Finland in the world press

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

Finland’s shrinking high schools are importing pupils from abroad

This article about Finland’s schools in rural areas inviting students from abroad amid shrinking number of students, was published by The Economist on June 27.

The article discusses a novel approach by high schools in Finland to counteract declining student numbers due to shrinking school-age populations, particularly in rural areas.

Marianne Korkalainen, head teacher of a high school in Rautavaara, plans to fill vacant seats by inviting students from poorer countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, and Tanzania to study in Finland, funded by Finnish taxpayers.

This initiative is driven by a startup called Finest Future, which offers Finnish lessons to students in various countries and refers those who become proficient to Finnish schools. This year, Finest Future aims to bring in around 1,500 foreign students and ultimately hopes to enroll about 15,000 new students annually. The government provides per-student funding for each foreign pupil, benefiting both the schools and the rural communities that receive these new students.

As the country’s population is projected to decline, attracting and educating young foreigners can help counteract this trend. These students, who adapt to Finnish culture and language early, are more likely to stay and contribute to the economy than adults brought in through skilled-worker programs.

However, the program’s sustainability is uncertain, as the Finnish education ministry opposes funding foreign students and may change current policies.

Original story was published by The Economist on 27.06.2024 and can be found here.

Finnish PM urges parliament not to water down controversial deportation bill

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s appeal to parliament not to dilute a deportation bill was covered in an article by Euronews on July 2. The article looks into the controversial bill that would allow border authorities to refuse asylum applications in specific circumstances.

This legislation is intended to address an increase in asylum seekers attempting to cross Finland’s 1,340-kilometre border with Russia.

The bill has faced significant opposition due to potential violations of international non-refoulement and human rights obligations. Over 200 researchers and Michael O’Flaherty, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, have criticized the bill, urging its rejection. The PM aims to secure a five-sixths majority in parliament for the bill, which would be effective for one year if passed.

“From my perspective as Prime Minister, my stance is that Finland needs this law. And I hope that the Parliament will now find such solutions that we can secure the 5/6 majority, and after that, we can feel more secure,” Orpo said.

Finnish officials claim the border closure since December was due to a hybrid influence operation by Moscow, despite the number of asylum seekers being within the average range last year. The parliament is expected to vote on the bill before the summer recess.

Original story was published by Euronews on 02.07.2024 and can be found here.

Finland’s Gasum to end Russian LNG imports in line with EU sanctions

Gasum ending Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports was covered in an article by Reuters on June 25. The article explores the decision by Gasum, a major gas supplier in the Nordic region, to  cease purchasing and importing Russian LNG starting July 26, in compliance with new European Union sanctions.

The decision follows the EU's adoption of a 14th sanctions package targeting Russian gas exports, specifically including a clause, prompted by Finland and Sweden, that prohibits importing Russian LNG through EU terminals not connected to the EU gas network.

Despite Gasum’s existing long-term LNG supply contract with Gazprom Export, the sanctions provide a legal basis, under force majeure, for halting these imports without breaching the contract. Gasum has already been sourcing the majority of its LNG from non-Russian sources and plans to replace the remaining Russian volumes accordingly. All Gasum-operated terminals in Sweden and Finland are affected by the new sanctions.

The sanctions come amidst ongoing geopolitical tensions and a Finnish border closure with Russia since December, aimed at countering a perceived hybrid influence operation by Moscow.

Original story was published by Reuters on 25.06.2024 and can be found here.

Diana project provides NATO tech dividend to Finland

This article about Finland benefitting from NATO’s cyber defence and technology dividend was published by Computer Weekly on July 1. The article discusses NATO’s technological research and development (R&D) facilities and test centers in Finland under the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (Diana) program.

This initiative, launched in 2021, aims to address future defense challenges by partnering with private sector companies to develop innovative technologies. The project is a collaboration between Finland’s state-backed VTT technical research center and NATO’s Diana program. It will involve constructing an accelerator in Helsinki and test centers in Oulu, focusing on defense communication systems, 6G technology, cybersecurity, space innovations, and quantum computing.

The initiative will primarily engage Finnish tech companies, especially startups and small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to develop dual-use technologies for both civilian and defense applications. This collaboration is expected to spotlight Finland’s expertise in key technological areas and enable local companies to meet NATO’s technical and procurement standards. The first application round for the Diana Challenge Programme will commence in the second half of 2024, targeting tech startups.

Original story was published by Computer Weekly on 01.07.2024 and can be found here.

How easing of monopoly laws could shift Nordic alcohol markets

The recent changes in alcohol regulations in Finland and Sweden were covered in an article by Just Drinks on June 20. The explainer explores the implications of the regulations for producers, retailers, and state-run alcohol monopolies.

In Finland, the parliament has increased the maximum alcohol content for drinks sold in supermarkets from 5.5% to 8% ABV, effective June 10, 2024. This change applies to wine and beer but not to ready-to-drink products and mixed alcoholic beverages, which remain capped at 5.5% ABV. As a result, Alko, Finland’s state-run alcohol monopoly, anticipates a reduction in its market share by 6% to 11%, significantly impacting its wine sales.

The brewing industry has criticized the regulations for treating beverages with similar alcohol content differently based on production methods. Additionally, distilleries may face challenges due to reduced foot traffic in Alko stores, which could affect spirits sales.

In Sweden, the government plans to allow the direct sale of artisanally produced alcoholic beverages at production sites starting in early 2025. This change will enable small producers to sell limited quantities directly to visitors.

Original story was published by Just Drinks on 20.06.2024 and can be found here.