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Monday's papers: China evacuation flights, gov't employment policy delay, toxic public debate

Evacuations from China, employment policy, and the state of public discourse are among the topics in morning newspapers.

Pääministeri Sanna Marin ennen Ylen Pääministerin haastattelutunnin lähetystä pääministerin virka-asunnolla Kesärannassa Helsingissä 2. helmikuuta.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin just before the start of Sunday's Yle radio discussion programme. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Turku's Turun Sanomat carries a Lännen Media newspaper group report saying that Finland's airport operator Finavia has made arrangements for Helsinki-Vantaa Airport to be used as a stopover for evacuation flights from China.

A German plane, reportedly carrying 126 passengers evacuated from Wuhan, China made a stopover in Helsinki on Saturday after Russian authorities denied it permission to land in Moscow.

Helsinki-Vantaa Airport Deputy Director Heini Noronen-Juhola told Lännen Media that the situation was not in itself unusual, as the airport is used as a stopover on a regular basis.

In this case, the Airbus A310 was in Helsinki for a few hours for refueling and a change of flight personnel before continuing on to Cologne. The passengers aboard did not disembark.

Noronen-Juhola said that Finavia has not been informed of more evacuation flights, but that if more land in Helsinki, she expected that the airport operator will have only a few hours notice.

She added that consultation with public health officials is part of standard practice concerning the arrival of any flight which may have associated health risks.

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat is among the papers reporting that there were three Finnish citizens and one non-citizen family member among the passengers who arrived in France on Sunday aboard an EU evacuation flight from China.

The Finnish Foreign Ministry only confirmed that the Finns were among those evacuated, but as of late Sunday had released no information about whether they would return directly to Finland or remain in quarantine in France.

The Foreign Ministry in Helsinki said that a decision on the timing of their return will be made by French health officials.

Employment policy requires "tough decisions"

The economic and business daily Kauppalehti looks at how Prime Minister Sanna Marin is responding to criticism that her government is dragging its feet on employment policy.

The paper notes in a review of a Yle radio discussion with the PM on Sunday that Marin stated that her government is committed to making "tough decisions" on economic policy, but that she also said that the time is not yet right.

Last week Finland’s Economic Policy Council, an independent group of economy experts, in the words of Kauppalehti "fired a broadside" at the coalition government's economic plans, including criticism of what it sees as a misnamed policy of "investment in the future".

Marin responded by saying that, for example, education is a key and critical factor in how well Finland performs in the future. She went on to list challenges the country faces including an aging population, a falling birth rate, and the need to improve employment.

The government is facing criticism for not putting forward measures aimed at boosting employment. Marin said that it is not yet time to announce new measures and indicated that they would be forthcoming sometime between May and August.

"It is quite clear that since there are five different parties in the government. There are also different views. At this stage nothing is being ruled out, but what the final bundle [of employment-promoting measures] will be is still open," said Prime Minister Marin.

Strident public discourse

Over half of Finns think that the tone in public political debate in the country these days is inappropriate and jarring, according to a poll commissioned by the farmers' union newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.

The poll, which surveyed the opinions of just over 1,200 people in January, found that a majority agree that the tone and wording of debate has become too strident.

Last month, Prosecutor General Riitta Toiviainen requested Parliamentary permission to bring charges for inciting hatred against an ethnic group against Finns Party MP Juha Mäenpää over statements he made in a session last June.

Maaseudun Tulevaisuus writes that the inappropriate nature of much debate is evident especially in relation to the issue of immigration. However, it notes that public discourse has become increasingly polarised with regard to a range of subjects such as climate change, meat consumption, and the country's wolf population.

In this poll, a large majority of supporters of the Left Alliance, SDP and Centre said they considered the tone of public debate to be increasingly inappropriate. Finns Party supporters were almost evenly split on the issue.

Winter? Really?

Anyone who has followed forecasts in Finland over the past few months saying winter weather is just around the corner can be excused for thinking of the classic story of the boy who called wolf.

Now, though, it does look like the week will bring cold and snow, even to the south of the country and Ilta-Sanomat is advising readers to get out their heavy winter coats again and get ready.

Monday's temperatures in the south may remain around zero, but dip well below freezing elsewhere. Brisk winds will add to the chill factor.

On Tuesday more cold air is expected to move in, bringing the thermometer down to as low as -20 in Finnish Lapland and to -5 to -10 in other parts of the country.

Snow is in the forecast nationwide, but as the paper points out, don't expect to see much in southern parts of the country.

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