Empty Railway Station Hall in Helsinki, February 2, 2024. A strike has completely halted a large part of the metropolitan area's public transportation for a day. Trade unions are opposing, with political strikes, the labor reforms and social security cuts driven by Prime Minister Petteri Orpo's government. LEHTIKUVA

Finland in the world press

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

In Finland, the ‘existential threat’ of Russia looms – and U.S. rescue is far from certain

This opinion article about the current geopolitical situation in Finland,

highlighting its historical relationship with Russia, and the recent tensions amidst fears of Russian aggression, was published in The Guardian on February 2. The article sees the recent presidential elections with the same lens, particularly on its foreign policy regarding Russia.

The article explores the background of Finland’s independence, its accession to NATO, and the implications for its foreign policy. Throughout the piece, the author emphasizes the uncertainty surrounding Finland’s security landscape and the role of international alliances in safeguarding its interests amid Finland’s heightened concerns about Russian aggression.

The article also analyses upcoming presidential elections and the candidates' stance on national security, especially in relation to Russia. Despite their differences on domestic issues, particularly economic and social policies, all candidates, including those from different political backgrounds, adopted hawkish positions towards Russia, during their presidential campaigns.

The article also underscores the concern over the potential return of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency and its impact on NATO's commitment to European security. It points out Trump's previous skepticism about NATO and his unpredictable foreign policy decisions, that have raised apprehensions about the reliability of the U.S. as a security partner for European allies, including Finland.

Additionally, it addresses the challenges posed by the influx of asylum seekers along Finland's border with Russia and the broader implications for regional stability.

The author, John Kampfner is a commentator and broadcaster. He is the author of In Search of Berlin and Why the Germans Do It Better.

Original story was published by The Guardian on 02.02.2024 and can be found here.

After Putin vowed ‘problems,’ Russia ends cross-border deal with Finland

Russia terminating a cross-border agreement with Finland was covered in an article by Politico on January 25. The article explores the development following accusations from Helsinki that Moscow has been exacerbating a migrant crisis on their mutual border.

The agreement, established In 2012 to promote cross-border cooperation, aimed to foster friendly relations between the two countries and develop long-term collaboration. The article mentions that Moscow’s foreign ministry had earlier in October 2023 stated that Moscow was quitting the deal due to “the confrontational actions of Finland against Russia and discrimination against Russians on the basis of national origin in the issuance of entry visas.”

Tensions between Russia and Finland have heightened since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Finland accused Moscow of guiding asylum-seekers to the frontier, which Russia denied. President Vladimir Putin warned of “problems with Finland” and accused NATO of drawing Helsinki into the alliance.

Original story was published by Politico on 25.01.2024 and can be found here.

‘Mafia’ strikes bring Finland to a standstill as unions face down government

This article on the widespread strikes in Finland led by unions protesting government proposals on labor law reforms, was published in Euronews on  February 1. The article underscores deep divisions between the government and labor unions, sparking heated rhetoric and political tensions in Finland.

Hundreds of thousands of workers have joined the strikes, as Helsinki saw a notable rally attended by around 10,000 workers. The government’s proposed reforms aim to make the Finnish economy more competitive but have faced criticism from unions, who argue that the changes would adversely affect low-wage earners and shift power towards employers in salary negotiations.

The rhetoric surrounding the dispute has become increasingly divisive, with government ministers referring to the unions as “mafia” and accusing them of engaging in politically motivated strikes. On the other hand, union leaders argue that the strikes are necessary to protect workers’ interests and ensure fair labor practices.

One of the key points of contention is the proposed changes to collective bargaining rules, which unions fear would weaken the bargaining power of workers. Finland traditionally followed a tripartite model for labor negotiations involving the government, trade unions, and employers. However, recent changes have led to the erosion of this model, causing concern among unions about the potential for further weakening workers’ rights.

The strikes coincide with the presidential election campaign, intensifying the political atmosphere. The government defends its reforms as necessary for economic competitiveness and has accused unions of engaging in political strikes. “The need to reform our social security system and increase employment is urgent because of our public debt level. We need to get more people to work, decrease public spending and improve the operating environment to attract investments,” Arto Satonen, Finland’s Minister for Employment told Euronews.

Original story was published by Euronews on 01.02.2024 and can be found here.

Finland Follows the Money: Tracing Monero to Catch Hacker

Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation effectively tracking Monero (XMR) transactions to identify a ransomware hacker, despite the privacy coin’s anonymous features was covered in an article by The Crypto Times on January 29. The article highlights the underscores the increasing sophistication of cryptocurrency tracking methods employed by law enforcement agency of Finland.

The article states that Julius Aleksanteri Kivimäki stands trial for allegedly hacking a mental health firm's database in Oct 2022, demanding a 40 Bitcoin (BTC) ransom. Unpaid, he targeted individual patients, receiving crypto payments converted into Monero. The hacker utilized exchanges without KYC, converting funds into Monero, then to Binance, and back to BTC across diverse wallets.

This case shows the effectiveness of crypto forensics in tracing transactions, challenging assumptions of Monero’s complete anonymity and urging re-evaluation of privacy coins. It also demonstrates that while certain cryptocurrencies offer enhanced privacy features, they are not immune to investigation and detection by authorities.

Original story was published by The Crypto Times on 29.01.2024 and can be found here.

U.S. troops stationed in Finland interferes with the freedom of other countries

This opinion article providing a critical outlook on the Finland’s recent defense cooperation agreement with the United States, was published in The Cable on January 29. The agreement permits the U.S. military to utilize 15 military bases within Finland’s borders. The article argues that while the US sees the presence of troops in Finland as essential for regional security and strategic interests, it could have detrimental effects on Finnish sovereignty, peace, and stability, as well as the broader implications for international relations in Europe and beyond.

Finland’s NATO membership and the subsequent decision to station 5,000 U.S. troops have raised international concerns and heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia. The U.S. aims to bolster NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe, monitor Russian military activities, and protect strategic interests in the Arctic and Baltic Sea regions.

However, critics argue that U.S. troop presence in Finland undermines Finnish neutrality, threatens peace and stability, and may lead to ecological, social, and political unrest. The move is seen as advancing US interests at the expense of other countries’ sovereignty and autonomy, as it may limit Finland’s ability to pursue independent foreign policy goals and participate effectively in international organizations like the European Union.

The article also contends that Finland risks becoming a pawn in U.S.-Russia tensions and losing its autonomy in international affairs. The article raises concerns over the potential adverse environmental impacts, including habitat destruction, pollution, and disruption of local ecosystems, arising from the establishment of military bases and infrastructure in Finland. Moreover, it highlights that increased military activity may contribute to social and political unrest within Finnish society, as communities react to the presence of foreign forces and potential security threats.

The author, Adebayo Balogun, is a public affairs analyst based in Lagos.

Original story was published by The Cable on 29.01.2024 and can be found here.