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Halla-aho: Restrict economic migration, relax defamation laws

The Finns Party chair on Saturday said he doesn't want to relax visa rules for workers from outside the EU.

Jussi Halla-aho
Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

Finns Party chair Jussi Hallo-aho told Yle’s Saturday programme Ykkösaamu that he disagreed with any proposal to dismantle Finland’s practice of prioritising job applicants from EU member states or the European Economic Area.

The Finland Chamber of Commerce (FCC), which represents 20,000 companies in Finland, recently proposed a number of changes to make it easier for people from around the world to work in Finland, such as scrapping the rule of prioritising European labour.

Halla-aho, who has been convicted for religious defamation and ethnic agitation, said abandoning the rule would lead to an influx of cheap labour into the country that would eventually burden taxpayers.

The Finns Party chair said he did not see it necessary to open up the Finnish labour market beyond the EU and EEA, which is home to some 500 million people.

"Harmful discussion"

Speaking on Ykkösaamu, Halla-aho also called for Finland relaxing laws on ethnic agitation and blasphemy as current rules are "too restrictive on anti-immigrant discussion."

Commenting on the programme, Helsinki University criminal law professor Kimmo Nuotio was quick to shoot down Halla-aho's ideas of loosening defamation laws, telling Yle that the Finns Party chair's proposals were politically motivated.

Nuotio highlighted that Finland has an international obligation to respect laws pertaining to defamation and that limits to the freedom of speech are anchored in European values and history.

"Personally, I find this type of discussion harmful -- it's an attempt to undercut the basis for these laws," Nuotio explained.

The professor also pointed out that while the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has issued many guidelines defending politicians’ right to engage in critical debate, the ECHR has also stressed that laws have been enacted to combat racism and xenophobia.

Colourful history

Since the Finns Party was established in 1995, a number of its politicians, including immigration hardliner Halla-aho, have been convicted of online hate speech. The party split in 2017 when Halla-aho was elected chair, with co-founder Timo Soini and other more moderate party leaders leaving to form an ill-fated new party.

Halla-aho's Finns Party came close to winning April's parliamentary election, earning just one seat fewer in the new parliament than the Social Democrats.

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