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Thursday's papers: Continuing gov't tensions, new university rector, dust and more dust

The daily press reports that tensions remain high between two of the coalition partners, but it is unlikely that the latest dispute will lead to a change of government.

Sinisten puheenjohtaja Sampo Terho kuvattuna tiedotustilaisuudessa eduskunnassa Helsingissä 24. huhtikuuta 2018.
Blue Reform leader Sampo Terho. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Following a surprise defection Tuesday by MP Kaj Turunen from the small Blue Reform Party to its government partner, the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP), the Blues chair, Culture Minister Sampo Terho, accused NCP leader Petteri Orpo of “provocation” and seeking to trigger a government crisis or even collapse.

The Turku daily Turun Sanomat reports on a press conference held by Terho yesterday where he said that the Blue Reform’s board had decided that the party will stay in the coalition.

Despite assurances from National Coalition's Orpo that his party did not "steal" an MP, Terho was not appeased.

"You cannot get around the fact that a government partner has played a dirty and treacherous trick on us. This is obnoxious party politics," he told the media.

Even while expressing his outrage, the Blues chair said that the affair is not a good enough reason to break up the government. The Blue Reform, which can claim less than two percent voter support, has five portfolios in the coalition that also includes the NCP and the Centre Party.

The next step is to be a meeting of government party leaders called by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä for next week. Because of travel schedules, Sipilä, Orpo and Terho will not all be in Finland at the same time until after the 1st of May holiday.

The newsstand tabloid Iltalehti notes that Terho also argued that the kind of inter-party squabbling seen this week could damage the prestige of the whole of parliament in the eyes of the public. With this in mind, he announced that he intends to lay out clear conditions for the continuation of the coalition.

Terho said that the first condition is that government partners will not plot against each other. The second is that all of the coalition partners adhere to the government programme and commit to carrying out agreed reforms. In this context, he especially stressed healthcare and social services reforms.

Iltalehti further reported that as of Wednesday evening personal communication on the government mini-crisis between Terho and NCP chair Orpo had consisted of one single phone text message.

New rector for University of Helsinki

Helsingin Sanomat reports that the Board of the University of Helsinki Wednesday selected Professor Jari Niemelä to the position of rector of the University of Helsinki for a five-year term from 2018 to 2023. Niemelä starts the job on 1 August 2018.

Jari Niemelä is currently director of the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS. He is professor of urban ecology and served as dean of the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki from 2004 to 2017.

In an interview following his selection, Niemelä told Helsingin Sanomat that his first order of business will be to carry out discussions with different groups of university employees.

"Talk of a worsening atmosphere has to be taken seriously, so a good atmosphere and a sense of community must be created," he told the paper. "I have 14 years experience as a dean, so indeed I know the concerns and the tensions that have arisen in recent years."

Niemelä attributed the university’s internal problems in part to financial austerity measure that coincided with a broader reform of teaching programmes and university services. He described University of Helsinki finances as still being "shaky".

As the university's new rector Jari Niemelä says that his goal will be to raise the quality of research and social interaction to a leading international position,something that will require a highly motivated staff.

Dealing with the dust

It is again the season when residents of towns and cities in Finland are faced by clouds of dust stirred up on streets from the gravel spread on ice and snow over the winter months, and the remains of tarmac chewed up by studded winter tyres.

Oulu's Kaleva today points out that facemasks are an effective way to deal with the dust, but few people in Finland use them.

The head of the Organisation for Respiratory Health in Finland, Mervi Puolanne, says that there are some other simple ways to lower the impact of heavy dust concentrations in the air.

She told Kaleva that when walking or cycling, it is best to choose a route that is away from heavily trafficked streets. One good idea is to take paths through parks wherever possible. More use of public transport also means less dust in the air.

The paper also advises reader who suffer from the dust to consider using eye drops and try nasal irrigation. Anyone not wearing a hat or other head covering should wash their hair daily because dust transfers to one's pillow, leading to more eye and nose irritation.

Anyone taking medication for allergies, asthma or other respiratory ailments may want to consider upping their dosage, writes Kaleva.

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