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Tuesday's papers: Nazi links, Russia rumblings and toothless Team Finland

The newspapers on Tuesday carried deep and broad background on the death of a man apparently at the hands of a neo-Nazi, along with coverage of an ongoing debate between different generations of Finnish policy makers and a critique of the Foreign Ministry's efforts to promote exports.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

The death of a man after he was attacked by a neo-Nazi continues to dominate the news agenda on Tuesday. Helsingin Sanomat carries three pages of updates on the police reaction, the general atmosphere and the background of the Finnish Resistance Movement (FRM), the neo-Nazi organisation whose member attacked the victim.

The stories include news that Finland's senior police officers would gladly ban the organisation, some details on the investigation, and a comment piece excoriating the inaction and bland statements from Finland's political leaders.

Online HS has more, offering up some background on the links between Finns Party MP Olli Immonen and the suspect. Immonen was pictured with many neo-Nazis including the suspect in last week's death at a memorial service for Eugen Schauman, a Nationalist who assassinated the Russian Tsar's highest official in Finland in 1905.

An FRM leader also made a speech at that event, although Immonen did defend himself by claiming the memorial was open to anyone who wanted to turn up. Immonen also attended a march with FRM members on Independence Day 2014.

HS points out that another Finns Party MP, Juho Eerola, cast doubt on FRM culpability for an attack on an antifascist book reading in Jyväskylä in 2013. Eerola said that it may have been staged by the book authors (one of whom is Li Andersson, currently chair of the Left Alliance) as a publicity stunt. Eerola also defended his former assistant Ulla Pyysalo when it emerged that she had sought membership of FRM.

HS also named the suspect in the current involuntary manslaughter case, stating that it did so on journalistic grounds as he has long been a public figure and a leading figure in the political movement, and that he has a very long criminal record of political violence.

Yle has decided not to name him, in line with normal procedure in reporting on criminal cases.

Generational shift in Russia policy

The recent FIIA report on Russia caused something of a storm in Finnish political circles. The report said that Russia is now a greater threat to Finland, is becoming more active abroad, and has engaged in so-called hybrid warfare which blends conventional military conflict, unconventional battles and cyber warfare.

This is relatively uncontroversial in much of the world, as Russia's actions in Ukraine and elsewhere have seemed to follow this pattern. In Finland, however, there was uproar in some quarters at such plain speaking. First veteran Centre Party MP and member of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Sirkka-Liisa Anttila broke cover.

She said that Finland's security is based on 'direct and good bilateral relations with Russia', questioning the FIIA report's assertion that bilateral contacts without an EU 'anchor' are a risk to Finland.

Ilta-Sanomat today carries a report on a new book by Juhani Suomi, a professor who served in the 1970s as the senior official in charge of relations with Russia. He's not happy with the current approach, saying that Finland is prioritising EU interests above its own.

It's part of what Helsingin Sanomat described over the weekend as a conflict between the 'CSCE generation' and the 'EU generation' of Finnish policy-makers—and something you might see at the Lenin Museum in Tampere.

The report, you see, was written by thirty- and forty-somethings, who came of age in the European Union and the online world of today. Many Finns cling to the idea that Finland navigated the Cold War through diplomatic cunning, argues the author, and ignore the reality that the country was just a pawn in the games played by great powers.

Team Finland under fire

Business daily Kauppalehti leads with an investigation of Team Finland, the rebranded export promotion initiative launched by the Foreign and Trade ministries in 2012. It was supposed to help small and medium enterprises find new markets abroad by switching the focus of a hefty workforce to promote Finnish commerce all over the world.

There were some problems in practice. KL found it difficult to ascertain exactly how many staff work on Team Finland, for instance, as they are spread across 16 agencies and some of them calculate the time spent on Team Finland differently to others. They came up with a figure of 8,487, anyway.

Then there is the practice. Finnish exports are still down, according to figures from the Customs board, so in the big picture the project hasn't really worked. But the co-operation of civil servants on a commercial project also brings its own challenges. One expert who has worked with Team Finland told KL anonymously that there was a certain bureaucratic rigidity in the organisation.

"I was told that it doesn't matter what businesses need, we have this agreed process," said the expert. "At that point I decided to get a new job. I want to do significant work, not just run a process."

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