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Thursday's papers: Nato timing, energy imports, pollen season

Most papers report on a US visit by the defence minister, who says now isn't the right time to file for Nato membership.

Hazel pollen from central Europe will soon be in the air in southern parts of Finland. Image: Metsähallitus/Tapani Mikkola
Yle News

Tampere's Aamulehti is among the papers covering a working visit to the United States by Finland's Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Cen).

Kaikkonen described his talks with his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, as "good and constructive".

Following his meetings, Kaikkonen told the press that the continuation of Nato's open-door policy is important for Finland, but because of the situation in Ukraine, this is not the right time to apply for Nato membership.

"It seems that the idea within Nato is that the most important thing now, understandably and rightly, is how to ease the war in Ukraine, to achieve a ceasefire and perhaps a negotiation process. It's probably not the right time to post that membership application right now. Discussions are still underway and [Finland's] political parties are also considering their own positions," Kaikkonen said.

The defence minister added that he and his US counterpart were able to map out a number of areas of cooperation which can be further enhanced.

"A little later, I think we have something to tell on this front. The basis is now established. Next, we'll roll up our sleeves and get to work," is how Kaikkonen put it.

Aamulehti further reports that in addition to co-operation between Finland and the US, the Finnish defence minister said that he had also raised trilateral co-operation between Finland, Sweden and the US.

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State player GPS jamming

In a follow-up to its report earlier this week about interference to GPS signals in eastern Finland, the daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that at least one expert believes that the jamming has been carried out by the Russian state.

Assistant Professor Laura Ruotsalainen of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki told the paper that interference to signals has been so extensive that only state actors have the necessary equipment.

According to her assessment, this is a similar situation to that in 2018, when it is believed that Russia jammed the satellite positioning system in northern Finland during the Nato military exercises in neighbouring Norway. At that time, Norway gathered evidence which is said showed the Russian armed forces as the source of the interference.

Helsingin Sanomat reached out to the Finnish Defence Forces and the Border Guard on Wednesday, but neither provided comments on the issue. The Foreign Ministry's response was brief.

"Finland cannot accept any activity that may pose a danger to civilian operators or flight safety in Finland. The authorities are investigating the incidents," the ministry said.

Rethinking energy imports

Russian wood chips have played a major role in energy production in Finland, points out the farmers' union paper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.

The use of imported chips has grown steadily in Finland over the past five years. The latest statistics are from 2020. At that time, 1.8 million cubic meters of imported chips were burned by Finnish power utilities, which was 13 percent more than in the previous year.

The share of imported chips in energy production rose to 24 percent. Russia accounted for the majority of imports, 81 percent.

MT reports that a number of public power utilities, including those in the cities of Turku, Mikkeli and Oulu have already stopped importing Russian fuel.

In contrast, it notes that much as 40 percent of the wood chips being burned for power in Joensuu still come from Russia.

The region's energy company, Savon Voima, has not yet stopped the import of Russian wood chips.

The company's business director, Juha Räsänen, told the paper Savon Voima began increasing the use of domestic supplies in 2020, "Now we have to take the matter forward at a faster pace. Much depends on whether energy imports are disrupted and how sanctions affect them."

On Wednesday Finland's state-owned Neova Group announced that it was reversing a decision to end peat production, and will restart harvesting and supplying peat to replace Russian wood chip imports.

According to a report carried by Jyväskylä's Keskisuomalainen, private peat producers are very uncertain about whether they will be able to meet the higher-than-expected demand for energy peat next summer.

Hanna Haavikko, who heads the Finnish Peat Entrepreneurs Association, said that the 60 private companies in the group have already taken steps to shut down production.

"Machinery has been scrapped and sold and environmental permits for production may no longer be valid. Some have also already started restoring the peat bogs and given up their leases," Haavikko pointed out.

Weather - good news, bad news

The tabloid Iltalehti tells readers that temperatures are rising and by Friday the weather should be fair and up to +5C all around the country.

On the other hand, the pollen season is about to begin in the southwest, and in Uusimaa, in about a week. Hazel pollen and alder pollen will soon be carried on winds from central Europe and southern Sweden¨, where they have started to bloom.

Warmer weather will give pollen levels a further boost.

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