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Thursday's papers: FM under investigation, warning to citizen sleuths, near-record Lapland snow

Morning papers have more on scrutiny of actions by the foreign minister, and a warning to social media vigilantes.

Kittilän Pokassa lunta on eniten Suomessa ja se näkyy rakennusten katoilla
The village of Poka in Finnish Lapland has over 120cm of snow cover. Image: Jarmo Siivikko / Yle

In a relatively rare move on Wednesday, Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee announced that it was asking the Prosecutor General to launch an investigation into Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto’s handling of events surrounding the repatriation of Finns living in the al-Hol camp in Syria.

The issue centres on a dispute between the foreign minister and one of his top officials.

Turku's Turun Sanomat reports that speaking to the press Wednesday following the committee's announcement, Haavisto denied any wrongdoing and said that even if the investigation moves forward, he intends to continue in his post.

"Of course [I will continue] because I don't concede that any crime has been committed," he said.

The foreign minister declined, however, to comment on why he had sidelined his ministry's Director-General of Consular Services who had been the official in charge of al-Hol issues.

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat takes a look at what the decision to ask for an investigation means, and how unusual it really is.

Teuvo Pohjolainen, professor emeritus of public law at the University of Helsinki, told the paper that in practice this means that Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee decided that it could not turn a blind eye to Haavisto's handling of the affair.

Asked how unusual this kind of request for a preliminary investigation is, Professor Pohjolainen said that although the Constitutional Law Committee does from time to time file complaints about the actions of cabinet ministers, these have rarely gone as far as formal investigations.

The last time the committee called for an investigation of a sitting cabinet minister was in 2010. At that time, the committee was acting on a request from the Chancellor of Justice to determine if then-Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen had a conflict of interest because of his ties to a Centre Party-linked youth foundation that received financing from the state-owned Slot Machine Association.

Degrees on the farm

A new report on continuing education in Finland by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says that Finland needs to readjust its adult education programmes to target more unskilled and lower-skilled people.

The farmers' union paper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus identifies agriculture as one sector in need of more highly educated and highly skilled workers.

The paper writes that there is a growing need in particular for more people with vocational degrees in agriculture and in business management.

It points to a 2019 estimate that over half of all workers in the labour force in the near future will need to have some kind of higher education degree. In agriculture, the estimate is that 40 percent will require higher education by 2035.

Maaseudun Tulevaisuus writes there will be little to no room in the job market for people without a high level of skill.

It quotes Ilpo Hanhijoki of the National Agency for Education as saying that opportunities for education in agriculture and forestry are good, but there is a lot of regional variation in the level of offerings and not all slots in study programmes get filled.

Police warn citizen sleuths

Helsinki's Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet carries some advice, and a warning from police. If you suspect a crime has been committed you should contact the police and not post your theories on social media.

Hufvudstadsbladet reports that the Central Finland Police Department issued a release on Wednesday pointing out that it is not the job of the general public to investigate crimes, and that posting information about suspected perpetrators on social media may itself be a criminal offence.

The police notice was spurred by the case of a person in a van car suspected of luring minors into their vehicle in Ylöjärvi, just west of Tampere. A police report was made about suspect in early February. Police say that the investigation was ended when no crime was established.

However, the case attracted great interest on social media. According to the police, private individuals shared pictures and registration numbers of various red vans online. On Tuesday, a group of young people attacked a commercial van with stones, because it fit the description.

Police stress that sharing pictures and personal data online can lead to charges of defamation.

So much snow

While southern parts of Finland continue to see the mildest winter in at least a century, and even cherry trees have started to blossom in some localities, Finnish Lapland is covered by near-record levels of snow, with a real threat of avalanches on the fells.

Iiris Viljamaa of the Finnish Meteorological Institute told the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat that on Wednesday, the village of Poka in Kittilä had 121 centrimetres of snow cover. Poka's long-term average for this time of year is 42 centrimetres.

Several of the institute’s weather measurement stations in Lapland have reported record snow depths.

The all-time record for Finland is 190 centrimetres of snow cover, measured at the village of Kilpisjärvi in April 1997. A new record is still possible this winter, but Ilta-Sanomat notes that fluctuating temperatures have meant that much of the snow has been wet which has compacted it already.

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