Chairperson Annika Rönni-Sällinen of Service Union United PAM during a press conference regarding the effects of the planned legislative changes by the Orpo government in Helsinki on September 8, 2023. LEHTIKUVA

Finland in the world press

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

Workers under attack in Finland

The proposed changes to employment and welfare rights in Finland by the new right-wing government was covered in an article by Morning Star on September 10.

The article explores the reaction by labour unions on the changes, which marks a departure from the previous consensus-based approach with trade unions and other parties in the country.

The new changes includes proposing damaging changes such as tax reductions to incentivize work over benefits, significant reductions in earnings-related unemployment benefits after periods of unemployment, and the elimination of payment for the first day of sick leave.

The Finnish government plans to make significant changes to national collective bargaining, allowing companies to opt out of national agreements in favor of local bargaining. They also aim to introduce stricter rules, including financial penalties, to discourage sympathy strikes and politically motivated industrial action.

Critics, including the Finnish trade union confederation SAK and left-wing groups, argue that these proposals are unbalanced and influenced heavily by employers’ organizations. In response, unions are preparing for major demonstrations in the coming autumn as these proposals make their way through the Finnish parliament.

Original story was published by Morning Star on 10.09.2023 and can be found here.

Unions object to ‘contradictory’ non-EU student fee hike

Finland’s new government’s plans to tighten immigration policies and implement full-cost tuition fees for non-European international students was covered in an article by University World News on September 7. The article presents the stance of unions who feel that these actions contradict earlier commitments to increasing the number of international students to attract high-level skills for the national workforce.

The government’s proposals are outlined in a 245-page program titled “A Strong and Committed Finland.” A working group appointed by the ministry of Education and Culture in Finland is focusing on the introduction of full-cost tuition fees and application fees for international students. This effort will require new legislation and detailed regulations. The group is also examining potential legislation to prevent students from acquiring a residence permit for employment after starting their studies to circumvent tuition fees.

In early June, rumors circulated about the government’s intention to introduce full-cost tuition fees. In response, nine academic-related unions jointly released a statement opposing the proposal. They specifically criticized the Ministry of Education and Culture’s estimation that this move would lead to a 43% decrease in the number of international students from outside the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA).

We are very disappointed with the Ministry’s proposal and consider it a disaster in terms of Finland’s long-term plans to make higher education in the country more international,” read the statement.

The unions highlighted that the ministry’s proposal is in stark contrast with the policy for sustainable growth in higher education and the Roadmap for Education-based and Work-based Immigration 2035.

Original story was published by University World News on 07.09.2023 and can be found here.

Estonian PM: Finland key to shutting down Russia trade

This article about Estonia Prime Minister Kaja Kallas expressing the desire for neighboring countries of Russia to establish a unified trade embargo was published in an article by ERR news on September 6. The article looks at how negotiations in this regard, particularly involving Finland as a crucial player, have faced challenges.

Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margus Tsahkna, has stated that Estonia cannot unilaterally impose a trade embargo on Russia due to potential negative impacts on Estonian firms. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas expressed frustration that neighboring countries, especially Finland, have not supported Estonia’s proposal for a common trade embargo on Russia.

The article mentions that various goods, including electronics, factory fittings, food, and plastics, are regularly transported from Estonia to Russia. Companies registered in other EU countries are utilizing border crossing points in Estonia more frequently than local Estonian companies for these trade activities.

Kallas also highlighted that when Estonia decided to stop issuing visas to Russian tourists, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland went along, with Finland joining some time later.

“No one is on board with this thing,” Kallas told ERR news. “The main concern is that if we do not do it together, and Finland is key there, then goods will simply move elsewhere. And we end up punishing our entrepreneurs,” Kallas said.

Original story was published by ERR News on 06.09.2023 and can be found here.

Finland’s Patria weighs making combat vehicles in Ukraine

This article about Finnish armored vehicle manufacturer Patria considering the establishment of a production site in Ukraine was published in Defense News on September 4. The article explains how Finland is joining other European countries to seek sustainable methods of aid to bolster Ukraine’s capabilities amid the its ongoing war with Russia.

Finnish defense officials are yet to provide clear confirmation or details regarding this potential move by Patria. Finland is exploring several avenues to support Ukraine’s defense efforts, including increasing national ammunition production, direct purchases by Kyiv from Finnish industry, and participating in international initiatives to aid Ukraine.

“In general, we know Ukraine to be interested in Finnish defense industry products and that discussions to promote bilateral materiel cooperation have taken place between administrations and companies,” a Finnish Defence Representative told Defence News.

“Commercial export licenses have been applied for, and the defense administration has accelerated the procedure to deal with them,” he added.

Patria have experience with technology transfer agreements for their Rosomak 8x8 wheeled armored modular vehicles (AMVs) in Poland and have successfully executed similar arrangements in countries like Slovenia, Croatia, and South Africa. However, the company did not comment specifically on any connection with Ukraine regarding such technology transfer.

Original story was published by Defense News on 04.09.2023 and can be found here.

Finland increases spending on cyber AI defences

Finland’s plans to increase the spending on cybersecurity defenses by 30% in 2024 against the growing threat of AI-based cyberattacks was covered in an article by Cryptopolitan on September 7. The article highlights the efforts geared towards protecting both state and private organizations in Finland from the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

The projected budget of cybersecurity defence is €280 million in 2024. The allocation of these funds for cyber AI enhancements will be specified upon the finalization of the 2024 budget in October.

This cybersecurity strategy is informed by the “Security Threat of AI-Enabled Cyberattacks” (STAIC) report, developed in collaboration between Finland’s state transport and communications agency Traficom, the National Emergency Supply Agency (NESA), and cybersecurity expert WithSecure. The STAIC report underscores the urgency of cybersecurity improvements, predicting that cyber attackers will develop AI tools capable of autonomously identifying vulnerabilities in IT systems and executing stealthy attacks within the next five to six years.

While AI-enabled threats have primarily focused on social engineering applications like impersonation and data analysis, they are anticipated to become more sophisticated and frequent, potentially spreading to less experienced cyber attackers in the near future.

Original story was published by Cryptopolitan on 07.09.2023 and can be found here.

Amateur sleuths take on bike thieves in Finland

This article about Oulu volunteers known as Bike Patrols working to combat the problem of bike theft was published in BBC on September 2. The article explores the rampant bike theft in Oulu which has become a significant issue in a city known for its extensive cycling infrastructure.

These volunteers, led by ordinary citizens like Ilkka Pulkkinen, dedicate several hours each day to tracking down stolen bikes and returning them to their rightful owners. The Bike Patrols have found success by using social media to gather tips and information from the community. They have located stolen bikes hidden in storage areas and handover locations used by drug dealers. In the past year alone, they have recovered 1,298 stolen bikes, while the police prioritized more serious crimes.

Oulu has an excellent cycling infrastructure, with 77% of its residents using bikes in the summer, and 42% continuing to cycle during the winter despite the cold and an average temperature of -8°C. The city’s well-maintained cycling paths are so reliable that even young children can cycle to school independently. However, the high number of bicycles has also attracted thieves, resulting in 1,738 reported cases of theft to the police in the past year.

Original story was published by BBC on 02.09.2023 and can be found here.