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Monday's papers: Expat benefits, Brexit culls consulates, Yle technical glitch

A new law will tighten benefit restrictions for people moving abroad, Britain reportedly pulls diplomats from Finnish cities and a Finns Party video goes viral.

Britannian parlamenttitalon tornin silhuetti EU-lipun taustalla.
Britain's EU exit means some consulates in Finland are shutting down, claims an April Fools' story. Image: James Veysey / AOP

From 1 April, Finnish citizens living abroad will no longer be eligible for the full range of benefits provided by benefits agency Kela.

Daily Helsingin Sanomat writes that the period of benefit eligibility used to be one year for citizens of Finland moving to live in another country; now the social security institution Kela will revoke a recipient's benefits after just six months of living abroad. Even a brief stint of work in another EU country may also lead to benefit revocation, although the right is reinstated once the worker returns to live indefinitely in Finland.

HS reports that tens of thousands of Finnish citizens will be affected by the change as they travel across the border, some numerous times a year.

"It's a real puzzle especially when migrating outward from Finland," said Kela lawyer Antti Klemola. "Kela will no longer decide on the right to social benefits as a separate ruling; instead the right will now be decided case by case when applying for assistance."

On the other hand, employees or researchers sent away on a work assignment may still receive Kela benefits for as long as five years during their stay. Students leaving to study as well as their family members will still be entitled to Kela benefits.

Klemola said in HS that the six-month benefit residence period includes some wiggle room created by EU legislation. Negotiations are usually conducted with the authorities of the country in question.

"For Finnish pensioners who winter in Spain, for instance, Kela will use EU law to determine whether Finland or Spain is the customer's country of residence. That is, where they have the strongest ties."

Kela pays out pensions within the European Union regardless of the recipient's country of residence.

Consulates cut back, sell silverware (?)

Britain's fraught exit from the EU is causing ripples across the world already, including at Britain's diplomatic operations in Finland, regional paper Turun Sanomat wrote in an April Fool's Day joke article.

According to the paper, consular services offices in the small towns of Raahe, Kokkola and Kristiinankaupunki are being shut down outright, while the Turku office will keep serving expatriate Brits but with less resources than before. The consulate's silverware, vases, furniture, candelabras and other precious items will be auctioned off on Monday.

"We find this very unfortunate, but we have to work with what we've got," TS quotes Foreign Affairs publicist Christine Keeler as saying. "UK funds are being directed toward developing ties with non-EU countries ahead of Brexit."

The public is invited to view the items on sale at Turku's volunteer fire department building or "WPK house" on 1 April, where the auction will commence at 12 noon, the paper reports.

Online error boosts right-wing election vid

Meanwhile national broadcaster Yle publicly apologised to Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho for accidentally removing his pre-election interview clip from the online Areena service over the weekend.

Aamulehti reports that an update to Yle's publication platform caused Halla-aho's video and several dozen other programmes to be temporarily unavailable on the website.

The problem was fixed by Sunday evening, with Yle head of communications Jere Nurminen saying in AL that the view counter for Halla-aho's video did not reset. The party chair's interview jumped right to the top of the list of most viewed election content at over 100,000 views after he tweeted about the glitch, beating out Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's election interview by some 10,000 views.

Yle CEO Merja Ylä-Anttila offered her apologies for the error via Twitter.

Edit: Clarified Kela benefits story.

Edit: Yle News was clearly fooled by Turun Sanomat's article on UK consulate office closings. Touché, TS.

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