Prime Minister Petteri Orpo talked at the summer meeting of the National Coalition’s ministerial group in Pori, Satakunta, on Thursday, 18 August 2023. Orpo denied the claim that his party has sacrificed its values at the economy’s altar. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)


PRIME MINISTER Petteri Orpo (NCP) has reiterated that his government intends to do its utmost to weed out racism and discrimination in Finland.

“In fact we’ll surely do more than any other government to date,” he was quoted saying at a meeting of the National Coalition in Pori, Satakunta, by YLE. “I’ll say this once more as prime minister and chairperson of the National Coalition: I condemn racism.”

Disagreements between the ruling parties have nonetheless emerged over how to fund the effort to combat racism and discrimination.

Jani Mäkelä, the chairperson of the Finns Party Parliamentary Group, stated on YLE A-studio on Wednesday that no new funding should be set aside for combating racism. Minister of Finance Riikka Purra (PS) similarly estimated recently that there is unlikely to be funding for the effort unless it is scraped together by abandoning certain “ineffective” projects.

Otto Andersson, the chairperson of the Swedish People’s Parliamentary Group, has contrastively emphasised the need to sufficiently fund the effort, according to YLE.

Orpo on Thursday assured that funding is available and will be set aside for the effort.

“The government will complement its statement [on promoting equality and non-discrimination] with an action plan that brings a concrete dimension to the statement. We’ll make sure that there are resources for implementing the measures,” he said.

“We’ll of course have to make sure there’s funding for the measures so that they’re more than dead letters.”

He offered the effort to improve the possibilities and young people to participate in sporting and cultural hobbies as one example of concrete measures to promote equality in the government programme.

“Additional funding and resources are set aside in the government programme to make sure that everyone is able to have a hobby. Special attention will be paid to making sure immigrant children and youth, for example, have access to hobbies.”

The premier also conceded that a single government statement will not bring about the necessary social change. Instead, a years-long effort will be required.

Racism in Finland has been a topic of public discussion practically throughout the summer, following reports about the racist comments and messages of Purra and Minister of Economic Affairs Wille Rydman (PS). While the Finns Party has argued that the media has treated it unfairly, Orpo on Thursday viewed that the discussion provoked by the reports has been necessary.

“It’s important that this repulsive phenomenon is part of public discussion,” he said according to the public broadcasting company. “Society will change when racism and discrimination are brought to the fore. Society will change when public discussion leads to policy action. The only way to tackle racism is to make it visible.”

He also rejected the criticism levelled against his party by his predecessor, Sanna Marin of the Social Democrats.

Marin on Wednesday said the National Coalition has turned a blind eye to the racist statements emanating from its coalition partner in order to carry out its all-important fiscal adjustments and spending cuts.

“The National Coalition has allegedly sacrificed its values on the economy’s altar. We haven’t done that,” Orpo retorted.

“A sustainable economy isn’t a value but a tool for the National Coalition. A tool that enables us to carry out policies that align with our values. Build a Finland with freedoms, opportunities, education and well-being – where the weakest are looked after.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT