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Wednesday's papers: Winter travel woes, Helsinki mosque road bump, voters want candidates with Nato positions

Finland's press on Wednesday reported about Finnair delays and cancellations, a hiccup in plans to build a 'grand mosque' in Helsinki and a poll on Nato membership.

Helsingin moskeijan sijainniksi suunnitellaan Helsingin Hanasaaren voimalan lähiseutua. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Most anyone who was out in the wet, slushy snow that was dumped across much of Finland on Tuesday would likely agree: it was a mess. National airline Finnair, passengers and staff at Helsinki Airport probably agree with that sentiment as well.

According to Iltalehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun)due to Tuesday's wet winter storm, Finnair was forced to cancel more than 60 flights and several other flights were delayed.

The airport shut down two of its three runways at midday on Tuesday due to high winds, which caused problems for other airlines as well as Finnair.

One Finnair customer, the paper writes, claimed that the airline had called off a flight while passengers were in the middle of boarding the aircraft. The customer planned to claim a full refund due to the cancellation and "poor performance" in handling the situation. The paper said the customer's unhappy opinion was not unusual among travellers at the airport.

On Tuesday evening the airline told passengers to expect delays and to prepare for an overnight stay. Hotels by the airport, however, were fully booked, the paper reports.

The airline said schedules should be back to normal by Thursday and said it would continue to make announcements about possible cancellations and delays via SMS, on its Twitter feed and on its website.

Around midnight on Wednesday Finnair issued an apology on its Facebook page saying some delays would likely continue due to the backlog caused by the previous day's cancellations. The airline said they are doing the best they can to serve customers and are "very sorry about the situation."

The sloppy winter weather also forced the cancellation of several train routes on Wednesday. Roads in southern Finland, which became seas of semi-solid slush after the snow turned to rain on Tuesday evening, then froze creating slippery surfaces on Wednesday morning.

Road safety officials say that driving conditions are poor or very poor across the country on Wednesday.

Hanasaari mosque centre rejection

Helsinki's environmental committee decided on Tuesday to deny an application to reserve land on the city's island of Hanasaari for a planned mosque complex, according to several papers, including Ilta-Sanomat and Hufvudstadsbladet.

The proposed plans for a grand mosque in Helsinki are ambitious, according to HBL (siirryt toiseen palveluun). Preliminary plans for the site on Hanasaari envision a plot of land roughly the size of Hakaniemi Market Square — or about 15,000 square metres —and would include a grand mosque, swimming pool and sports facility, education and social centres, housing and a bank.

Hanasaari, located off the city's Sörnäinen district, is a largely industrial area and current home to one of the city's two coal power plants that is slated to be shut down by the end of 2024.

The committee's vice chair Rista Rautava told the paper the decision to reject the proposal as it stood was a rare, unanimous decision by the body.

The committee said it was unable to approve the plans due to the scale of the project. The group said further details about the financial backing of the ambitious project were needed.

The proposal for locating the grand mosque centre on Hanasaari came from city planners, with the motivation that a reserved locale would clarify questions surrounding the financing of the project, which is to be funded in part by Bahrain.

A final decision about the grand mosque's future will be addressed next week by the city council, the papers write.

Voters want to know prez candidates' Nato positions

More than half of Finnish voters told pollsters that they want to know how Finland's presidential candidates feel about joining Nato, according to evening tabloid Iltalehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

Finland is not a member of Nato, but joined its Partnership for Peace in the mid 1990s and cooperates and participates in drills with the alliance on a regular basis.

The poll was commissioned by Alma Media, and asked voters whether they want presidential candidates to have clear stances on the issue of Finland joining Nato.

53 percent of respondents said that they do want presidential candidates to make their Nato positions clearly stated, while some 25 percent of respondents said they had a different opinion, and another 20 percent said they could not answer the question.

As far as party lines are concerned, it was Left Alliance voters who were most adamant about the issue, with 69 percent saying they want to know where candidates stand on joining Nato. Some 41 percent of Christian Democrats — the group with the apparent least interest in the issue — said it was important to them.