“As Transport Minister, I felt that it would be good to open up Finland and Finnish culture to my colleague,” said Kyllönen.
Brownlee’s compatriots have been among the more vocal critics of the minister’s remarks about Finland, in which he criticised the Nordic state’s record on education, employment, homicide, women’s rights and even its ability to feed its people.
Stefan Karlsson, a blogger at the Christian Science Monitor, decided to investigate the claims. His conclusion?
”Brownlee's assertions about Finland are in other words all completely untrue except for the ones about unemployment and homicides, but even in those cases he exaggerates the difference.”
'Not just Nokia phones'
YLE News has received several emails from New Zealanders eager to set the record straight.
”The New Zealand people have great respect for the Finnish people,” said ’Doug’, amid a welter of less temperate comment on Brownlee’s abilities.
Bill Malcolm, from Oumaru, said that he was a big fan of Finland’s mobile communications, tractors and military strength.
”I don’t just have Nokia phones but also I am a proud Valtra owner and have great respect for your country's abilities and attitudes,” said Malcolm. ”After all, we wouldn’t have the guts to take on Russia by ourselves like Finland did 72 years ago.”
On the YLE News Facebook page, Brownlee’s words provoked brisk discussion.
“Drawn match! We've got our domestic "Brownlee" called Hakkarainen.” said Katariina Punna, referencing a controversial Finns Party MP.
“Like it or not, he is right. Especially about the respect for woman. The truth can be painful...” commented Nevem Senki.
“He failed to mention weather. He would've been right on that one!” quipped Sirpa Walton.
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