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Thursday's papers: EU and Trump, fewer children, fees for tourism, the start of Ramadan

Among the items in today's Finnish newspapers are reaction to tensions between the US administration and the EU, and the riddle of why Finnish couples are having fewer children.

Suomenlinna ilmasta
The island fortress of Suomenlinna is a Unesco World Heritage site. Image: Suomenlinnan hoitokunnan kuva-arkisto / Suomen Ilmakuva Oy

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, reports that US President's Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal created a "panic atmosphere" at the start to the summit of EU leaders in Sophia, Bulgaria yesterday.

The paper includes a tweet by President of the European Council Donald Tusk saying, "Looking at latest decisions of @realDonaldTrump someone could even think: with friends like that who needs enemies."

The main topic on the agenda at the gathering in Sophia, set months ago, was to have been the countries of the western Balkans and their relations with the EU.

Instead, notes Helsingin Sanomat, the focus of attention Wednesday evening was on Trump, the Iran deal and the threat of US tariffs on the products of Europe's metals industries.

The paper quotes Finland's Prime Minister Juha Sipilä describing the situation as being sparked by Trump's "Unusual, erratic, surprising decisions, contrary to all the diplomatic rules that we are accustomed to".

Sipilä went on to say that what is now needed is leadership by the EU to get Iran to stick with the nuclear pact. According to the Finnish Prime Minister, the EU has to be tough in the face of Trump's threats and "short-sighted" policies, but restraint is also needed to avoid a full-fledged trade war.

The riddle of fewer kids

The newsstand tabloid Iltalehti looks at a new study by the Family Federation of Finland that explores some of the reasons why couples in Finland have been having fewer children, and at a later age.

The birth rate in Finland has fallen annually for the past seven years.

Iltalehti quotes researchers as stating that "The continuing decline in births in a developed society is a scientific riddle. It is a matter of a clear trend, but the final result and the reasons are unknown".

According to the Federation's report, the average age at which women have their first child has been rising since the 1970s, and is now close to 29. In 2014, the average age for women giving birth for the first time was 26.3 for those in blue-collar jobs, 28.5 for women in lower-level white collar jobs, and 31.5 for women in higher management positions.

Iltalehti says that many under-30 year-olds fear that life will come to a standstill if they have children. For example, backpacking trips and journeys of self-discovery simply hold more interest than does family life, writes this paper.

At the same time, having children is associated in many people's minds with a lower standard of living.

Researchers believe that the number of people who remain childless in Finland will become a growing segment of the population. More than one in five women, and one in four men, is likely to never have children.

Also, the longer people wait to have their first child, the greater the probability is that they will have only two at most.

Interviews carried out for the Family Federation study found that single-child families are not considered as ideal. Most respondents said that they would want no less than two.

The report does not view immigration, at its current level, to be much help in boosting birth rates. It says that immigration to Finland during the 2000s has not been significant enough to have a practical impact on fertility. In addition, many immigrants come to Finland from countries that also have low birth rates, such as Russia, Estonia, and other EU members.

Fee to visit Suomenlinna?

The front page of the Metro freesheet today carries two main headlines, one about Helsinki Police Chief Lasse Aapio being suspended over drug squad irregularities, and the other about the possibility of people being charged to visit Helsinki's Suomenlinna island fortress.

Suomenlinna is an 18th-century sea fortress and nature area at the mouth of Helsinki's south harbour which is a Unesco World Heritage site, and also a residential area.

It is a hugely popular destination for both tourists and locals, drawing, according to Metro, around 6,000 visitors a day between June-August.

While this generates income for the museums, restaurants and cafes on the islands, it also means major expenses in upkeep and maintenance.

Metro reports that the board which manages Suomenlinna has been considering the imposition of a fee to visit the islands and could be making a decision on the issue early next month.

There are several options being considered. One would allow free entry to anyone under the age of 18. Another is to impose fees on groups of tourists. And, collection of a voluntary payment by visitors has also been proposed.

Start of Ramadan

The Oulu-based newspaper Kaleva reminded readers that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins today.

The month of fasting observed during Ramadan will end with the celebration of id al-fitr, which this year in Finland will fall in mid-June.

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