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Tuesday's papers: Priest sacked, Orpo's budget, and the size of Helsinki apartments

The press covers a range of stories including the sacking of a controversial Orthodox priest, the upcoming budget for 2017, and the reasons why flats in Finland are relatively small.

Kauppakirja ja avain pöydällä.
People moving in to new homes in Finland might have less space than elsewhere, and a lack of competition is a key factor. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Ilta-Sanomat leads with a scoop about Mitro Repo, the controversial and larger-than-life orthodox priest and ex-MEP. He has been fired for "inappropriate behaviour and continual problems with the performance of his duties", according to Markku Salminen, the only church official permitted to speak about the matter.

Salminen said that the sacking came as a result of feedback from parishioners. IS takes the opportunity to go through some of Repo's greatest hits, as he has been a public figure for more than a decade.

A third-generation priest, he was elected as the parish priest at Uspensky Cathedral, the grandest orthodox church in Finland, in 1996. From there he gained a reputation as a man of the people who enjoyed his food and his wine. He spun this into a run for the European Parliament in 2009, and was elected with some 70,000 votes.

That caused consternation in the church hierarchy, however. they were unhappy that he campaigned in his clerical robes, and banned him from dressing as a priest while he was a legislator. That ban ended in 2014 when he failed to gain re-election, however, and he became a priest in Helsinki again. IS reports that he has received 'at least one' warning for neglecting his duties.

IS also publishes anecdotes going back decades about Repo's problematic interactions with women. The paper reports several women's recollections of conversations where he made lewd remarks or behaved inappropriately.

Orpo's budget struggle

Several papers carry some leaks and gossip about the upcoming budget to be presented by Finance Minister Petteri Orpo and voted on by the other party leaders. The pre-publicity has focused on the Centre Party's plan for a tax break for businesses that would allow profit-making concerns to reserve a portion of the corporation tax liabilities for future investments.

This is not supported by Orpo's National Coalition Party, and the minister used a Helsingin Sanomat interview to spell out his problems with the idea.

He said that he does not believe taxation is a block on investment, and that above all companies want stability. The proposed tax break would only help firms that make profits, and Orpo says that he is 'concerned about the outfits that don't make profits'.

The ministry is finalising its own proposal this week ahead of talks between all three government parties starting on 31 August. The ministry is not planning to include the tax break plan, according to Orpo, as corporate taxation is set to be looked at in a separate project late in the year.

Instead he says the proposals in the budget will include measures to reduce disincentives to work and to help people move in pursuit of employment. One measure that is likely to gain support is a reduction or elimination of transfer tax on property sales.

Lack of competition leads to small Helsinki flats

Ilta-Sanomat has a wide-ranging piece about why apartments in Finland, and especially in Helsinki, are relatively small. There are comparatively many studio apartments here, and there is even now a flat that is just 15 square metres.

In Finland as a whole some 15 percent of flats are one room boxes, while two-room abodes represent about 23 percent. In Helsinki some 23 percent of flats are studios, while 36 percent have two rooms.

The smallest flats would be illegal in some countries, and only Prague, Riga and Bratislava have similarly tiny homes, according to urban geographer Mari Vaattovaara of Helsinki University.

According to Vaattovaara and her colleage Matti Kortteinen, the problems are to do with zoning and especially a lack of competition among builders.

"A few big construction companies build in the way that suits them," says Vaattovaara, citing the bigger profits to be made on smaller flats.

"After the Second World War there hasn't really been any competition in Finnish apartment construction," said Kortteinen.

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