People in a bomb-shelter in Helsinki. LEHTIKUVA

Finland in the world press

Here is a selection of what the international press has published about Finland in the last week:

Finland’s far right has shelved EU exit demand (for now)

Finland’s new pro-EU foreign minister, Elina Valtonen’s statement that the far-right Finns Party’s demand for Finland to exit the EU is currently on hold, was covered in an article by Politico on August 28.

The article compares the statement with Finns party’s long term-goal to leave the EU due to concerns about centralized decision-making in Brussels.

Valtonen believes that the government’s recently released policy program, developed after extensive discussions, clearly indicates the government’s pro-EU stance.

“Nobody expects all the coalition parties to agree on everything, but what the parties need to agree on is the negotiation result, which is the government program, and there I think we have a very good EU policy paragraph,” Valtonen said in an interview at the foreign ministry in Helsinki.

“The Finns Party has said that leaving the EU is like a long-term goal — whatever that means — but right now what we are interested in is the coming four years, and we don’t expect them to advocate a Finnish exit from the EU during that time,” she said.

These words should offer reassurance in Brussels, particularly to mainstream pro-EU center-right and center-left policymakers who have been concerned about the rise of far-right movements in different parts of the European Union.

Original story was published by Politico on 28.08.2023 and can be found here.

Finland counted its bomb shelters and found 50,500 of them

This article about Finland completing an inventory of its existing bomb shelters, revealing a total of 50,500 shelters, was covered by Reuters on August 29. The article explores how Finland, despite joining NATO recently, has long been prepared for the possibility of conflict with Russia, stemming from its historical experience of repelling a Soviet Union invasion during World War II.

Finland has a long history of requiring the construction of emergency shelters beneath apartment blocks and office buildings, dating back to the 1950s. As a result, the country currently has approximately 50,500 bomb shelters, capable of accommodating 4.8 million people in times of emergency or attack, as per the government’s census.

It is found that 91% of these shelters are sturdy enough to withstand conventional weapon attacks, and 83% are equipped to offer protection against gas emissions or nuclear emergencies.

“At the same time, it must be stated that in a small number of shelters there are faults that prevent them from being put into use within the 72 hours required by law,” project manager Ira Pasi of the interior ministry said in a statement.

Original story was published by Reuters on 29.08.2023 and can be found here.

Helsinki could become ‘sanctuary city’ as Finland’s right-wing government targets paperless migrants

This article about the new right-wing government’s plans to repeal legislation introduced earlier this year by former PM Sanna Marin, and continue a crackdown on immigrants, was published in Euronews on August 14. The repealed law mandated that local authorities offer free basic healthcare to undocumented migrants nationwide. The article explains how Helsinki and other cities could now become “sanctuary city”, as they have pledged to continue providing medical assistance to undocumented individuals in need, irrespective of the government's directives.

With the change, cities will have the discretion to decide whether to continue providing healthcare to migrants without legal residency and access to the public healthcare system. The article states that Finland’s new measures intend to establish a "hostile environment" for migrants, involving restrictions on access to social services and benefits, along with the exploration of deportation to third countries for those unable to return to their home nations.

“We feel it is really important to help these people, and we want to advocate for equality,” explains Pipsa, a volunteer nurse at the Global Clinic in Helsinki, where paperless migrants can come for basic healthcare treatment and aid.

The Global Clinic treats approximately 300 undocumented migrants annually in Finland. These individuals may include asylum seekers with exhausted appeals who remain in the country, EU nationals primarily from Romania or Bulgaria who have stayed for over 90 days without legalizing their status, or any EU national lacking insurance or awaiting access to the Finnish public healthcare system.

Original story was published by Euronews on 14.08.2023 and can be found here.

Cats With Bird Flu? The Threat Grows.

The global H5N1 avian flu outbreak, which has harmed wild birds and poultry, advancing towards a potential human outbreak as it spreads to mammals, was covered in an article by The New York Times on August 31. The opinion piece looks at how the situation is reminiscent of the lessons not learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, with insufficient action taken to address an H5N1 outbreak in fur farms in Finland and a mysterious outbreak among domestic cats in Poland.

The article highlights that Finland, being one of the Europe’s biggest fur producers, is battling outbreaks among its captive minks, foxes and raccoon dogs. Scientists have warned that the species have been identified as more likely to evolve a variant that can infect people, leading to a human outbreak.

The Finnish Food Authority has acknowledged that minks, susceptible to both human and avian influenza, pose a risk. If infected by both, the viruses can combine genes, potentially leading to an avian flu that can infect humans. The article points out that despite this, fur farms in Finland remain open.

The Finnish Wildlife Agency permitted fur breeders to cull wild birds near their farms to prevent contact with infected birds, a move criticized by scientists as ineffective, with more fur farms in Finland reporting additional outbreaks.

The author Zeynep Tufekci is a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, the author of “Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest” and a New York Times Opinion columnist.

Original story was published by The New York Times on 31.08.2023 and can be found here.

Finnish Universities Attract More Int’l Students, Residence Permit Applications Up 48%

Finland recording a notable surge in international student applications for residence permits was covered in an article by Erudera on August 29. Nearly 8,800 non-EU applicants applied for their first residence permit for study purposes by the end of July 2023. The article highlights this increase as a reflection of the growing interest in studying in Finnish universities among international students.

The data was shared by Finnish Immigration Service. In 2023, there has been a 48 percent rise in the number of international student applications for first residence permits in Finland compared to the same period in 2022, increasing from 5,911 to nearly 8,800 applicants.

Furthermore, from January to July of this year, a total of 7,039 international students were granted their first residence permits. Among these applicants, students from Bangladesh, China, and Sri Lanka submitted the highest number of applications.

“Of those who applied for a residence permit for studies in January-July 2023, a clear majority were degree students. They accounted for 86 percent of all applicants. The highest number of applications are currently coming from Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, India and Russia,” the Finnish Immigration Service explained.

“We added resources to be prepared for the summer season, as every year. Due to the considerable increase in the number of applications, we have also added personnel in the processing of applications submitted by students for the rest of the year,” Anu Tarén, Head of Section at the Permit and Nationality Unit, said.

Original story was published by Erudera on 29.08.2023 and can be found here.

Finland tests first digital travel passport with UK flights

This article about Finnish Border Guard’s experiment at Helsinki Airport’s border control by testing what it claims to be the world’s first digital travel documents was published in The National on August 30. The Digital Travel Credentials (DTC) serve as a digital passport, offering expedited border crossing while maintaining security. The article gives details of the pilot project, where Finnish customers traveling with Finnair between London, Manchester, and Edinburgh are invited to  test the DTC, which enables them to bypass queues at border control.

“The digital travel document DTC is now being tested in real border control, reportedly for the first time in the world,” the border guards said. It has also been highlighted that this digital passport is as “equally reliable” as a physical one.

This trial, in collaboration with Finnair, the Finnish police, and airport company Finavia, began on August 28 and is set to conclude in February. Passengers on select routes to and from Finland, who wish to take part in the project, can voluntarily register on the border guard’s website, The process involves downloading the FIN DTC Pilot digital travel document app, registering with the police, and sending relevant data from the app to the Finnish Border Guard within four to 36 hours before their flight to the UK.

The European Commission is working on the DTC as part of its extensive digital identity policy package. The EU is supporting Finland’s pilot project by co-funding it with €2.3 million.

Original story was published by The National on 30.08.2023 and can be found here.