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Thursday's papers: Bid to ban same-sex marriage, Finns go abroad to find work, egg origins and swimming hall woes

The press in Finland on Thursday discuss a citizens' initiative to ban gender-neutral marriage, thousands of Finns moving out of the country in search of jobs, the four options Finns are presented with when buying eggs, and problems at the newly refurbished Leppävaara swimming hall.

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Image: Timo Leponiemi / Yle

Helsingin Sanomat starts this Thursday with a story about an unusual citizens’ initiative that will be heard on the Parliament floor today: a bid to repeal a legislative amendment that made gender-neutral marriage legal in Finland. Over 100,000 people have signed the initiative, indicating their support for the overturning of the changes to the Marriage Act. The country’s leading newspaper says that several MPs also believe the 2014 parliamentary decision to recognise gay marriage was a mistake, so they predict a heated debate.

The citizens’ initiative is unique in that it seeks to negate a law change that itself began with a citizens' initiative. The composition of Parliament has changed since the first initiative was approved, but this does not mean that the push to repeal the earlier decision will be successful, the paper writes. As a candidate, Centre Party prime minister Juha Sipilä said before the 2015 parliamentary elections that the elected government would comply with previous Parliament’s intent.

The ink had barely dried on the parliamentary decision when two citizens, Jukka-Pekka Rahkonen and Pasi Turunen, started a counter-initiative and founded the Aito avioliitto (Genuine Matrimony) association. The group seeks to undo the gender-neutral Marriage Act and keep legal marriage exclusively between a man and woman in Finland. The movement’s main justification is children’s right to both a mother and father. They also argue that procreation is dependent on both sexes and that “men and women complement each other”.

10,000 Finns relocated to other EU countries last year

The local capital city regional paper Vantaan Sanomat reports on Finns moving abroad in search of work. Recent figures show that over 10,000 Finnish residents moved to other EU countries last year. Katja Toivonlahti works in Germany for an online retailer. She is one of five Finns working at the Munich branch, out of a total of some 120 employees representing several countries.

The paper writes that as the Finnish economy “coughs along”, the German markets are humming full throttle. According to the country’s official statistics authority, its trade surplus in April reached 24 billion euros, an all-time high. Demand for Finnish workers is great, especially in the technology sector. IT specialists that can target specific linguistic regions are particularly valued. Some 800 Finns moved to Germany last year for jobs. Most want ads require foreigners to speak German at a B1 level, equivalent to a short course of high school studies in Finland.

Most eggs in Finland still from caged hens

The Tampere-based daily Aamulehti adds some useful information to a news item that ruffled feathers in Finland’s agricultural community this week: Grocery chain Lidl’s decision to stop carrying eggs originating from hen houses utilizing cages.

Egg production changed fundamentally in 2012, when conventional battery cages were banned throughout the European Union, to give the birds an existence that allows more normal behaviour for their species. The EU ban was proposed when international scientists independently observed signs of extreme abnormal behaviour (including cannibalism) in battery-caged hens.

The EU still allows what it calls enriched or 'furnished' cages to be used. They must provide each hen with at least 750 square centimetres of space, and contain litter, perches and claw-shortening devices.

The paper says these new enriched battery cages remain the most-popular egg production method in Finland. The enriched cages were banned in Germany in 2012. In Finland, the hens live in cages in groups of several dozen and their food and water distribution is automated. The paper reports that eggs from these so-called 'group egg farms' are selling for 2.22 euros per kilo at Tampere’s Sokos shop.

The second option is a free-range hen house, a farming method that is gaining ground in Finland. Barn-type chicken coops now produce about 31 percent of the eggs sold in Finland, according to Statistics Finland. The hens are situated on several floors, with food, water and perches on different levels, to encourage the birds to move. The paper says a typical barn-type hen house unit can hold 16,000 hens. Going price for free range eggs in Tampere: 2.67 euros per kilo.

A third option is free range hens that are allowed outside. There are only eight major hen houses like this in Finland, the paper says. In order to qualify as an outdoor hen house, the birds can only be inside 12 weeks a year. The paper says eggs from these hen houses are selling for 4.10 euros a kilo in Tampere.

And lastly, organic eggs. Hens that lay organic eggs have the most room to move around and are fed organic litter. As a rule, the hens are allowed outside from June until October. Barns that house hens that lay organic eggs must have windows. These eggs cost 5.14 euros per kilo.

An unsuccessful renovation?

And the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat continues its minute-by-minute coverage of small deficiencies at the recently renovated Leppävaara swimming hall in Espoo.

Complaints about small lockers, poor sauna design, a bad sewer smell and inadvertent glimpses of naked men using the bathroom have been noted since the hall reopened in January. The swimming hall’s manager Ari Jaakkola says the last issue has been addressed forthwith, and a see-through glass at the hall’s cafe has been replaced with a frosted equivalent.

Customers have also complained that the men’s sauna has placed the benches too far from the sauna stove, making it almost impossible to throw water on the rocks for steam. Ilta-Sanomat reports that manager Jaakkola has assured bathers that the railing will be lowered by 30 centimetres to make the task easier. As to the small lockers, Jaakkola says they had to be small to meet demand, and recommends taking two if one is insufficient. He says the management is looking into the odour problem.

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