Here is a selection of what the international press has published about Finland in the last week:
Finland recovers ship’s anchor close to damaged Baltic Sea pipeline
Finnish investigators recovering a large 6-ton ship’s anchor near the site of extensive damage to a Baltic Sea gas pipeline, was covered in an article by The Guardian on October 24.
The article gives details of the ongoing investigation by the National Bureau Investigation (NBI) where they are trying to determine if it’s connected to a Chinese container vessel, the Newnew Polar Bear, which is missing a front anchor.
Deep drag marks were also found along the damaged pipeline. The Finnish investigators have attempted to contact the vessel, Newnew Polar Bear, which closely matched the timeline of the pipeline damage. The investigation is now concentrating on determining whether the pipeline damage was intentional or deliberate.
“The next questions are about whether it was intentional, negligence, poor seamanship, and that’s where we get into whether there could be a motive for what’s going on. It’s too early to answer that at this stage.” Robin Lardot, NBI Chief, said.
Investigators suspect that the damage to the pipeline was caused by an external mechanical force, not an explosion. The involvement of a state actor has not been ruled out. Finland, which recently joined NATO after its non-alignment policy shift due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, has received assurances of a united response if sabotage caused the pipeline damage. Repairing the pipeline will likely take at least five months, with a possible operational date of April 2024, and Finland relies on gas for about 5% of its energy needs.
Original story was published by The Guardian on 24.10.2023 and can be found here.
Finland’s right-wing government wants to rip up its welfare state
This article featuring the interview of Annika Rönni-Sällinen, president of Finland’s Service Union United (PAM), about implications of new government plans for the welfare state, was published in Jacobin on October 24. The article gives an insight in the new challenges faced by Finland’s renowned welfare state and worker unions after the election of a right-wing government. This new coalition is challenging the country’s strong workers’ rights and social security systems, which have been the backbone of the Finnish welfare state.
The article highlights that the recent reforms are akin to Margaret Thatcher's neoliberal agenda after 1979. These reforms involve around thirty to forty proposals, targeting social security, job security, workers' rights, including the right to strike, and the wage negotiation model. The PAM president raised concerns over the government’s approach, calling it unprecedented, and bypassing the usual tripartite negotiations between government, employers and trade unions that Finland has historically relied on.
“Let’s look at unemployment protection, for instance. A lot of our members in the service sector work part time because there are no full-time jobs. These workers already cannot make ends meet and have to rely on adjusted unemployment benefit and housing allowance. The government is now cutting these benefits, which could amount to €300 or €400 per month. It’s hard to imagine how these people could survive with hundreds of euros less. But then how are they supposed to work more if there are no more full-time jobs?”, Annika Rönni-Sällinen said.
The PAM president also pointed out that the government is simplifying the process of firing workers by replacing the current requirement of "serious grounds" with the vague term "relevant grounds." Additionally, the government's proposals aim to expand the use of fixed-term employment relationships by eliminating the obligation to provide specific reasons for temporary employment.
“In addition to this, there are the many other ways in which they are restricting the right to strike, limiting the involvement of social partners, and the right to collective bargaining. That’s really serious,” Sällinen added.
Original story was published by Jacobin on 24.10.2023 and can be found here.
Finland’s 2024 defence budget targets arms restocking, border security
Finland raising defence spending to approximately €6.2 billion, representing a nearly 5% increase from 2023, was covered in an article by Defense News on October 14. The article provides details of the budget that is set to allocate funds to enhance the country’s 830-mile border with Russia and replenish military equipment and weapons provided to Ukraine, in the last two years.
The draft budget was approved by the Defence Ministry in September. Finland’s increased defence spending is a direct response to its NATO accession and the rising tension in the region after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The expected budget elevates Finland’s defence spending to 2.3% of its GDP, surpassing NATO’s 2% target for member states.
The 2024 budget includes a border reinforcement plan, involving the construction of 125 miles of “smart fencing” equipped with advanced sensors and drones operated by the Finnish Border Guard. The cost for this smart fence, strategically placed along the Finnish-Russian border, ranges from $400 million to $500 million.
Finnish Defence Minister Antti Häkkänen described the budget increase as “fundamental to national security and enhancing defense capability.”
“We cannot ignore how the war instigated by Russia has changed the security landscape in our Nordic region and in the wider neighborhood. The world around Finland is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. Despite Finland’s economic challenges, we are now part of NATO and with membership comes added costs and responsibilities,” Häkkänen said.
Original story was published by Defense News on 14.10.2023 and can be found here.
Russia terminates cross-border agreement with Finland
Russia terminating the 2012 agreement with the Finnish Government, promoting cross-border cooperation, was covered in an article published in The Barents Observer on October 22. This article follows the decision in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year and isolation faced by the former country.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has been instructed to inform the Finnish government about this termination. Over the past decade, millions of euros were invested in cultural cooperation, environmental improvement, social well-being, business development, and infrastructure between Finland and Russia.
This collaboration relied on funding from the European Union’s Interreg programs, the Barents cooperation, and the Northern Dimension. However, this cooperation has come to a halt as Moscow has closed the door on such initiatives. Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on October 20 signed the decree on terminating the cross-border cooperation.
Original story was published by The Barents Observer on 22.10.2023 and can be found here.
Finland shows off its new 20-qubit quantum computer
Finland’s VTT completing its second quantum computer, which features 20 superconducting qubits, in collaboration with IQM Quantum Computers, was covered in an article by ComputerWeekly.com on October 25. The article highlights the achievement, which is part of a roadmap to develop a 50-qubit quantum computer by the end of 2024.
The programme is outlined in the government’s “Finnish quantum computer development action” project launched in November 2020 with a budget of over €20.7 million. The first quantum computer with five qubits was completed in 2021, and the second with 20 qubits was finished in October 2023, keeping Finland on track for its 50-qubit goal. Now, the government aims for a 300-qubit machine and has increased the budget to €70 million for this ambitious endeavor. Researchers anticipate reaching quantum supremacy with the 300-qubit machine.
The 20-qubit quantum computer is located in Espoo, at the VTT part of Micronova, which is the national research infrastructure for micro and nanotechnology, and serves as a technology demonstrator to inform the development of 50-qubit systems.
“There are so many alternatives,” Pekka Pursula, research manager, microelectronics and quantum technologies at VTT, said. “This includes ions, atoms and photonic quantum computers. Each of these has its relative advantages. But I think that currently, the superconducting platform is the most mature in terms of scaling up – including number and quality of qubits, control and so on. Having said that, it isn’t clear which technology will deliver the quantum advantage most efficiently in the long term.”
VTT and IQM have been continuously learning and improving with each step of quantum computer development. They learned how to connect a quantum machine to a supercomputer and use a hybrid setup for specific tasks with the five-qubit machine. Additionally, they mastered the transition from a 2D to a 3D quantum architecture.
Original story was published by ComputerWeekly.com on 25.10.2023 and can be found here.