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Monday's papers: Russian Nato "countermeasures," cities challenge healthcare reform, prep courses grow

The week in print news begins with Finland's Russian ambassador warning the country of repercussions should Finland join Nato, various cities criticising government's planned "sote" healthcare reform and companies lobbying hard to offer preparatory access courses (usually reserved for university entrance exam cramming) in high schools as well as primary schools.

Venäjän uudeksi Suomen-suurlähettilääksi on nimitetty Pavel Kuznetsov.
Pavel Kuznetsov, Russia's ambassador to Finland. Image: Handout / Lehtikuva

If Finland were to join Nato, Russia would likely respond with economic and political action. That is what Teija Tiilikainen, chief of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, says in Monday's edition of tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, which was first in the country to interview Russian ambassador Pavel Kuznetsov.

The most striking part of the interview, published over the weekend, was Kuznetsov's comment concerning Finland potential membership in the military alliance.

"I think everyone understands that should the Nato infrastructure approach our borders, Russia would be forced to take proper countermeasures," Kuznetsov is quoted as saying in IS.

Tiilikainen says she is not surprised by the statement.

"This is a familiar and traditional line: representatives of Russia have been hinting at Nato-related repercussions against Finland since the end of the cold war," she says in the article.

Tiilikainen is part of a four-person team that prepared a report for the Foreign Ministry concerning the potential reverberations of a Finnish Nato bid. The group of experts did not indicate that they felt Russia would take warlike action against Finland in such a scenario.

"There are other ways of affecting neighbouring countries, including hybrid methodologies such as border policy regulation. But these are very difficult to anticipate," Tiilikainen says, and adds that Kuznetsov's comment can be construed as a threat if his words are taken to mean Finland specifically.

Urban rebellion

Meanwhile, the criticism facing government's planned nationwide social service and healthcare reform (known in Finnish as sote) is taking a turn as cities rise up in opposition of many of the initiative's projected effects.

Daily Iltalehti details eight reasons why cities around the country are challenging the reform, highlighting issues such as local solutions to local problems being preferable to sweeping policies, and the possibility of regional gaps widening and political confrontations appearing.

Professor Jari Stenvall told the paper that city-dwellers would be loath to accept service regulation from huge administrative districts with customers flung across rural areas with very different needs.

Not only that, but municipalities will likely see the reform's costs shrink their budgets.

"The regional model risks reducing budgets so that cities no longer have the same opportunities for much-needed urban development," says Stenvall, who's an administrative science professor at Tampere University.

Stenvall's fear, he says, is that sote services will chomp some 40-70 percent of municipal expenditure in such a way that expensively managed services in small regions with an aging population would prosper, while efficient urban centres would lose out in comparison.

Professional cramming services

Meanwhile, the main headline in Monday's Helsingin Sanomat focuses on a specific sort of service directed at students – and possibly soon to kids still in primary school.

So-called preparatory courses or study cramming programmes are a hit (and sometimes a perceived necessity) among high school graduates applying to institutes of higher education. Now, HS writes, companies specialising in giving students a curricular boost are looking to broaden their customer base to high schools themselves, and even the upper grades of primary school.

"If primary and upper secondary schools begin responding to tightened entrance requirements, the prep course industry will surely include such schools in its competition," says Janne Nousiainen, CEO of the largest cram class company in Finland, Valmennuskeskus.

The reason behind the popularity and spread of the courses – which run the parents of prospective professionals hefty bills – is a coming change in the enrolment processes of university-level institutions that downplays the importance of entrance exams and increases the relevance of high school or vocational school final reports. For now, the popularity of the cramming service in high school, for instance, is unknown.

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