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Soini: I'm surprised more immigrants don't come to Finland

In the first Yle News 2015 election interview, chair of the nationalist Finns Party Timo Soini offered his opinions on the European Union, immigration and the repeated racism scandals that have dogged his party. He also looked ahead to ponder the party's post-election fortunes.

Video: Timo Soini Yle Newsin haastattelussa 3. maaliskuuta.
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Timo Soini told Denise Wall of Yle News that his populist party has been "a success story". Video: Yle

In the first of our pre-election interviews, Finns Party chair Timo Soini told Yle News that he is surprised and annoyed that members of his party have been repeatedly accused of racism.

"I’m very proud of my party," said Soini. "I will say that this is a success story. We are challenging the established parties very well with new ideas, we are taking democracy back into the Finnish discussion, but I require - and also demand - that we also talk about the positive aspects of the Finns Party."

Soini went on to say that his party had, in fact, taken steps to rein in what he said was a marginal number of people "who are said to be Finns Party supporters".

"We have expelled some people, for example, one MP James Hirvisaari, we have kicked him out," he pointed out. Hirvisaari was expelled in 2013 after photographing a visiting friend as he made a Nazi salute in Parliament House.

Soini: "Finland does not have too many immigrants"

The populist Eurosceptic was keen to emphasise that he wants Finland to be an open country to immigrants, despite his party's critical comments on the matter. He noted that Finland "is one of the least-immigrated countries in the world."

"Finland is a good country to work, educate and live, this is a safe country," said Soini. "And I’m actually surprised that more immigrants are not interested to come here."

"When I went to Brussels I noticed what bureaucracy is," said former MEP Soini. "I think it is much easier to get those jobs done in Finland than it is in Belgium."

Soini wasn't shy to air his characteristic mistrust of the European Union project.

"Europe is fine, but the European Union should come back to its roots which were a free commercial alliance and a commercial agreement and much cooperation among European countries, but now it is trying to be a European superpower at every level," said Soini.

He stopped short, however, of calling for a Finnish departure from the common currency.

"It cannot happen without a majority of the Finnish people and Parliament agreeing, and now there’s no such thing, so it’s a purely academic question," said Soini.

Finns Party now ready for government

In spite of the party's massive surge in the 2011 elections, Soini chose to take his MPs into opposition. This time around, with no big EU bailouts looming as a sticking point, Soini said he's ready to enter into government formation talks if the party continues to poll among the "big four".

"I think I can live with all the big parties. The easiest would be the Centre because we have both been in opposition. ... As a starting point I would not exclude any of the big parties," he added.

Ahead of the parliamentary elections due on 19 April, Yle News is interviewing all the party leaders in English. We'll produce a short online film on each of the party chairs where we grill them on their plans for the next electoral term.

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