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Friday's papers: Sote cuts, Trump risks, and ex-MP's lobbying ban

Papers on Friday report on improbable savings targets, the risks of putting Trump and Putin in the same room, and an ex-MP's ban from the Council of Europe.

Kolme lääkäriä kävelee kadulla.
Cutting health spending has proven harder that hoped in Finland. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

Helsingin Sanomat returns to an old chestnut: savings due as a result of planned reforms to social and health care provision in Finland. The planned law includes a provision to mandate savings in projected spending on 'sote', and HS applied the formula to the period from 2010-2016 to see how it would have affected outgoings.

Of the 18 provincial governments, all but Uusimaa exceeded their allocated budget in that time frame. Lapland did worst, overspending by some 11 million euros. Provincial leaders told HS that the mechanism would mean staff cuts and shuttered services, with many specialist units concentrated in provincial centres rather than out in the sticks.

There's one saving grace however, which is the law's provision that central government should make up the shortfall if basic levels of services are threatened. That, according to Uusimaa leader Markus Savola, means that in practice the savings projected will be difficult to achieve as central government would find it very difficult to deny additional funding to a province that overspent.

Provinces, unlike the municipalities that currently organise sote services, have no tax-raising powers and are thus dependent on central government's largesse.

Loose cannon

Iltalehti picks up on a Guardian column on the impending Trump-Putin encounter in Helsinki which doesn't paint too rosy a picture of the upcoming summit. In short, author Natalie Nougayrède believes the Russian president will run rings around his reality TV show host opposite number.

With a background in Russian intelligence, Putin is likely to be able to exploit weaknesses in the armour of the former property developer, according to Nougayrède.

"Helsinki will be a miserable landmark, the first US-Russia summit conducted by nationalist populists," says Nougayrède high in the piece, in a blow to those hoping for an image boost for the Finnish capital.

The problem, according to Nougayrède, is that Trump may offer concessions that degrade the security architecture established in Europe after 1945. A particular worry is the possibility that Trump might say he will not commit US troops to future large-scale exercises in Europe, thus handing Putin a long-held Russian objective.

"Talking to Putin in itself is not the issue, it’s what you say to him that counts," wrote Nougayrède. "In Helsinki, Trump the narcissist will think he’s making history. Putin the operative will be secretly chuckling."

Laakso ban

HS also has a story on a former MP's ban from the Council of Europe. Jaakko Laakso served as a leftist MP in the Finnish parliament from 1991 until 2011 and was also an honorary member of the Council of Europe after serving in various roles there.

No more, according to HS and STT, after the Council decided on 29 June to slap him with a lifetime ban from the premises because of his activities in lobbying on behalf of Azerbaijan.

An investigation found that Laakso's goal had been to try and soften the Council's line on Azerbaijan's human rights abuses. He told HS in the spring that he had offered what he considered to be normal consultancy services.

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