Lapin Kansa concludes that the search for workers will have to be extended abroad, which the paper says will not be easy since competition globally for skilled professionals is fierce. This has already become evident in Lapland's tourism sector, another field with bright prospects for further growth.

Thu, 14 Nov 2019 09:50:22 +0200


Average low-wage worker left with just €300 after bare essentials

Research shows that housing and everyday expenses swallow up more than 1,000 euros monthly.

Many low wage workers in Finland struggle to make ends meet after forking out money every month for mandatory expenses such as rent, utilities, food and insurance. An Yle analysis of average earnings among the country’s lowest-paid professions found that single workers under the age of 45 are left with on average just 300 euros a month after setting aside money for housing and daily expenses. Average living expenses around 1.1K Yle compiled a list of some of the lowest-paid professions in municipal, state and private sectors, as well as their take-home pay, average monthly housing and daily expenses and average cash-in hand sums. Data from the national number crunchers at Statistics Finland indicate that last year, average monthly before-tax earnings by municipal workshop employees were 1,727 euros. The wages used in the analysis represent net monthly earnings after taxes and other statutory payments. The analysis is based on taxes paid in Tampere, where municipal taxes (19.75 percent) are close to the national average (19.88 percent). The calculations also include deductibles such as union membership dues and church fees. Housing and daily expenses are based on 2018 figures from Helsinki University’s Centre for Consumer Society Research. The centre has calculated that a reference budget for a single low-income earner under the age of 45 is about 1,150 euros. The sum includes rent, food, phone and internet bills, clothing, healthcare fees, electricity and insurance. It does not include the cost of transportation. Travel costs extra Low wage earners living in a municipality where taxes are around the national average, are therefore left to manage with about 300 euros a month after paying their most important bills. However if they live in areas with higher municipal taxes such as Haapajärvi in Oulu, they’ll likely be left with around 270 euros monthly for discretionary spending. The average low income earner will still have to spend from the remaining cash to pay to commute to and from work. For taxation purposes, employees must cover part of that cost themselves, while they can claim the rest in annual tax returns. Currently workers must cover 750 euros (62.50 monthly) annually out of pocket and can only claim amounts in excess of that on their income tax return forms. This means that the average single low wage earner is left with around 240 euros in hand. The table below shows average net monthly earnings for selected low-pay municipal, public and private sector jobs based on 2018 figures, as well as living expenses and cash left after footing essential bills.

Wed, 13 Nov 2019 18:45:00 +0200


Politicians clash over school celebrations in churches

A deputy ombudsman's policy position argues that school events should be inclusive, which makes churches problematic.

Politicians in Finland are divided over a new policy position from deputy parliamentary ombudsman Pasi Pölönen that states that school celebrations to mark Christmas or the end of the academic year should not be held in churches. Finnish schools remain closely linked to the two national religions: the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Finnish Orthodox Church, and it is not uncommon for school events to be arranged on their premises. The deputy parliamentary ombudsman, who is charged with ensuring that state officials observe the law, said in the policy position that school celebrations should be inclusive, and therefore arranged in a way that all of the pupils can participate, regardless of their beliefs. Churches convey religious messages The ombudsman also reasoned that holding school functions in churches is problematic because the buildings are intended for religious services and therefore convey religious messages. His decision has been received with both criticism and praise in the Finnish Parliament. The Left Alliance and the Greens have commended Pölönen's recommendation, but representatives of the Centre, Finns and National Coalition parties (NCP) have denounced his position. NCP chair Petteri Orpo and Centre Party chair Katri Kulmuni were quick to comment, arguing that churches should remain an alternative venue for school events. Centre Party MP and constitutional law committee member Markus Lohi said that the deputy ombudsman's decision directly contradicted the committee's unanimous decision from 2014. He also noted that holding a school function in a church does not automatically make the event religious. NCP: Policy should be made clearer In a joint statement, NCP members of the parliamentary constitutional law committee Wille Rydman and Heikki Vestman said that Pölönen's decision is "at least in tension" with the committee's earlier interpretation. The conservative party MPs asked the committee to clarify the situation. In his blog, Rydman goes into greater detail about his take on the issue. The MP said that in his opinion, the deputy parliamentary ombudsman's decision seems to have been based more on the wording of the Basic Education Decree, and not on what the constitutional committee had ruled. "This is quite problematic, especially since the parliamentary constitutional law committee has its own stridently-worded recommendation. This was largely necessary because the position of the ombudsmen had diverged from the view of the committee. Now we find ourselves in the same situation," Rydman said. The deputy parliamentary ombudsman's policy position has also led to consternation among nationalist Finns Party parliamentarians. Committee expected to disagree The Finnish Parliament's constitutional law committee will likely have to take a position on the deputy ombudsman's position in the near future. The last time the committee presented its interpretation of the matter dates back to 2014, in connection with the Chancellor of Justice's report from that year. The Chancellor of Justice's annual report from 2018 is still on the committee's desk, awaiting consideration, as budget negotiations pushed it off the agenda. There has been no time to hear any expert testimony on the report either. The constitutional law committee has not yet discussed the new school celebration guidelines from the deputy ombudsman, but consideration of the 2018 report might provide a good opportunity to do so. The committee's report on the ombudsman office's annual report was completed in October, before the new policy position from deputy Pölönen was released. MPs will debate the 2018 ombudsman report on Wednesday evening in parliament, and the school celebration venue issue is expected to come up in debate.

Wed, 13 Nov 2019 16:51:01 +0200


Not everything is cheaper in Tallinn: Which products cost less in Helsinki?

Shopping is not always cheaper in Estonia than Finland.

Estonia has long been a destination for Finns in search of a bargain, but new analysis from the Estonian Institute for Economic research shows that some products are now actually cheaper to acquire in Helsinki than Tallinn. The figures show that it’s not worth crossing the Gulf of Finland to buy disposable nappies, vitamin D supplements, coffee, tea or chocolate. Ordinary painkillers are also slightly dearer in Tallinn. Nappies are 30 percent cheaper, with a 68-pack of Pampers coming to 9.28 euros in Helsinki and 13.32 euros in Tallinn during the week the comparison was made. Story continues after graphic Petteri Juuti / Yle The majority of purchases made during the comparison, however, were cheaper in Tallinn. Government policy has also had an impact on that. "The government reduced alcohol taxes in July," said Marje Josing of the institute. "That showed in prices straight away. Especially in the price of beer." Alcohol has historically been the number one attraction for Finns heading south, with some specialist Finnish websites closely following price movements at Tallinn’s large alcohol retailers. Finnish breweries have even demanded tax changes to mitigate the moves made by Estonia’s government. Story continues after graphic Petteri Juuti / Yle Alcohol is not, however, where the biggest savings can be made. Coca-Cola, carrots, chicken and public transport are all much cheaper in Estonia’s capital. For example one kilogram of carrots in Tallinn costs 54 cents, whereas in Helsinki the orange root vegetable would set you back 1.38 euros per kilogram. Cheaper labour reduces prices Estonian prices have in recent years risen closer to Finnish levels, but there is still a hefty gap. The country’s retail prices are around 80 percent of the regional average, whereas Finland’s prices are on average 122 percent of the European average. The differences are felt pretty keenly in services as well as retail products. Lower wages in Estonia mean that services are cheaper to provide, and the price for customers is lower. The biggest differences are to be found in dentistry, but also hairdressing, taxi trips, eating out and nights in hotels are cheaper in Estonia. The Institute compares prices in Helsinki and Tallinn every quarter. The comparison includes products and services that are available in both countries. Discount campaigns are also included, if they apply during the week comparison purchases are made. It’s only cheap to those on Finnish wages Prices might be cheap, but only to those on Finnish wages. If prices are compared to salaries, many numbers in Estonia are much bigger. For example if someone earning an Finnish average salary of around 3,400 euros paid as much for petrol as someone on the Estonian average wage, they would be shelling out 3.40 euros per litre. A 500 gram pack of coffee would come to 12 euros and a 200-gram bar of chocolate would be seven euros. A night in a hotel, meanwhile, would come to a whopping 330 euros.

Wed, 13 Nov 2019 15:30:00 +0200


Safety watchdog flags toxic substances in tattoo, makeup pigments

Eight of the pigments tested contained carcinogenic substances and chemicals that could affect fertility.

Products containing hazardous substancesIntenze The Alex De Pase Series, Magenta (LOT SS265)Arte Stylo, Café (LOT 180624)BioTouch micropigments black (LOT 30845)Mastor permanent makeup dark pink M307 (mfg: 2016.03.12 exp: 2019.03.12)Dynamik BLK (LOT 12026230)Bloodline all purpose black (exp: 01/22)Color King BlackColor King Orange Tests of inks used in tattoos and permanent makeup revealed the presence of toxic chemicals that could cause cancer or affect fertility, the safety and chemicals agency Tukes said in a press release on Wednesday. The agency said that it analysed a total of 20 pigments sourced from Finnish suppliers, an online store based in the EU and another from outside the EU. It found that a total of eight pigments contained aromatic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or heavy metals. Altogether six of the inks tested were used for permanent makeup, while 14 were typically used for tattoos. Tukes said that toxic substances are currently classified as hazardous to health and may cause cancer, genetic defects or reproductive health problems. Others were substances that could cause skin irritation or sensitivity. In eight of the products tested the concentration of the harmful substances exceeded EU limits for tattoo and permanent makeup pigments. The agency said that it contacted the companies that sold the pigments and requested that they withdraw products that were found to pose a potential health hazard. "Some of the substances used in tattoo inks were not originally intended to be used for injecting into the skin and their safety has not been tested to a great extent for such a purpose. Tests detected 4-methyl-m-phenylenediamine, benzo[a]pyrene, cadmium, lead and nickel, for example. Hazardous substances in tattoo inks may present a risk to human health. As research data is not sufficient, it is often not possible to set a safe concentration limit," Tukes senior officer Petteri Talasniemi said in the press statement. Tukes noted that there is not enough research data available on possible links between tattoo inks and cancer. "However we cannot rule out health risks that are caused by substances in inks that may cause cancer or be toxic for reproduction. The substances may increase cancer risk, be toxic for reproduction or they could be otherwise harmful," Talasniemi added. Tukes noted that the EU is currently drawing up new rules on tattoo and permanent makeup inks as there is no specific legislation governing their use. Meanwhile the European Chemicals Agency headquartered in Helsinki has proposed EU-wide regulations to cover chemicals used in these pigments. The agency said that it will continue to monitor tattoo inks.

Wed, 13 Nov 2019 13:57:52 +0200


Antibiotic use down by a third in last decade

Last year in Finland, doctors wrote out one million fewer antibiotics prescriptions than ten years prior.

Prescriptions for antibiotics in Finland have fallen by a third in the last 10 years, according to a study commissioned by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Researchers using figures from the social insurance institution Kela found that the number of antibiotic prescriptions fell by 29 percent between the years 2008 and 2018. This means one million fewer prescriptions were written last year than ten years prior. In 2008 health insurance companies reimbursed the cost of 3.2 million euro's worth of antibiotic prescriptions in Finland, while in 2018 this number fell to 2.3 million. The biggest drop, 60 percent, came in the area of antibiotics prescribed for children under the age of 4. For children between 5 and 17 years of age, antibiotic prescriptions were down by 43 percent. For people over 65, the reduction was considerably smaller, at 17 percent. One reason children's antibiotic use has fallen is likely the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine to the national vaccination programme. The pneumococcal vaccine can prevent pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis in some cases. Cracking down on unnecessary use There has been plenty of talk about the unnecessary and excessive use of antibiotics in the last few years. A general concern about increasing antibiotic resistance, when bacteria grow resistant to antibiotics, has also gained ground. According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health. Each year over 700,000 people die worldwide from antibiotic-resistant infectious diseases. The number is expected to grow if the rise in antibiotic-resistant superbacteria is not controlled somehow. Antibiotics are effective against bacterial infections, but have no effect on viral infections. Despite the fact that they have no effect on various viruses, they are still often prescribed to treat them. "To further reduce the use of antibiotics, it is crucial that physicians treat infectious diseases in accordance with treatment recommendations. We also need more specific diagnostics to ensure that the prescribed treatment is targeted to people in need," said emeritus professor of general medicine Pekka Honkanen in a Pfizer press release. Compared to the rest of Europe, Finland had the ninth lowest daily dose of antibiotics per thousand inhabitants in 2017, according to a report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The countries in the study with the lowest antibacterial consumption per capita were the Netherlands, Estonia and Sweden.

Wed, 13 Nov 2019 12:26:45 +0200


APN this week: Why are Finland suddenly good at football?

This week Teemu Pukki promised Finland are on their way to the European Championships.

Since the first World Cup in 1930 there have been 36 World Cups or European Championships. Finland’s male footballers have not played at a single one. That could all be about to change next summer, so long as they beat Liechtenstein on Friday night. The Alpine principality are relative minnows in footballing terms, some 126 places below Finland in the world rankings, but Finland are used to disappointments. In 1997 an unbelievable last minute Teuvo 'Tepi' Moilanen own goal against Hungary scuppered their bid for France 1998. In 2007 they went out with a whimper, drawing 0-0 in Portugal when only a win would do. Fans of the Eagle Owls (or Huuhkajat in Finnish) are used to disappointment. Even so, this week at the national team’s press first press conference of the international break, Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki is confident they will come through. "I can promise that we’ll take care of business," said Pukki, who has scored seven goals in eight games during these qualifiers. "For once. For once I dare to promise." Huuhkajat belief It’s a good thing too as Finland is finally starting to get very excited about its national team. In honour of the occasion Viasat will have a 12-hour buildup to the big match. Pukki’s club Norwich City, who are currently rock-bottom of the Premier League, have tried to capitalise on their star forward’s God-like status in Finland, opening a popup shop in a Helsinki mall and organising a watch party for those not lucky enough to get one of the 10,000 tickets to Töölö football stadium. They've even declared on social media that 'Norwich believes in the Huuhkajat' and sent several staff members over to Finland to build their fanbase and corporate relationships. There are big-screen events in Helsinki, Tampere, Turku and other municipalities across the country. Some of them are outdoor, which represents a big show of faith from organisers given the typical November weather forecast for Friday evening. 80 years of hurt So what happened? How did this Finland team come to the brink of ending 80 years of hurt? "That’s the fun point about this team," says Ilta-Sanomat football journalist Janne Oivio. "Essentially this is a worse version of the same team that did really badly from 2014-2017, without four of its biggest stars: Niklas Moisander, Perparim Hetemaj, Alex Ring and Roman Eremenko. And now they were amazing and they have qualified for the euros." Coach Markku "Rive" Kanerva is the man credited with the transformation, but Oivio says it’s been more evolution than 'Rivelution'. "There’s no big influx of young stars, no tactical revolution, it’s just all come together," says Oivio. "Kanerva deserves huge credit for coaxing the right mentality out of the players after years of losing." "It’s amazing. I don’t think international football is that hard. You don’t have that much time to prepare, you just instill the tactics and prepare the team. The big thing was when they realised 'hey, we’re not that bad'." On Friday they will probably reap the rewards of that realisation. Pukki promised, after all. We’ll be discussing the men’s national team with Janne Oivio in this week’s All Points North podcast. If you have a question or comment, let us know via WhatsApp on +358 44 421 0909, on our Facebook or Twitter accounts, or to yle.news@yle.fi.

Wed, 13 Nov 2019 10:43:15 +0200


Wednesday’s papers: Baghdad ambassador, working women, and a Nazi bar

Newspapers on Wednesday looked at foreign women working to help each other into working life in Finland, among other stories. 

When is it safe to travel somewhere? The best way to check is looking at a Foreign Ministry’s website, and in Finland that source has long advised against travel to Iraq. The ministry is set to ignore that advice now, reports Helsingin Sanomat, as it sends Vesa Häkkinen to be its first ambassador in Baghdad since 1991. The news comes as the country is swept by a wave of protests, and a bloody crackdown by the authorities, but Häkkinen is stoical about his task. The mission, says Häkkinen, is to help Finnish businesses export to Iraq and to assist in ensuring the country is stable in the years to come. There’s also a political mission, as then-Foreign Minister Timo Soini made clear a year ago when he announced that an ambassador would be stationed in Iraq. That’s to negotiate the deportation of Iraqis in Finland whose asylum claims have been rejected. HS says that last year more than 20,000 Iraqis received negative decisions on their asylum claims, and those people are for now in limbo. Finland wants to return them, but Iraq is refusing to accept forced deportations. Working women Kauppalehti covers a Facebook group founded by foreign women in Finland looking to advance their careers or even just find a job. The move was, according to founder Chiara Costa-Virtanen, a response to negative media coverage of highly-educated foreigners’ chances of getting appropriate work in Finland. Some 1,700 women have joined the closed group to exchange experiences and network. The group also holds ‘after work’ events that attract between 30-70 people each time. Costa-Virtanen says that networking is key, because ‘80 percent of job openings are hidden’, or not advertised. Group member Caroline Bondier moved to Finland from France 16 years ago, and now works in a senior position at lift-maker Kone. “It’s important that firms communicate clearly their desire to hire foreign-background workers,” Bondier tells KL. “Lots of them are interested, but maybe they don’t know how to do it. This group can help with that.” Nazi sign draws ire This week has seen a ‘military’ pub in the village of Lappila draw criticism from breweries and social media users after a story by local news site Seutu4 revealed the pub displays an ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign on its wall. The phrase, which translates as ‘work makes you free’, was displayed at the Auschwitz concentration camp as the Nazi machine conducted its genocidal business. On Tuesday the Auschwitz Museum weighed in via Twitter, stating that ‘"Arbeit macht frei" was a false, cynical illusion the SS gave to prisoners of the #Auschwitz camp. Those words became one of the icons of human hatred. It's painful to see the symbol misused this way. The pub also saw brewery Sinebrychoff had given owner Juha Koskinen an ultimatum to remove the sign. He refused and the brewery stopped beer deliveries this week, according to local paper Etelä-Suomen Sanomat. “Everyone thinks differently,” Koskinen told Iltalehti. “I haven’t had any negative feedback from customers.”

Wed, 13 Nov 2019 09:31:19 +0200


Three men accused of poaching wild animals, shooting 1,000 cats

The prosecutor said that the men shot at wild animals from a car and left some of them wounded.

On Tuesday a court in Ostrobothnia, western Finland began hearing the case of three young men suspected of aggravated hunting and conservation crimes. A preliminary investigation into the case alleged that the men shot at wild animals from a car and left some of them wounded. The prosecutor has called for suspended prison sentences of between six and 10 months for the suspects. Two of the men facing charges of aggravated hunting and conservation crimes are believed to have shot about 40 animals, mainly hares and roe deer. The conservation offence relates to the shooting of protected seagulls. At the time the offences were committed, one of the pair was 18 years old. According to the prosecutor, the third man was present when some of the animals were shot. He also faces charges relating to hunting crimes. The charge sheet also indicates that the men also shot as many as 1,000 cats. However the statute of limitations has expired in relation to some of those offences. The crimes were committed in Pietarsaari in 2016 and 2017. Defence: Men's actions not especially cruel The prosecutor told the court that the shootings generally took place at night. One of the men would drive the car and when an animal came into sight, another would blind it using the headlights and the other would shoot. They took some of the prey with them, but left most of the animals without checking to see what happened to them. During the investigation, they admitted to wounding some of the animals. Some of the shooting took place outside of the hunting season. "This is not hunting, it’s something else altogether," district prosecutor Marina Ek-Bäck told the court. However the defence said that the men were not involved in systematic hunting. Rather, they drove around at night and shot at hares or roe deer whenever they came across them. "Systematic hunting is when the animal is hunted down and shot. This was the thoughtless action of young men, you might call it an extremely stupid impulse," said defence lawyer Anne Mäkelä, adding that her two clients took responsibility for their actions. Mäkelä claimed that the men’s deeds did not constitute aggravated offences: their actions were not especially callous, cruel or planned. They were not aiming for financial gain, nor was the number of animals they attacked especially large in relation to the local wildlife population. Hunting club also seeking damages A local hunting club is also seeking damages from the men, charging that their poaching has depleted roe deer populations in the area. However the defence countered that some estimates indicate that roe deer stock is on the rise. Juha Gustafsson, chair of the Pietarsaari hunting club, said that members reported slightly fewer roe deer sightings last year. He noted that the entire club has shot one or at most two animals a year. Gustafsson said that in recent years, the club decided not to hunt hares to see whether hunting was possible. He said hunting opportunities seemed poor for a few years, but now the population seems to have recovered. The men admitted to the court that they had shot wild animals and pleaded guilty to hunting offences, but rejected charges of aggravated crimes. In addition to suspended prison sentences, the prosecution called on the court to impose a minimum five-year hunting ban on the two main defendants and a similar ban of at least three years on the third defendant. A verdict is expected at the end of November.

Tue, 12 Nov 2019 19:30:00 +0200


Consumer Board raps lost-and-found centre over €73 phone call

A woman who phoned about a lost wallet was put on hold for 24 minutes – and billed 73 euros for the call.

Finland's Consumer Disputes Board has recommended that private lost-and-found service Suomen Löytötavarapalvelu make changes to its phone services. In October 2017, a woman from the southeast city of Lappeenranta was billed 73 euros after she called to track down a lost wallet and waited on hold for 24 minutes to speak to a service representative. The recording told her that the call would be answered quickly, that waiting in the queue was subject to a fee, and the prices could be found on the company's website. After waiting almost a half hour, someone finally gave her an answer in 30 seconds: the wallet that she described had not been found. The woman was shocked when she realised the cost of the phone call. When the company refused to lower the fee, she complained to the Consumer Disputes Board. Phone call fee reduced to five euros The Consumer Disputes Board determined that as Suomen Löytytavarapalvelu did not inform the woman of the price-per-minute for waiting, no price had been agreed on at the call's onset. For this reason, the board reasoned that the woman should only be expected to pay a reasonable amount. It voted unanimously to lower Suomen Löytötavarapalvelu's 73-euro phone charge to five euros. "If a service agreement is not made online, but via a phone call, the pricing information must be given over the phone," said the board's chair Pauli Ståhlberg. The law limits the fee that the lost and found service can demand for storing lost items to 17 euros. The board said that this restriction should be kept in mind in determining the company's charges for the phone service. Company says it has dropped waiting time fees Suomen Löytötavarapalvelu CEO Petri Fonsén told Yle that this was a one-off case and that the woman had been reimbursed as recommended by the consumer board. Fonsén added that customers will no longer be billed for waiting time on the service line and that the cost per minute for answered calls is now clearly stated when one calls the number. The CEO also noted that inquiries can be made free of charge by visiting the company's office or by post.

Tue, 12 Nov 2019 18:30:00 +0200