It’s not easy wearing two hats and according to tabloid daily Iltalehti, Foreign Minister Timo Soini found that out the hard way following a post-Brexit visit to the UK Wednesday, in his role as chair of the nationalist Eurosceptic Finns Party.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed that the Finns Party paid for Soini’s visit to the UK. However he was apparently interviewed in his capacity as Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister by Britain’s Sky News channel Wednesday evening.
Asked by the presenter whether Finland is likely to have a referendum to leave the EU, Soini stressed that such a vote was not in the government manifesto. "But of course the discussion is now open and loud as well. So there is discussion about the matter and of course we are following very closely what happens in the negotiations with the UK," he added. Soini also tried to sidestep a question on whether or not the party would run in the 2019 general election on an EU exit platform.
In spite of Soini’s gripping tightrope act during the interview, he found himself on the ropes as opposition leaders tore into him for what they saw as conflicting messages from a high-ranking government official. Outgoing Greens chair Ville Niinistö said that it didn’t matter that Soini went abroad, but added that "as Foreign Minister he can’t deviate from government policy and at the same time flirt with EU critics as leader of the Finns Party."
For his part, National Coalition Party chair and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo tweeted that the Foreign Minister should represent the government line both at home and abroad. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä also seemed to upbraid Soini for entering the minefield of a discussion on possible Brexit contagion as head of an openly Eurosceptic party.
"This is precisely the [kind of] talk that we need to avoid," Sipilä said following a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels Wednesday.
Foreign Ministry chief secretary Raili Lahnalampi told IL that she was not aware of Soini’s engagements, however she denied that his agenda was covert. In addition to his appearance on Sky News Tonight, Soini also met with British European Minister David Lidington, minister responsible for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers, House of Commons leader and Brexiter Chris Grayling and conservative politician Michael Dobbs.
Lower wages for migrants and other hard-to-employ groups?
Leading circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat headlines a survey showing that a majority of Finnish residents support the idea of working for below the minimum wage – in some circumstances.
It found that 61 percent of them felt that – in certain situations - migrants, older people, young workers or poorly-educated jobseekers should be willing to take up work in positions that pay below wages stipulated in collective agreements.
The paper reports that just one-third of respondents said that people should not settle for lower pay. HS pitched the question against the backdrop of large numbers of asylum seekers entering the country and government’s efforts to get them into the job market. Vesa Vihriälä, head of the independent think tank ETLA, said it is especially important for migrants to have the opportunity to work for below-market wages, since their productivity may be lower than that of Finns, largely because of their poor Finnish language skills.
The paper also spoke with Ghana-born Denis Austin, who said that any job is better than no job at all. Austin, who is pursuing a doctorate degree at Helsinki University works as a fund-raising coordinator. He said that in the current economy, not everyone can expect to find their dream job. "People don’t come to Finland for free money. They want to work," Austin told HS.
Pollster TNS Gallup ran the survey for the daily in which it interviewed just over 1,000 people between the ages of 15 and 74.
Axl Smith's friends with benefits
Another tabloid, Ilta-Sanomat, provides an update on a police investigation into media personality Axl Smith’s alleged secret recording of lovemaking trysts with female friends. According to the paper police have completed a preliminary investigation and passed the case on to prosecutors, who are considering charges on behalf of 43 victims. The paper notes that all of the women whom Smith secretly filmed over a two-year period were legally adults.
Investigators told the paper that they confiscated a total of 68 videos and image files. Smith reportedly told police that the material originated from video surveillance equipment that he installed in his home for security reasons. Apart from charges relating to secret filming, Smith is also facing indictments for defamation and the distribution of defamatory information based on the fact that he shared the material with third parties, in some cases using the WhatsApp messaging app.