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Soini and Rehn clash: "figure of speech" or "hate speech"?

EU Commission Vice-President Olli Rehn and Finns' Party chairman Timo Soini have clashed over remarks made by Soini in a YLE TV broadcast. Rehn characterized the remarks as "dangerous hate speech". Soini says public figures have to be able to tolerate criticism and has refused to apologize.

Image: Yle

Olli Rehn is both the Vice-President of the EU Commission and the Member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs.

When asked in a YLE TV broadcast on Wednesday for a reaction to Rehn's views on the economic situation in Greece, Finns' Party leader Timo Soini compared Rehn to Nikolai Bobrikov - a Russian Governor-General of Finland who was given dictatorial powers by the Tsar, and who was assassinated by a Finnish nationalist in 1904.

Rehn took offense at the remark and issued a statement calling it "not only insulting to a patriotic person such as myself, but also dangerous hate speech referring to a murdered person". Rehn demanded an apology.

“Figure of speech”

Timo Soini has refused to offer an apology.

According to Soini, the EU Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank are dictating to Greece what to do, regardless of the results of elections in that country.

"The Bobrikov of Brussels. That is a figure of speech, and anyone in a public position has to tolerate public criticism," Soini said on Thursday. "Complete nonsense from Rehn, this is no hate speech," he continued.

"Look at what kind of swamp the Commission and Europe have driven Greece and the euro into. If this cannot be criticized with a figure of speech, then we are living in a strange Europe," Soini told YLE.

Soini says that this is a question of freedom of speech.

"I stand by my words. He can't take much [sauna] heat, if this offends him."

"If this turns into the sort of society where people get easily offended, soon no one will dare say anything and we'll have only officialese," Soini added.

Soini said that he himself is used to public criticism and that he expects the same of others.

EU Commission Vice-President Olli Rehn declined to comment to YLE on what his intentions are now that Timo Soini has refused to apologize.

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