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Thursday's papers: Guggenheim rejected, PM's bait-and-switch, deep tech booming

The Helsinki city council Wednesday evening voted to reject a project for the construction of a Guggenheim art museum in the Finnish capital. A communications expert says the prime minister turned a debate on freedom of the press into a complaint about his personal freedom of speech. And, "deep tech" is giving Finnish start-ups a winning hand.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

Helsingin Sanomat was among the many newspapers Thursday morning which reported that a late evening meeting of the Helsinki city council rejected controversial plans for a Guggenheim art museum by a clear margin of 53–32.

The paper says that now, after a battle over the project lasting close to six years, the debate over building a Guggenheim in Helsinki is "almost certainly over".

The city council decision that shot down the proposal came after a heated five-and-a half hour debate that led to two separate votes. During the debate a counter-proposal was floored which could have allowed the project to go forward under different financing terms. This was also rejected.

Wednesday's vote, according to Helsingin Sanomat, can be considered the coup de grâce to any hopes by backers to see a Guggenheim art museum ever built in Helsinki.

The newsstand tabloid Iltalehti reports that the main advocates of the museum project were graceful in defeat, with the head of the foundation backing the project, Ari Lahti, calling it an inspiring experience and thanking other supporters for their work.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation issued a press release expressing its disappointment and its regret that the Helsinki city council decided not to allocate funds for the proposed Guggenheim Helsinki museum, in effect bringing the project to a close.

PM's verbal acrobatics

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä held a brief news conference to issue a denial that he had tried to influence Yle's news coverage of a possible conflict of interest story  (PM: "Confidence in Yle quite OK" ).

In an article in the Thursday edition of the Turku-based Turun Sanomat, political communications researcher Vesa Heikkinen says that the prime minister used some clever verbal sleight of hand to shift the focus away from concerns about freedom of the press to a discussion of his own freedom of speech.

Heikkinen told the paper that Sipilä stated that he was exercising his freedom of speech by giving feedback and criticism [to Yle], and that he used a pedagogic tone in stating that freedom of speech includes the right to issue criticism.

Turun Sanomat writes that Sipilä also used a traditional political tactic when he praised some other media for its reporting in the affair and thereby implied that Yle had done badly.

The Prime Minister also sought to excuse his actions with an appeal to emotion, saying that he had reacted emotionally because suspicions of wrongdoing had fallen upon members of his family.

"That is also always a good strategy, to admit to some minor thing being the result of being overly emotional, but at the same time avoid the big question and deny the accusations" Vesa Heikkinen told the paper.

Deep tech development

The business and economic daily Kauppalehti reports that Nokia and the game development sector in Finland have given rise to the kind of tech knowhow that is now attracting major investment.

The paper looks at a study carried out by the international investment group Atomico which says that deep tech companies are blossoming in Europe. These are companies whose operations are grounded in demanding technological development, as contrasted to companies based on a business model, such as Uber.

This investor group sees Finland as a strong player in the field of deep tech companies. Finnish strengths are to be found especially in robotics and artificial intelligence, virtual reality and technologies for the internet of things.

The Atomico survey found Finns to have an edge because of experience and education.

Teddie Wardi, a principal at Atomico, told Kauppalehti that compared to other countries, Finland has highly-educated expertise. He pointed out that in Helsinki alone there are 29,000 professional software developers, 52 percent of whom have more than six years experience and a quarter of whom have a masters-level or higher academic degree.

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