Ohisalo: Police called to schools to protect children from anti-vaccine groups

Finland's Interior Minister also said she was concerned about reports people are harassing hospitality and culture sector staff over the need for a Covid pass.

Interior Minister and Green League chair Maria Ohisalo in the Ykkösaamu studio on Saturday morning. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Interior Minister and chair of the Green League Maria Ohisalo told Yle's Ykkösaamu breakfast show on Saturday morning that police officers have been called to schools to protect children from anti-vaccine groups.

"I have to say that we have had the police in school yards in order to ensure that children can get to school safely," Ohisalo said, adding that people should always turn to the police for help if they feel threatened.

During the interview, the minister also said she was concerned about reports people are harassing hospitality and culture sector staff over the need for a Covid pass, and appealed on behalf of businesses and workers in both sectors for this harassment to stop.

Ohisalo: Government parties not in crisis

Internal wrangles between the five coalition parties within Finland's government have been making headlines throughout the autumn.

Ohisalo's own party has clashed with coalition partner the Centre Party over the use of peat for energy, which also led to a long delay during last spring's budget talks.

Tensions were also high over proposed budget cuts for the culture sector, with Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) openly criticising Minister of Culture Antti Kurvinen (Cen) for publishing a list of spending cuts even though the governing parties were still discussing them.

However, Ohisalo denied there are any sizeable rifts between the parties.

"I do not think we are on the verge of a crisis here," she said.

Greens change position on nuclear power

The Green League has twice previously left a government coalition because of disagreements over nuclear power, but is now part of the current administration which has lobbied the EU to declare nuclear power a sustainable energy source.

Ohisalo told Ykkösaamu that her party's position on the matter has changed because the situation has changed, saying that the Greens now believe nuclear power is needed because climate change must be tackled by all means necessary.

"Along with [Finance Minister and Centre Party chair Anikka] Saarikko, we have sought to determine at the EU level, and based on research data, whether nuclear power is a form of energy that meets the boundary conditions of the Paris Climate Agreement and does not cause significant harm to biodiversity," Ohisalo explained.

Yle News' weekly podcast All Points North discussed the Finnish government's decision to lobby the EU on declaring nuclear energy a sustainable power source.

You can listen to the full podcast using the embedded player here, via Yle Areena, Spotify (siirryt toiseen palveluun) or Apple Podcasts (siirryt toiseen palveluun) or on your usual podcast player using the RSS feed (siirryt toiseen palveluun). Story continues after the audio.

The government's decision to lobby the EU on this matter was decided at a meeting of ministers on 9 July, but was not made public.

According to Ohisalo, there were preliminary discussions with other countries and the details of these are not usually disclosed.

Subsidies reform for agriculture sector

Speaking about the agriculture sector, Ohisalo said the system of subsidies should be reformed so that the sector can meet emissions targets.

The sector receives a lot of different subsidies, the minister pointed out, but they are partly inefficient and do not support the requirements for a 'green transition'.

Ohisalo therefore did not rule out the possibility that farmers would receive additional subsidies in order to maintain climate-friendly production and biodiversity, although agricultural subsidies are mainly decided by the EU.

Ohisalo to become Minister of the Environment

Ohisalo will be on maternity leave from next month and when she returns she will take over as Minister of the Environment, telling Ykkösaamu that her objective in the role will be to increase the presence of environmental issues within the government.

"Of course, the Minister of the Environment's portfolio is one of the heaviest in this world. I would like to give even more weight to those issues as party chair, so that those issues are certainly there at the table of the five [coalition parties]," she said.

Tampere MP Iiris Suomela will be Ohisalo's interim replacement as Green League leader while she is on maternity leave and current Minister of the Environment Krista Mikkonen will take over as Interior Minister.