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Donner: Discussion of Finland’s image "ridiculous"

The outspoken author, filmmaker and former politician Jörn Donner says it is only Finns that are worried about Finland’s reputation abroad. “A normal Italian isn’t sitting at a cafe wondering about what Finland is doing,” he told Yle’s Swedish language news.

Jörn Donner

The violent anti-migrant protests that took place in Finland recently caused quite a stir in the media. In the aftermath, there were editorials in the press and comments on social media about how Finland’s good image was being tarnished internationally

The Swedish-speaking Jörn Donner, 82, has had many job changes over his long career. Among other things, he is an author, movie producer, and former member of both the Finnish and European parliaments as well as a diplomat.

He spoke with Yle about whether the violence against migrants have created image problem that some Finns say the country is suffering from.

Donner says the violence against asylum seekers is regrettable, but he doesn’t think they will affect the country’s reputation.

"Completely ridiculous"

“The whole discussion about the image of Finland is completely ridiculous,” he says. “I never hear people talking about the ‘Belgian image’ or the ‘Albanian image.’ It’s just Finns themselves that think about the Finnish image.”

“However, the police should have stepped in against those demonstrating schmucks more quickly. These types of people can be found all over Europe, even in Germany and Sweden – and the only thing to do is to intervene against them,” Donner says.

When asked why he thought the image of Finland is discussed periodically, Donner said it was partly due to the size of the country.

“In a small society people are more self-centred in traditions of different wars and hardships. Some think they should demonstrate to the world how good or bad they are, but I think it’s useless,” Donner says. “You should just do as well as you can.”

People taken by surprise

“But as far as immigration goes, all of our latest governments have had anti-immigrant policies. Now people were taken by surprise [by the arriving migrants], and they have nothing to say.”

Does he think the image Finland has given out to lately is the right one?

“Do you think there is an image out there?” Donner asks. “A normal Italian isn’t sitting at a cafe wondering about what Finland is doing, and not in New York either. We shouldn’t exaggerate our presence in the world.”

Donner, who has also lived in Sweden, was asked if Swedes discuss the image of its country in the same way.

“Sweden doesn’t think as much about it. But Sweden has an open immigration policy and has decided to continue with it, which is really remarkable. You shouldn’t think about image - you should think about how people act.

“Swedish society acts in an entirely different way than Finnish society does,” Donner says.

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