Tuesday’s papers: Energy fusion, presidential debate, meat prices and the difficulty of flirting

A massive energy merger, meat prices and sexual harassment are among the topics on the front pages of Finnish newspapers on 9 January.

The Uniper coal power plant in Großkrotzenburg, Germany. Image: AOP

The largest provincial daily, Aamulehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun), previews a presidential candidates' debate to be held this week in its home base of Tampere, co-hosted by the paper and Yle. Incumbent Sauli Niinistö and his seven challengers in this month's election are to appear onstage on Friday at the main hall at the University of Tampere. The event is free, with room for close to 1,000 people in two auditoriums.  Advance voting to choose Finland's next president begins just over a week from now, on January 17.

Otherwise AL's front page is mostly devoted to local transport news, including an elk collision and planned road overhauls, as well a report on recent bird sightings, including a flock of 4,000 redpolls in nearby Vammala.

KL: Fortum buys into German coal

The business daily Kauppalehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reports on the merger between Finland's biggest energy company, Fortum, and Germany's coal-heavy Uniper. Late Monday, Germany's E.ON agreed to sell its remaining 47 percent stake in Uniper to Fortum, giving the Finnish state-majority-owned firm just under half of the company's stock. Last autumn E.ON said tentatively that it would sell its stake to Fortum at 22 euros per share, more than double Uniper's listing price, totalling nearly 3.8 billion euros. Uniper itself was fiercely against the agreement.

Two years ago, E.ON spun off most of its traditional power plants into Uniper as it moved to concentrate more on renewable energy. Fortum, too, says it intends to focus more on low-emission energy but insists the Uniper deal will help it “accelerat[e] the transition to a clean and secure energy future.”

Also on the energy beat, KL analyses the recent power outages caused by heavy snow in eastern Finland, and notes that such electricity cuts will become less frequent in the future due to infrastructure overhauls. However it quotes Professor Jarmo Partanen, an expert in electrical grid technology at the University of Lappeenranta, as saying that Finland's power systems will still potentially be vulnerable to intentional sabotage.

"If you think about the threat of terrorism or war, certainly the grid can be quickly paralysed, even for a long time, and there's nothing you can do to protect against it," he says – except more decentralised power production.

MT: Low prices and high costs on meat market

The main rural newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reports that the price of meat production in Finland often does not cover costs. It cites a large 5500-pig facility built in 2016 in Sastamala, south-west Finland, as a joint project between two farmers who grow much of their own fodder, use automated feeding and generate heat from the animals’ manure.

However the farmers complain that price paid per kilo remains low by European standards. They estimate that they would have earned over 100,000 euros more last year if they were paid the average EU price. Meanwhile, they say, costs here are higher, partly due to stricter animal protection laws. Elsewhere in Europe, swine are kept in more crowded conditions with their tails lopped off and with heavier use of antibiotics, they assert.

“We shouldn’t be on the same starting line when it comes to producer prices,” says farmer Juha Savela. According to Jukka Rantala of the Union of Finnish Agricultural Producers MTK, which publishes the paper, the problem is that consumers are not willing to pay more for quality.

On an entirely different note, MT runs an article headlined ‘Flirting is not sexual harassment, and not only men are guilty of it – here’s how to avoid difficult situations’. The article is helpfully illustrated by a photo of two men in black suits walking behind a woman in a pink miniskirt and high heels.