“Great you are from Finland, we just needed someone to talk about education.”

I was recently in London taking part in a refugee conference. Once again these were the welcoming words.

 WHEREVER I GO, I find myself answering questions concerning Finnish policies on education. The global interest for Finnish education remains, regardless of the problems and issues we have currently in our domestic education policies. Other countries expect that in Finland educational matters are always considered with great care and on research-basis.

 Therefore, I think we should currently focus on education both globally and locally.

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“Great you are from Finland, we just needed someone to talk about education.”

I was recently in London taking part in a refugee conference. Once again these were the welcoming words.

 WHEREVER I GO, I find myself answering questions concerning Finnish policies on education. The global interest for Finnish education remains, regardless of the problems and issues we have currently in our domestic education policies. Other countries expect that in Finland educational matters are always considered with great care and on research-basis.

 Therefore, I think we should currently focus on education both globally and locally.

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We are getting closer to the Parliamentary Elections, and it is a good time to consider which economic priorities we need to make. The discussion needs to be about which priorities we need to make in each sector of society, especially within the education sector. Cuts in combination with a constantly changing world and a labour market where knowledge gets old like we never seen before, it is important to prioritise.

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CLIMATE CHANGE is impossible to ignore. It is an issue that is already happening at an increasingly worrying rate which leads to a multitude of problems; the majority of all humanitarian conflicts are caused by or affiliated with climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report underlining a clear message: the mere act of limiting global warming to 1.5°C needs extreme action from all humankind. The thousands of demonstrators who assembled at the Senate Square cannot be wrong. A transition towards a non-emission system is necessary not just for ecological, but also for economic reasons.

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THE WORLD AFFAIRS are currently characterized by rising political tensions, return of geopolitics and nationalistic ideas. Your own country and your own people first. In the world of interdependence, the world is drifting apart. It is vital to recognize that the challenges of the international community are common: climate change, terrorism or diseases don´t follow national borders. Common challenges demand common solutions. 

Especially for small nations, like Finland, it is of utmost importance to rely on common rules, international agreements and law. Multilateralism controls the power of the mighty and gives a voice to smaller states in the world community. Global development should not be dictated by few but by all. 

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In climate politics, there is the time before the IPCC report, published in October, and the time after it. Just as the Paris agreement raised the general awareness level and made just about every country commit to a common goal – at the moment, only the US is outside the agreement – the IPCC report made it clear to everybody what it means if we fail in our common mission. The difference between a temperature rise of 1.5 and 2 degrees is immense. Not to mention what happens if the temperature rises 3 degrees – and this is the path we are on right now.

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I have sometimes characterised myself as a melancholic euro-federalist. By this, I mean to say, that even though I am for the notion of a united Europe, I am not particularly impressed by its practical implementation. 

To me, Finland’s EU membership has been - above all - a practical solution, dictated by the fact that it has been for the good of our country. During the Cold War, our political mobility was strictly within certain boundaries. By integrating ourselves into the West through EU membership, our national sovereignty has actually strengthened compared to President Kekkonen’s era, even though the EU critics like to claim otherwise. 

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THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE (IPCC) stated in their press release on 8 October this year that rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society are needed if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to ensure a more sustainable and equitable society compared to a 2-degree Celsius rise. I’m sure most people can agree with this as the vast majority of respectable climate and other scientists confirm that the climate is getting warmer.

If humans cause this warming, we can also do something to fix the problem, step by step. One step could be an introduction of what I call a “climate customs payment”. Each country would be evaluated on how well they are protecting the climate. According to a country’s performance a special climate customs tax would be added to its products. 

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THE EUROPEAN UNION’S efforts for building a European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) have taken more steps forward in the past two years than in the preceding twenty. This has been due mostly to the wake-up calls provided by the two super powers, Russia and the US.

The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in defence which was part of the Lisbon treaty is now taking off with 25 member states on board in one or more of the projects started within this framework.

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IN 20 YEARS TIME, Helsinki and other cities around the world are going to look totally different. The reason? Automatic vehicles.

When vehicles can be on the road all the time, they will be on the road all the time. This simple change is going to reorganise our cities beyond recognition during the next two decades. Just check the ancient Mesoamerican city, Teotihuacan, a city without cars, carriages or horses; or streets or parking lots.

When a vehicle does not require a driver, it does not require a parking place. In U.S. cities, parking accounts for almost a quarter of the land area. In Seattle, about 40% of the land area is used for parking. 

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Elina Lepomäki, Member of Parliament for the National Coalition Party

MP Talk gives members of parliament the opportunity to share their views on Finnish society with an international audience. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Helsinki Times.

Finland has all the potential to become a modern service and innovation-based economy attracting talent from all over the world. We need to transform our labour market and recruiting culture, we need English as the official language and we need to modernize our social security model. Today, I will concentrate on the latter.

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