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Monday's papers: Finns Party looks to lead, vegan meals for kids, tourism booming

Monday's Turun Sanomat reports that the leadership of the populist Finns Party is already planning a return to government.

Sateinen Helsinki nähtynä auton tuulilasin läpi illalla.
No real change is expected soon in this year's usually mild winter weather. Image: Esko Jämsä / AOP

The latest Yle poll of political party support showed the opposition Finns Party leading the pack with backing from 24.9 percent of voters surveyed.

According to Turku's Turun Sanomat, even though the next parliamentary elections are more than three years away, Finns Party leaders are already discussing a return to government.

In an interview with the paper, the party's first vice-chair, Riikka Purra pointed out that the next concrete measure of popularity will be seen in municipal elections in 2021 and that her party intends a major local and regional push.

Purra told the paper that research is showing that the party's image has improved since the departure of its former long-time leader Timo Soini.

"Rhetoric is not the same as a political agenda. Of course, in politics one has to be able to come up with slogans, but they have to be backed up by substance. Hopefully, now, people know what we are aiming at and why," said Purra.

As an example, Riikka Purra stated that the Finns Party's policy on immigration is more clear than in the past.

"We do not oppose foreigners. Our reason for criticising some types of immigration is mainly economic. It would be expensive for Finland. Immigration that benefits Finland doesn't need to be criticised," stated Purra.

Riikka Purra told Turun Sanomat that the party is already making plans to be prepared for negotiations to join in a new government. Looking ahead to the next national elections, she pointed out, "If voter support is like it is now, we can be in first place".

Vegan variation

The Helsinki daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that parents who want their children to stick to vegan diets have it easiest in the capital, while it is nearly impossible in some other parts of the country.

Johanna Kaipiainen, a dietary therapist for the Vegan Society of Finland, told the paper that in Helsinki ensuring that children in daycare are served vegan meals is only a matter of checking a box on a form.

The number of strictly vegan meals served in daycare centres in Helsinki is still quite small, however. As of last autumn, vegan meals were on regular order for only around 150 of the some 30,000 in public daycare in the capital.

In Helsinki, the only requirement for ordering vegan meals for daycare children is that the family follows a vegan diet at home, as well. In contrast, in Tampere the rules require that parents provide a signed statement from a doctor, nurse, or dietary therapist explaining why the child should be provided with a special diet. Dietary requirements based on religious practice, however, require only the signature of a parent or guardian.

Vegan meals are on the menu for upper secondary school pupils in Oulu, but that city does not does not provide strictly vegan meals in daycare centres. Its vegetarian meals may also include eggs and milk products. Parents can themselves provide, for example, vegetable-based milk substitutes.

Tourism up

Tourism is booming in Finland, with Chinese visitors boosting statistics, writes the farmers' daily Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.

The paper reports that overnight stays in general were up by 4.1 percent during the period of January through November of last year.

While the number of foreign visitors rose by 3.3 percent, the sharpest rise was registered was in tourists visiting from China - an increase of 14 percent.

Russia continues, however, to be the largest single source of tourists in Finland, followed by Germans, Swedes and Britons.

The number of British tourists last year fell by nearly one-fifth, largely as a result of the collapse of the Thomas Cook travel agency.

Of special interest to readers of this paper are figures showing the continuing popularity of countryside holidays. One travel expert, Kimmo Aalto, told Maaseudun Tulevaisuus that the business is changing, though, with people spending shorter periods on holiday, but extending the holiday period to year round.

He noted that Finland's draw continues to be the same - the natural environment, security, peace and quiet - all of which boost the appeal of small rural destinations.

Weather - just more of the same

Reporting on Sunday's weather, the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat described Finland as having a frozen head and sweaty feet.

That perhaps less-than-elegant image was in reference to a temperature of -37.9 Celsius recorded in Utsjoki Sunday morning while the thermometer stood at 6.5 degrees in the Åland Islands.

In an attempt to link the weather to current affairs, Ilta-Sanomat wrote, "At the same time that there are fears of sharp divisions in Finnish society, and the president has called for moderation, the weather has lost its own sense of balance and revels in extremism."

The actual message of the report is that little to no change is on the way in the unusually mild weather that has been seen this winter.

A new warm air front in the north Atlantic is approaching the country bringing high winds and temperatures up to 5-8 degrees Celsius in western regions over the next few days.

As has happened several times this winter, that pulse of warm air is likely to be followed by a flow of cold air down from the Arctic, bringing sub-zero temperatures nationwide on Wednesday night, followed again on Friday by mild weather in southern and central regions.

Reflecting general discontent with the weather, Ilta-Sanomat writes, "And so on and so forth. Nothing else is in sight."

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