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Friday's papers: Families in al-Hol, EU green deal, speed traps

Helsingin Sanomat Friday looked at the Finnish nationals being held in the al-Hol camp in northern Syria.

Uudenmallinen nopeusvalvontakamera.
Automated traffic camera in Uusimaa. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Helsingin Sanomat writes that it has carried out a long-term investigation into the background of the Finnish family members of Isis fighters currently held at the al-Hol camp in northern Syria. The paper says it has used a large number of sources for its report. The information has not, however, been confirmed by Finnish officials.

Helsingin Sanomat says that the 11 women come from various parts of Finland. Over half of them are ethnic Finns. Most of the children are under the age of six. Some of the women moved to Syria before Isis rose to power in the region, but all decided to stay until the end of the so-called "caliphate".

These Finnish nationals are being held at the al-Hol refugee camp under conditions similar to those of a prisoner of war camp. They are guarded by soldiers of the Syrian Democratic Forces and are unable to leave the camp.

Helsingin Sanomat reports it has identified 10 of the 11 women. The paper has not released their names.

Most of the Finnish nationals in the camp are minors. The majority were born in Syria. By law they are entitled to Finnish nationality, as at least one parent was a Finnish citizen.

The paper writes that it knows of 28 of these children, but there are probably 30. At least two of the women entered adulthood while in Syria.

Helsingin Sanomat says that the Finnish nationals in Syria formed a close network, many being linked by family ties, marriage, or mutual friends.

Still no decision

The newsstand tabloid Ilta-Sanomat notes that government question time in parliament on Thursday did not provide any further clarity about whether the government intends to move ahead on repatriating the Finnish nationals held in the al-Hol camp.

Responding to a question on the issue from an opposition Finns Party MP, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto was vague, repeating an earlier statement that the government had discussed the matter in informal talks.

Haavisto also sidestepped a question asking why he has shifted responsibility for the matter to members of the civil service.

Centre party chair and finance minister, Katri Kulmuni, who was standing in for Prime Minister Sanna Marin, did not give a direct answer to the question of what the government's policy is.

"The government has made no decision in this matter. The government will respond to the opposition's interpellation on Tuesday," was Kulmuni's only reply.

In a Lännen Media item published by Turku's Turun Sanomat, political analyst Anita Simola says that a decision is being delayed above all over the fear of how it will affect support for the parties in the coalition government.

Reaction to a repatriation decision is, she writes, a very sensitive topic, and there are fears that supporters will shift their backing to the Finns Party which is already leading the polls.

Simola goes on to write, "It is good to remember that this government has been in power for only a few days. If this new generation left-centre government is brought down by the 40 Finns in al-Hol, what then? The phrase 'government crisis' has already been thrown around. The need for a joint decision is extremely urgent."

EU green deal

European leaders reached an agreement in Brussels on climate change late Thursday night, striking a new "green deal" targeting carbon neutrality within the EU by 2050. Only one member state, Poland, declined to commit to the deal, but will reopen discussions on the agreement in June of next year.

Commenting to a reporter for the daily of Finland's farmers' union, Maaseudun Tuelevaisuus, Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin described the deal as a major achievement that has been one of the priorities of Finland's current EU presidency.

According to Marin, the cost of measures to reach carbon neutrality are the reason some member countries were reluctant to sign up. She told the paper though that she believes that by next June all EU countries will get on board.

"I hope we can all take part in the same journey," said the Finnish PM.

Safety feature or money maker?

Oulu's Kaleva reports on discontent over the placement of automated speed cameras on Finnish roads and highways.

The Heritage Association of National Traffic Police, a group that includes traffic safety efforts among it activities, says that there is no sense in the choice of sites for speed cameras.

In a release on the subject, the association says that the only reason to use speed cameras is to improve road safety. Its view is that they are being misused by locating them mainly on sections of straight roads with good visibility where passing in traffic is not a problem.

It points to practice in neighbouring Sweden where drivers are given advance notice of upcoming speed cameras and the speed limit in force, and where close to 100 percent of cameras are used on sections of roads with reduced speed limits or at intersections.

The association says that in Finland the cameras are regarded as automatic fine issuing machines.

"In Finland, speed cameras are in the main installed on highways in the middle of straight stretches where is it completely safe to pass other vehicles and where accidentally getting a speeding ticket is very possible," it wrote in a release.

Along with the Automobile and Touring Club of Finland, this group of former traffic cops is pressing the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency to draw up a more traffic safety-oriented scheme for where the cameras should go.

Missing PM and an apology

Iltalehti reports that there was a delay in Brussels Thursday evening when EU leaders gathered for their traditional summit "family portrait". One was missing - Finland's new prime minister, Sanna Marin.

The delay led photographers to scurry around looking for the Finnish PM, and reportedly President of the European Council Charles Michel was just getting ready to call off the shoot when Marin rushed in along the red carpet and took a place front and centre.

Iltalehti says it does not know why she kept everyone waiting.

Marin issued an apology during the evening, not about the photo session, but to the Finnish media for having their questions cut short at her brief Q&A session upon arrival at the summit.

Kuopio's Savon Sanomat reported that she used her Twitter account to apologise, adding that her press officer had been too abrupt, and to explain that she was in a rush to meet with the president of the European Council.

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