Friday's papers: Rebuff to Putin, money for testing, expert candidates

Posts marking the Finnish-Russian border. Image: Tommi Parkkinen / Yle

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat carries reaction (siirryt toiseen palveluun) from Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen (CEN) to Russian President Vladimir Putin's latest effort to limit Nato expansion.

"Of course, it has been known that Russia is critical of Nato and certainly of Nato enlargement," Kaikkonen noted.

"There are no preparations or plans for us to apply for NATO membership now. Nevertheless, we want to keep it [the membership option] and keep it in our own hands. And on the other hand, the alliance itself decides who it will take as a member or not," Kaikkonen said, echoing a statement by President Sauli Niinistö on Thursday.

Kaikkonen believes that Putin's comments are indicative of a rather tense situation between the West and Russia.

“Of course, it’s unfortunate that the atmosphere is like this right now,” he added.

Tampere's Aamulehti features a wide ranging interview (siirryt toiseen palveluun) with President Niinistö marking the paper's 140th anniversary week. The discussion touched upon issues as diverse as good deeds, the coronavirus pandemic, Tampere's development, journalism and security policy.

Asked about where Finland's defense should be anchored, President Niinistö said, "Ultimately, our own responsibility is foremost in these matters."

Niinistö expressed the view that Finland is relatively “at the forefront” of military capability on a European scale.

On the subject of international defense partners, President Niinistö enumerated a long list of cooperation including ever-strengthening ties with Sweden, a special partnership with Nato, common Nordic security thinking "in the triangle with Norway" and, for example, the Joint Expeditionary Forces for International Crisis Management led by the United Kingdom. In addition, he mentioned cooperation with France and Germany.

State funds for testing

After reporting statements on Thursday by Lasse Lehtonen, Director of Diagnostic Services at Helsinki University Hospital (HUS), saying that coronavirus testing will have to be severely cut back due to lack of state funding, Iltalehti now reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that money will be made available.

Kirsi Varhila, Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has now told Iltalehti that there was no cause for concern.

According to Varhila, the government has committed to reimbursing the direct costs related to the pandemic, such as testing costs, in full, as long as the situation and the implementation of the coronavirus strategy so require.

Late on Thursday, the ministry issued a bulletin stating that the central government will continue to reimburse municipalities in full for the costs associated with their action to combat the coronavirus.

Part of funds reserved for the 2021 budget will be available in 2022. Additional funding to cover costs incurred in 2022 can be allocated through a supplementary state budget, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Expertise over party

Kuopio's Savon Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) is among the morning papers that carries an Uutissuomalainen news group poll showing that 38 percent of voters say that expertise in social and health care and rescue services will be the main factor in choosing a candidate when voting in January's county council elections.

That figure is well ahead of the 29 percent who see party affiliation as the main criteria in deciding who will get their vote.

The county council, or regional, elections are being held in Finland for the first time. Voters will be asked to choose candidates to join their local county council, which will decide on social, health, fire and rescue services in their area.

Sami Borg, an election researcher at the University of Tampere, told Uutissuomalainen that the emphasis on expertise is a little surprising. Borg believes that this will now become a major part in campaigns for the county council elections in 2022.

"Expertise means in practice that the candidate works or has worked in these fields or has the appropriate training for them. Of course, the candidates and the parties will highlight these features in their campaigns," said Borg.

Jouni Tilli, a lecturer in political science at the University of Jyväskylä, pointed out that the need for candidates to convince voters of their expertise in an understandable way will require a certain style of campaigning.

"One could hope that the campaigns will emphasize expertise. This would also make it clear to citizens what these welfare areas and regional councils are all about," Tilli noted .

Cold and colder

Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) tells its readers that winter is tightening its grip as Independence Day approaches.

Looking at the forecast for the upcoming long holiday weekend, the paper reports that the coldest temperatures are forecast for Sunday and Independence Day on Monday.

Weekend temperatures in Helsinki will hover at -10C, in Tampere and Pori -15C, in Jyväskylä -16C, in Vaasa -20C.

Foreca meteorologist Juha Föhr told Ilta-Sanomat that readings will drop to as low as -35C "somewhere in Lapland".

"But where, I'm not going to guess. Not quite in southern Lapland, not up at the top either, but somewhere in between," Föhr said.