News that two university students in the United Kingdom were recently rushed to hospital after using a synthetic cannabinoid highlights a worrying trend. Cases across the world are often disturbingly similar: A young person is found sprawled out, often unconscious and in need of swift medical assistance. Many of these individuals recover. Some, however, do not.
Often we view the world through different narratives. In Russia the Slavophiles and the Zapadniki were two contrasting philosophical camps in the early 19th century. The Slavophiles advocated against western influences and values, preserving what they considered to be the unique cultural heritage of Russia. The Zapadniki - or westernizers - felt that Russia was lagging desperately behind the west in terms of advancement and industrialization. They felt that Russia had to industrialize and accept western cultural values in order to move itself closer to Europe and secure its footing on the global stage.
According to an estimate by the European Commission, the EU is at least 1,000 billion euros out of pocket because of tax evasion and avoidance. A major problem related to tax evasion is that in many cases it does not involve any illegal activities but is regarded as tax planning which is legal under our system. This leads to member states losing a notable amount of tax revenue.
If 10 years ago you had been asked, "in which country are facial expressions illegal when they are against the official truth?", would you have suggested Finland? And would you ever have guessed back then that Sweden would today have the second-highest number of rapes per capita in the world?
Ten years ago, Finland was the most competitive and the safest country in the world, thanks to an open society. Today, silenced by force, we do not fit on the Top 10 list at all. Sweden dropped out long before us. That country is now praised for being the most generous and for accepting the most asylum seekers. We silently follow their example.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," is a quotation by 18th-century politician and philosopher Edmund Burke. Although the world has changed in Great Britain's House of Commons since Burke's day, the thoughts of this man – who is seen as one of the founders of modern conservatism – is still as relevant as ever.
We need 200,000 new jobs in Finland in order to maintain the current tax rate while still being able to pay for public services, demand for which will grow as the population ages. This is the only way we can stop the growth of the national debt and prevent our children from inheriting a huge debt burden. We suffer from a shortage of companies that can create new jobs. Thanks to our punitive tax system, the service business sector is under-developed in Finland. The country fails to attract investments because we have lost our competitive edge and entrepreneurs and business leaders have lost their trust in the political sector. Finland's labour laws date back to the 1970s even though the world has moved on from those days.
Recently, an elderly lady phoned me. She was outraged because we politicians talk nineteen to the dozen about every detail of the health and social service reform, while the basic services are in disarray. Why don't you do something about the services instead of gabbling on about the structure, she asked. A relevant question with a simple answer: if we do not find the courage to overhaul the structure, we cannot improve the services.
As a formally qualified psychologist and social scientist, I would like to make the English-speaking audience aware of a dilemma with grave consequences to Finland, an issue which, for reasons related to domestic policy, is painting a distorted image of Finns and Finland on the international arena. The matter also concerns a citizens' initiative to abolish mandatory Swedish tuition, aimed at bringing the Finnish democracy up to date and calling into question the Finnish power structures.
On the international arena, Finland is known for its positive achievements, including top-notch results in Pisa rankings, equality between sexes and fair services founded on the Nordic welfare state model.
Compared with pupils in many other countries, Finnish children are doing extremely well in comprehensive school. Where we excel is having exceptionally small differences in learning results between schools, with all schools performing consistently well.
By far the best known and most successful Finnish innovation on an international level is our comprehensive school system. The Finnish school system was overhauled in one fell swoop by a parliamentary decision at the beginning of the 1970s, with the implementation of the comprehensive school starting from northern Finland soon after. Naturally the new system suffered from a dearth of qualified teachers to start with. In 1972, after sitting through my matriculation exam, I worked as an English teacher in various schools in Enontekiö, the northernmost part of our country, when the first comprehensive schools were set up.
What is the future Nordic region going to look like? The Nordic region can be seen from several different perspectives. Nordic welfare states share common values such as transparency, equality and democracy. In the Nordic Council, these values become a reality when it gathers annually to discuss health, the environment, citizen's rights and Nordic security, just to mention a few things.