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Governing coalition leaders meet to discuss equality in wake of racism scandals

The governing coalition parties are negotiating amongst themselves the contents of an official government statement outlining its stance on racism, after a summer of scandals.

Sari Essayah, Anna-Maja Henriksson, Petteri Orpo and Riikka Purra speak to the press on Königstedt's veranda. On a small round table in front of the four ministers is a battery of microphones and in the foreground are cameras. A green lawn can be seen in the background.
The leaders of the four governing parties addressed the media today at the Königstedt Manor in Vantaa. Image: Lehtikuva
Yle News

The leaders of the four governing coalition parties met on Wednesday to discuss measures to promote equality and non-discrimination in Finland. An official government statement on these themes is in the works.

The meeting was held at the state guest house Königstedt Manor in Vantaa. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP), Finance Minister Riikka Purra (Finns) Agriculture Minister Sari Essayah (CD) and Education Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson (SPP) spoke to the media after the meeting.

A working group was set up in early July to prepare the statement. Consultations included social partners, industry and NGOs.

On Wednesday, the government discussed the statement based on the working group's preparatory work. It was announced in July that the statement will also contain proposals on how to promote work against racism and anti-Semitism in Finland and internationally.

The statement is due to be submitted to Parliament in early September.

The statement was agreed between the governing party chairs in July after Finance Minister and Finns Party chair Riikka Purra apologised for her comments some 15 years ago written in the guestbook of current Speaker of Parliament Jussi Halla-aho's (Finns) blog.

Not fully up to speed with the new government's scandal-filled summer? Last week's All Points North podcast looked back at the series of racism and far-right scandals that rocked Orpo's newly-formed coalition government. Listen to the episode via this embedded player, on Yle Areena, Apple or via Spotify.

Is racism becoming normalised in Finland?
All Points North returns from its summer break with a review of the political turmoil that has beset the newly-formed government since it took office just before midsummer.

Orpo: Difficult discussions

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo commented on Wednesday's discussions, which according to him, made the Königstedt Manor a "sweaty place to be".

He said that he was not only referring to the hot weather but also to the issues on the table. Orpo said the issues are demanding, challenging and big.

For the government statement, the working group has consulted a wide range of experts. The programme of measures is very concrete.

"Measures must be taken throughout society," Orpo told Yle.

This was the first time that the governing coalition party leaders went through the draft in its entirety.

"We will get this done. Once we do it, we can concentrate fully on implementing a good government programme," Orpo said.

No concrete measures yet stated

It is still unclear what measures the governing coalition parties are discussing and how they will be funded.

"It is clear that when measures are included in the final paper, the government will allocate sufficient resources to them," Orpo said.

Orpo and Finance Minister Purra echoed the same message that the issues have already been written into the government programme and their funding has been secured.

The party leaders also did not comment on the concrete measures set out in the statement.

Henriksson: Discussions more helpful than harmful

Whether the meeting has Swedish People Party's (SPP) chair Anna-Maja Henriksson said the day has been fruitful in bringing the Swedish People's Party and Finns Party closer together.

"We are calling for concrete measures and the work will continue. In that sense, the day has been more helpful than harmful," Henriksson emphasised.

Finns Party chair Purra added that the government partners are not fighting amongst themselves.

Henriksson also said she was confident that the governing parties will find a common way forward. Henriksson said the party will make an overall assessment on its position in the government later in August.

"I think that the statement and what we get from it is very important for us. That is why it is worth investing time in this," Henriksson says.

However, Henriksson said there is still a lot of work to be done.

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