SDP's presidential candidate Jutta Urpilainen and former Prime Minister Sanna Marin (right) discussing at the launch of Urpilainen's presidential campaign in Helsinki on December 2, 2023. 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 presidential election campaign is heating up the cold winter months

This article about the presidential election in Finland gaining significance due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and “hybrid warfare” on the eastern border, was covered in Euronews on November 21. The article provides details of the ongoing presidential election in November, which is often referred to as the ‘dead month’ in Finnish.

Jutta Urpilainen, Finland’s EU Commissioner and a Social Democrat, has recently entered the race, opting for a late start to maximize her time away from her EU position. The article emphasizes how this delayed entry raises questions about her chances of winning, as she plans to begin campaigning earnestly only in December, leaving her party resorting to using a life-size cutout to maintain public visibility.

Over the past four decades, the powers of the Finnish president have diminished, yet the office remains crucial for foreign policy outside the EU and commands the Finnish military. The president is directly elected by the people and holds executive powers. The article points out that the current election is particularly significant due to Finland’s NATO consideration and the challenges posed by being Russia’s neighbor in a time of war. Notably, experienced candidates with diverse political backgrounds are vying for the presidency, adding intensity to the campaign.

“We are now at the heart of Finnish security and foreign policy issues,” Pekka Haavisto, a Green politician who is a frontrunner in the elections said. The former UN Special Representative and foreign minister would become Finland’s first Green, and first gay president if elected.

“People are asking about NATO, the future of Russia, the defence cooperation agreement with the US. And now in the last week there were many questions about the Middle East and how that influences world politics,” he told Euronews.

Former Prime Minister Alex Stubb, a front-runner in the Finnish presidential race, trails behind Haavisto in most polls for both the first and potential second rounds. Running the wealthiest campaign with an estimated €1.5 million, supported by the National Coalition Party, Stubb benefits from his recent absence from Finnish politics. His international experience includes working in Luxembourg and Italy after a 2015 election defeat. Despite a failed campaign for the presidency of Europe, he remains a prominent contender in the current election.

Original story was published by Euronews on 21.11.2023 and can be found here.

Why Finland’s border crisis may be more about Russia vs NATO

Finland reeling with an influx of undocumented migrants at the border with Russia was covered in an article by Firstpost on November 24. The article explores how Finland is in the midst of a crisis with Russia as the undocumented migrants at their shared border escalates tensions. The situation is characterized by accusations and counterclaims, placing the two nations at odds.

The 1,340-kilometer Finland-Russia border has become a major concern, leading Finland to close most crossings due to a migrant crisis. Finland accuses Russia of orchestrating the situation by enabling undocumented migrants to cross, deviating from their usual documentation policy. Evidence suggests Russia not only permits migrants with invalid documents but also transports them actively to the Finnish border, intensifying the diplomatic dispute.

“Well, we’re very concerned about the border situation where Russia is effectively instrumentalizing people, not only letting people through to the Finnish border with invalid documents, or missing documents, which has not been the case before, but also we have evidence that Russia is effectively bringing those people to the border and organizing transport as well,” said Finland’s foreign minister Elina Valtonen.

The article mentions that migrants are now bypassing traditional restrictions at the Finnish-Russian border by arriving on bicycles and scooters provided by Russia, circumventing established protocols. Finland alleges that Russia not only supplies these vehicles but also leaves them at border crossings and closes gates on their side. Russia denies these claims, dismissing them as baseless. The recent NATO membership of Finland adds complexity, as the border is now considered a NATO border, fueling suspicions that Russia might be using the migrant crisis as a form of retaliation, labeled as hybrid warfare.

“We do not accept such accusations. Border crossings are used by those who have a legal right to do so, and in this regard, our border guards fully comply with all their official instructions. And if they try to find some far-fetched reasons, then again we do not accept such accusations against us here,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Original story was published by Firstpost on 24.11.2023 and can be found here.

Traffic deaths are down in Finland. WA leaders will travel there to find out how.

The decline in traffic deaths in Finland was covered in an article by My Edmonds News on November 6. Washington state lawmakers and transportation officials in the U.S. are planning a trip to Finland to understand the success behind the Nordic nation’s significant reduction in traffic fatalities, contrasting with Washington’s record number of road deaths. The article highlights that the visit aims to explore Helsinki’s successful safety measures, where no traffic-related deaths have occurred in the current year.

In 2022, Finland, with 5.5 million people, recorded 189 deaths (36 fewer than in 2021), while Washington, with about 7.8 million residents, had 750 road-related deaths, the highest since 1990.

Senator Marko Liias, a Democrat from Washington, will be part of a delegation visiting Helsinki in December to learn from Finland’s success in reducing traffic-related deaths. Liias aims to understand Finland’s effective policies, including strict measures on drunk driving and the installation of 70 automatic speed enforcement cameras in Helsinki over the past three years.

Finland maintains a strict stance on drunk driving, setting the legal blood alcohol concentration limit at 0.05%. Helsinki has successfully curbed speeding by installing 70 automatic speed enforcement cameras in the past three years. In Washington, Senators Liias and Lovick proposed a bill last session to lower the maximum blood alcohol concentration for drivers to 0.05%, but it didn’t receive a vote. The issue may be revisited in the 2024 session. While traffic safety cameras are present in select Washington cities, a recent legislative bill also permits the use of speed enforcement cameras in construction work zones.

Original story was published by My Edmonds News on 06.11.2023 and can be found here.

How forest schools boost children’s immune systems

This story about the concept of Finnish forests schools was covered in an article in BBC on November 1. The article explores the benefits of outdoor learning model for children. The Hopealaakso nursery in Helsinki, Finland, has adopted an innovative approach where children, part of the Samoojat group, spend the entire day outdoors in the forest, regardless of weather conditions.

The Samoojat children, aged three to five, spend seven hours outdoors in the forest, engaging in activities like free play, building bridges, picking berries, and observing wildlife.

The outdoor learning model, spreading globally, aligns with numerous studies highlighting the physical and mental health benefits for children, such as reduced obesity, improved mental wellbeing, and increased cognitive development. The article states that the Finnish forest school experience enhances children’s immune systems and fosters a strong connection with nature. Despite the challenging winter climate, the children actively engage in outdoor activities, emphasizing the significance of appropriate clothing and constant movement to combat the cold.

The success of this approach is evident in the children’s resilience, independence, and deep appreciation for the natural environment. The article emphasizes the importance of contact with nature in preventing immune system disorders and fostering environmental consciousness in children.

Original story was published by BBC on 06.11.2023 and can be found here.