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Friday's papers: Migrants prefer urban areas, Orpo on Nordea HQ, an absent US ambassador and water problems

This week's final paper reviews looks at where newcomers to Finland chose to live, the prospect of the Nordic's largest banking group setting up house, the problems Trump's failure to appoint a US Ambassador present, and another case of water contamination in Askola.

Bruce Oreck
Bruce Oreck was US Ambassador to Finland from 2009 to 2015. Image: Jaakko Blomberg / Sauna Day

The country's leading daily Helsingin Sanomat features a page-long article on how migrants are distributed throughout the country. The paper interviews Helsinki University's urban geography professor Mari Vaattovaara, who says that migrants will inevitably flock to urban areas, and any attempts to assign them to far-flung rural areas would be self-defeating. A map shows just how much she is right: only the capital city region and Närpö on the western coast earned a blue colour denoting a gain of over ten percent in immigrant residency in the last 15 years.

In 1990 immigrants made up two percent of the Helsinki population, 1.6 percent of Espoo and 1.3 percent of Vantaa. In 2015, those numbers had jumped to 14.3, 14.3 and 15.8 percent respectively. The only city outside the country's capital city region to record a similar increase was the coastal hamlet of Närpö, where the thriving greenhouse industry is dependent on migrant workers. The population of foreign-born residents there increased from 1.7 percent in 1990 to 13.1 percent in 2015.

Vaattovaara says Sweden has had a 30-year head start on Finland when it comes to migrant issues and Finland should learn from its mistakes. Immigrants will choose to make their homes in the suburbs of the major cities, but authorities should prohibit ghettoisation that leads to parallel societies. "The phenomenon should be recognized in nation-wide politics," she says.

Back-patting from Orpo

Aamulehti out of Tampere relates comments from Finance Minister Petteri Orpo, chair of the centre-right National Coalition Party, on the possibility of the Nordic banking giant Nordea moving its headquarters to Finland. He tells the paper the change of domicile would have great symbolic importance here.

Nordea Group director Casper von Koskull announced on Thursday at the company's interim review that a final decision about where to move the company's HQ would be made in September. He says the decision was delayed as the group is now waiting to see how new Scandinavian initiatives exploring banking union membership play out. Finland is already a member of the EU's bank union.

Orpo told the news agency Lännen Media that Finland is now well-placed to provide Nordea with the fair, stable and predictable regulatory environment it is looking for. "Just the fact that we are seen as a serious contender shows that Finland has made the right decisions, among other things, to join the European Banking Union," he said.

Nordea announced it was moving its Stockholm headquarters elsewhere after the Swedish government raised stability payments that banks must pay. A domicile in Finland would create jobs and tax revenue, even if the banks would pay taxes in the countries in which they operate.

Trump stalls, Finland suffers

Ilta-Sanomat reports on how Finland has been six months without a US Ambassador, with Mika Aaltola from the Institute of Foreign Affairs saying "If there's a crisis, we are lost."

Finland is one of ten European countries that have been left without a US Ambassador since the election of Donald Trump. It is joined by France, Germany and Spain, for example. Trump has refused to name new representatives, as tradition has it that new ambassadors are named when a new president assumes office.

Aaltola says life without a US Ambassador has left a question mark in terms of US intentions when it comes to Finland. He says unforeseen events could make an ambassador's presence imperative.

The US Department of State is slated for reorganisation and that is why appointments are on ice. Aaltola tells IS that key roles within the department are also not filled; leaving many countries with no one to turn to if a crisis occurred.

"Trump's reluctance to recognize the importance of foreign policy and diplomacy leads to potentially difficult situations in which diplomats from other countries fill the empty space that once belonged to the United States, in Helsinki's diplomatic circles, for example," he says.  

Since August 2016, Chargé d'Affaires Donna Ann Welton has been working as Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Helsinki, where she has assumed the duties of the ambassador until a new official representative can be named.

Askola tap water unsafe

And Finland's second major tabloid Iltalehti provides the last contribution to this week's final paper review with news of a faecal bacteria water contamination in the municipality of Askola, east of Helsinki. Municipal officials advise all residents of the area to boil their district water before drinking or cooking with it. Boiled water should also be reserved for rinsing off fruits and vegetables. The warning is in effect until results from new water samples prove it is safe once again.

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