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Monday's papers: Gov't in crisis, foreign ministry tensions, taxi scam warning

Most papers on Monday report how the government is trying to deal with blowback from recent labour unrest.

Taksiautoja taksiasemalla
Verottaja on löytänyt huolestuttavia merkkejä harmaasta taloudesta taksiliikenteessä vuosi sitten tehdyn lakiuudistuksen jälkeen. Kuvan taksit eivät liity jutun sisältöön. Image: Antti Lähteenmäki / Yle

The leaders of Finland's five government parties met on Sunday evening to discuss the fallout from the Posti labour dispute ahead of an opposition no-confidence vote later this week.

According to the nation's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, the gathering of party leaders decide that Social Democrat PM Antti Rinne will continue to lead the government "at least for the time being".

In a tersely worded press release late Sunday, the government simply stated that party leaders discussed "the political situation" and that the cabinet is preparing to respond to the opposition's interpellation - the first step in a non-confidence vote - on Tuesday.

According to Helsingin Sanomat, information leaked from Sunday's meeting indicated that the situation within the cabinet is not entirely clear.

The cabinet will, however, writes HS, have to present a common front before Tuesday.

Rovaniemi's Lapin Kansa reports on three speaking engagements Prime Minister Rinne had in Lapland on Sunday where he conceded that he is under a lot of pressure.

He declined to say directly if it is possible that the government will collapse. He did say that while the situation has been exaggerated by the media, "anything is always possible".

Tensions in the foreign ministry

The newsstand tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports that Finland's foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, ousted his ministry's director of consular services, Pasi Tuominen, after he tried and failed to pressure him into short circuiting procedure and repatriating the children of ISIS fighters from Syria without a political mandate.

According to the Ilta-Sanomat report, Haavisto also bumped heads with Tuominen who has been relieved of his duties, over visa regulations for Russian citizens.

Ilta-Sanomat says it has information that a plan was formulated at the Foreign Ministry to repatriate the children of Finnish ISIS members being held at the al-Hol refugee camp.

The plan was they would come to Finland without their mothers. According to the paper, Foreign Minister Haavisto attempted to convince Tuominen to carry out the plan in his own name and on his own authority.

Tuominen reportedly replied that as a responsible civil servant, he could not carry out an operation that would violate Finnish law and international agreements.

In addition, Ilta-Sanomat reports that Haavisto was displeased by changes in tighter visa regulations for Russian citizens introduced this past autumn. Up until this autumn, Finland had a more streamlined visa application process for Russians than in the rest of the Schengen zone.

The paper describes the atmosphere within the ministry as tense, with growing dissatisfaction with Haavisto who insiders see as bossy and quick to anger.

Foreign Minister Haavisto declined to answer questions on the details of the Ilta-Sanomat report.

Chinese language boom

The HS Metro freesheet reports that Chinese is becoming an increasingly popular choice in Finnish schools, enjoying what it says is something of a boom in both elementary and secondary schools.

Chinese is available to pupils in several elementary schools in Helsinki, Espoo, Turku and Tampere, even as a long-course, or so-called A1 language.

In addition, close to 20 upper secondary schools offer Chinese language courses.

The National Agency for Education is funding a project aimed at increasing Chinese course offerings nationwide and making it a standard option in school curricula.

There are challenges in meeting the growing interest in studying this language. One is a lack of qualified teachers. The other is a lack of teaching materials specifically designed for Finnish schoolchildren.

Holiday taxi rides

The economic and business daily Kauppalehti passes on some advice about using taxis during the holiday season.

The paper warns that with Independence Day coming up and Christmas parties in full swing, there are likely to be more independent taxi drivers behind the wheel, some of whom will be looking to take advantage of peak demand by charging exorbitant fares.

Cabonline CEO Kati Rajala, whose company operates taxis under the Kovanen and FixuTaksi brands, advises anyone planning to party and take a taxi to either download an app, or to save the number of a trusted taxi service on their phones.

By law, anyone using a taxi must be informed before setting off if the ride will cost more than 100 euros.

Legislation regulating the taxi business that came into force in 2018 has come in for heavy criticism, and revisions are being considered.

One idea that is being examined is a requirement for cars to carry some sign that they are licensed for use as taxis. In Sweden, for example, all registered taxis can be identified by the colour of their registry plates. Another possible change may be a requirement that taxi permits be issued only to people with a commercial tax ID number.

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