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Monday's papers: Åland boom, restaurant food labels and plogging

Monday's papers feature stories on Åland's high employment rate, Finland's drive to improve food labeling and how picking up trash can be a hobby.

Maarianhaminan satama.
Image: Jouni Koutonen / Yle

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports that Åland boasts Europe's highest employment rate.

Citing a study by Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, IS says that the Åland Islands beat all the other European regions with its 88.2 percent employment rate. Three counties west of London were the second best, followed by Stockholm and Oberbayern in Germany.

However, it is not easy to replicate Åland’s success, IS says. According to Financial Counselor Elina Pylkkänen from the Ministry of Finance, the islands receive a large amount of state funding, which helps the region to keep its tax rate several percentage points lower than other Finnish regions.

The most important economic activity in the islands is seafaring, and Mariehamn-based shipping company Viking Line has for many years been the largest recipient of enterprise support from the Finnish state. What's more, a so-called tax border runs between Finland and Åland, which makes it possible for some companies in the islands to sell goods tax-free.

"The activities of Åland residents probably have had some positive effect too," Pylkkänen adds.

Overall, Finland’s employment rate of 72.6 percent in August was slightly above the EU average of 72.1 percent, IS says.

Food labeling

In other news, daily Maaseudun Tulevaisuus reports that Finland's proposal to require restaurants to indicate the origin of the meat and fish products they serve has faced another setback in the EU.

MT says that the European Commission returned the paper to Finland's Ministry of Agriculture for revision for the second time. Sebastian Hielm from the ministry says the EU may strike out fish products from the proposal, because they are regulated separately from the other foods in the EU.

"It is possible that the authorities that monitor the labeling of fish products oppose any change out of principle," Hielm says.

Currently, labeling on all fish sold in EU restaurants is tightly regulated, MT writes, and it is possible to trace a fish to the vessel that caught it. In addition, restaurants are required to disclose this information, if asked by customers.

"In Finland, not many customers ask, even if they may be interested," Hielm adds. The proposal by the ministry would require restaurants in Finland to provide this information automatically.

According to Hielm, the most difficult task for the ministry is to show that the origin of meat or fish affects its quality.

"In the EU, arguments related to the well-being of the animals or the use of antibiotics do not have much bearing, because these matters are regulated by the union," he explains.

"For the EU, the internal market is key. Finland truly produces fresh and clean food but communicating that message to the Commission is difficult, because it would rattle the internal market," says Anni-Mari Syväniemi from the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners.

Plogging as hobby

Tabloid Iltalehti features an article on Kaija and Ilkka Erkkilä who pick up cigarette stumps as a hobby. During the past seven years, the Hyvinkää couple has removed more than 718,000 stumps from parks, pathways and roads, IL reports.

"We were ploggers even before it became trendy," Kaija Erkkilä says. Plogging is a combination of jogging with picking up litter, which started as an organised activity in Sweden around 2016.

"It’s our goal to pick up one million stubs by the end of 2021," she adds.

The couple who was invited to President Sauli Niinistö’s Independence Day ball in 2013 collects rubbish in Finland and abroad.

"It doesn’t matter where you go, people don't know how to behave. We have picked up trash at the gate of the Auschwitz concentration camp."

So far, the Erkkiläs have spent about 13,000 euros on their hobby, mostly on petrol for their car.

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