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Friday's papers: Capital region v Sote, Battle of Tampere centenary, and pets in shops

Friday's papers look at urban opposition to 'sote' reforms, the centenary of the Battle of Tampere in the civil war, and proposals to sell pets in shops.

Gerbiili kuvattuna häkkinsä suulla.
How do you feel about selling small pets in stores? Image: Per Lindgren / AOP

The country's most widely-read daily Helsingin Sanomat ends the week with an indictment of the government's attempt at social and health care reform. The headline "Unprecedented coup" reveals the paper's stance, and the article goes on to discuss how the reform would "take half of the tax income of Helsinki and its neighbouring communities and make them dependent on state government".

HS says the reform would bring 300 to 800 million euro's worth of growth in the private health and social care market, resulting in the capital city region's municipalities losing half of their tax revenue and compromising the cities' previously independent finances. Last week, several city council members projected that the reform would force Helsinki to close down some of its health care centres.

The backlash can be attributed to a recent report on the reform that says it will be underfunded by 300 million euros in the metropolitan region of Uusimaa already in its first year, 2020.

"This idea that the health care centres will have to be shut down is a misinterpretation. The reform won't threaten Helsinki's services any time soon, because I am quite certain that the funding issue will be resolved in the first few years," Markus Syrjänen, the high-ranking civil servant in Espoo and Helsinki behind the report, tells HS.

Syrjänen does admit however that his analysis foresees a dip in service standards. People are getting older and the tax-paying proportion of the population is growing smaller. He tells HS that no one can calculate with any certainty whether the government's reform is economically sound.

Politicians in the capital city area are up in arms about the report's findings. The Helsinki city council has scheduled an extraordinary meeting for early April to discuss the reform and vote on whether to support it. The current Uusimaa regional council announced on Tuesday that it opposes the reform.

Finland's bloodiest battle began 100 years ago today

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports that Friday marks one hundred years since the Battle of Tampere broke out in Finland's southern city. The Battle of Tampere in 1918 was the bloodiest battle of the Finnish Civil War, and is still the urban conflict resulting in the largest loss of life ever recorded on Nordic soil. Today's battle 100 years ago saw the Reds and the Whites face off in fierce fighting in an area of Tampere called Länkipohja.

The tabloid states that some 700 White fighters were killed in the Battle of Tampere, while the number of Reds that died is put at 2,000. Over half of the Reds that were killed were executed prisoners. The Whites' siege of Tampere was successful, and fighting ended with a Red surrender on April 6. It is estimated that some 10,000 Red prisoners who capitulated at the end of the fighting were sent to a POW camp in Kalevankangas, near the city. The Finnish Civil War lasted four months and took a total of 38,000 lives.

Community dining from surplus food

The periodical Suomen Kuvalehti takes a closer look at how individual cities in the capital city region are tackling breadlines. The capital city municipalities of Vantaa, Helsinki and others have been in the news lately for their efforts to eliminate "inhumane bread lines in the cold" in their cities.

The publication looks at how Lutheran parishes in the city of Korso have taken to offering residents lunch every Wednesday from edible food that has been discarded. The parish sources the food from the city of Vantaa's food aid organisation Shared Table (Yhteinen pöytä), which seeks to redistribute surplus food to the needy.

Shared Table delivers surplus food from food factories, wholesalers and retailers to food aid distributors, such as congregations, NGOs and citizen centres in the Vantaa area. The recipients then either give away the food or organize community lunches.

In December 2018, Shared Table joined with the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra to expand the idea of community lunch-type assistance to the rest of Finland. A similar dinner is arranged in Järvenpää and Helsinki is pondering how to adapt the idea in the capital city. Deaconess Institute workshops "From breadlines to communities" are in the works. The cities of Espoo, Lahti and Tampere have also shown an interest in the programme, SK writes.

Shopping list: milk, bread, gerbil

And the tabloid Iltalehti continues coverage of news from eastern Finland that has ruffled feathers. A Prisma hypermarket in the border city of Joensuu has indicated its desire to start selling small pets in its store. IL reported already on Thursday the concern of animal rights activists, who were concerned the rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils will be bought on the spur of the moment, leading to an increase in neglect and abandonment. Today it talks with the chair of the Finnish Rabbit and Rodent Breeders' Federation (yes, Finland really does have an association for everything imaginable) about her view of the situation.

Laura Mehtonen says she hasn't had a chance to investigate Prisma's plans very thoroughly yet, but on the whole she doesn't think that selling the small creatures in the store would be such a bad idea.

"I think that as long as the retailer provides care instructions and all of the equipment that is necessary, it is okay. Of course there are several ethical problems linked to it. Is it right to sell them in a store?" she says to IL.

She says that selling pet bunnies and rodents in shops could prevent people from breeding and selling them on the black market, which seems to be a growing problem in Finland in the dog and cat market. Mehtonen recommends that an obligatory waiting period could be put in place by the store, to prevent reckless decisions from people who aren't aware of the work and care that will be involved in owning a pet. She says it would be perfectly within the retailers' rights to tell customers that they can pick up their new pet one or two weeks after it has been purchased.

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