Minister of Finance Riikka Purra (PS) and Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) stepped before the media to speak comment on “domestic policy issues” at the premier’s official residence in Helsinki on Wednesday, 12 July. Orpo declared, also in Swedish and English, that the government has “zero tolerance” towards racism or extremism and accepts no kind of discrimination. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE CONTROVERSIES sparked by the past actions and writings of cabinet members are a regrettable development that is monitored with concern in companies, reports YLE.

Chief among the concerns is that the controversies could dent the country image of Finland, consequently undermining export opportunities and damaging the country’s reputation as an investment destination and place of residence for international talent.

“The statements that have surfaced, even if they’re from years ago, raise a lot of questions,” Mikael Pentikäinen, the managing director of Yrittäjät, stated to YLE on Wednesday.

“It’s good to keep in mind that companies operate globally as companies and that political turbulence doesn’t really have an impact on the corporate image. But this kind of discussion can have an impact on Finland’s image.”

Jaakko Hirvola, the chief executive of the Technology Industries of Finland, viewed that it is unfortunate that issues that threaten to dent the country image have dominated the first weeks of the electoral term.

“The publicity received from these controversies is definitely negative and difficult,” he said to the public broadcaster.

He added that he is particularly concerned about how the situation is perceived from the vantage point of skilled foreign workers who are considering moving to and corporate executives who are considering making investments in Finland.

“The need for skilled foreign labour is high in Finland. And we should develop our country image so that we at least don’t slow down the inflow of foreign labour,” he emphasised.

Pentikäinen estimated that how the controversies are covered around the world is ultimately of secondary importance; what is more important is making sure that absolutely no room is given for racist thought.

“The impact on country image is secondary. It can be negative, which is unfortunate, but what’s more important is the kind of concept of humanity decision makers in this country have and that people can feel safe regardless of the colour of their skin, race, religious or political convictions.”

Both Hirvola and Pentikäinen also bemoaned the fact that the controversies have prevented the government from implementing a government programme that, they both agreed, is positive for businesses.

Also Riikka Pakarinen, the CEO of the Finnish Startup Community, expressed her concern about the situation in an interview with Ilta-Sanomat on Wednesday. The community, she said, has worked hard to make sure its international members feel as at home as possible in Finland.

“Now we have a person as the minister of finance who’s undoing all this work by silently approving racism and open hostility, if not hatred, toward foreigners. The absolutely inexplicable and untenable situation is embarrassing and makes me, as a Finn, sadder than I can put into words,” she stated to the daily.

Pakarinen is also a deputy chairperson of the Centre.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT