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Monday's papers: New Finance Minister, train congestion, weeks of warm weather

Finland's press looks at Centre Party candidates to replace the Minister of Finance.

Speaker of parliament Matti Vanhanen refused to be drawn on rumours he will replace Katri Kulmuni as Minister of Finance. Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle

Helsingin Sanomat reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on the ongoing negotiations within the Centre Party to replace Katri Kulmuni as Minister of Finance, after she quit the post on Friday over a 50,000-euro consultancy bill.

HS writes that, according to its sources within the party, there is a widespread desire to promote an experienced politician who enjoys cross-party support to the position. This leaves two main candidates: the 64-year-old former Prime Minister and current Speaker of Parliament Matti Vanhanen and the 72-year-old current MEP and former government minister Mauri Pekkarinen.

According to HS, Pekkarinen has refused all offers to consider taking up the position, despite being approached by what he describes as "serious forces" on several occasions over the weekend, leaving the current speaker of parliament Vanhanen in the frame.

HS reached Vanhanen on Sunday evening, but found the former PM and presidential candidate tight-lipped about his plans. However, HS stresses that Vanhanen "did not quite unequivocally say no", and was only willing to confirm that the Centre Party will be making an announcement on Monday.

"Yes, that name will be clear by morning," Vanhanen told HS. "I don't want to say more about this."

The Centre Party will make the decision of who to put forward as its choice for Minister of Finance at a meeting of the party leadership, the parliamentary group and MEPs starting on Monday morning. HS also speculated that should Vanhanen accept the party’s nomination, outgoing Finance Minister Kulmuni may replace him as Speaker.

"Like herrings in a jar"

Tabloid Iltalehti reported (siirryt toiseen palveluun) from a congested Helsinki-Oulu Sunday afternoon train, where passengers were unable to physically distance themselves from each other as all seats were full and there was even standing room only on some parts of the journey.

IL spoke to one passenger, Jani Karttunen from Oulu, who complained that not only was the train full, there was no hand disinfectant available in the carriages.

"It was really impossible to keep any safety gaps or to prevent the spread of coronavirus, if there happened to be a person with coronavirus on board. It was really like herrings in a jar," Karttunen said, referring to the Finnish equivalent of the English-language phrase 'packed in like sardines'.

After each station, announcements reminded passengers to keep a safe distance from fellow passengers and staff, which further puzzled Karttunen.

"It makes you wonder what is the point of those announcements when that request cannot be fulfilled in practice," Karttunen said.

In response, VR's commercial director of passenger traffic Salla Ketola, told IL that the company has tried to facilitate physical distancing on trains, such as adding more carriages, but it is not always possible to avoid situations like Sunday.

"It is such an awkward feature about train travel that people often get their tickets at the last minute, so we can’t promise the train isn’t full," Ketola said, adding that she hopes people use their discretion when traveliing and comply with the safety instructions issued by authorities.

"We hope that in this situation people would plan their own travel a little in advance and if there is more flexibility, they would leave for midsummer, for example, a day or two earlier and not on the last train of the evening," Ketola told IL.

Hopes high for a sunny Midsummer

After a weekend of strong winds and storm damage, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat promised (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that there is some good weather news on the horizon with temperatures over the next two weeks -- up until Midsummer -- expected to be between three and six degrees Celsius higher than normal.

The tabloid pointed to a forecast, published by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), which showed an area of high pressure moving over Finland for the month of June. According to IS, this means that a "chilly, rainy midsummer seems almost as unlikely at the moment as winning the lottery".

"The monthly forecast promises much warmer weather for Finland than usual for the season,” Foreca meteorologist Joanna Rinne told the tabloid. "There is nothing to prevent the hot weather from hitting Midsummer as well. That would be pretty perfect timing!"