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Tuesday's papers: Army priest recants, trans community protests, and Finland 'stares at its toes'

Finland's attitude in EU negotiations was criticised in the business press.

Pääministeri Sanna Marin EU:n videokokouksessa.
Sanna Marin at an EU summit in March. Her government has taken a sceptical line on the EU Commission's proposed stimulus fund. Image: Valtioneuvosto

Most media is carrying a story about a casualty of the culture wars in the Finnish military.

On Monday the Chaplain General of the Finnish Defence Forces, Pekka Särkiö, issued an apology for a blog post in which he criticised the 'cultural elite' which was challenging traditional notions of family life.

Ilta-Sanomat reports that the original text (now deleted from the Kotimaa website and replaced with Särkiö's apology) included a complaint that marriage is no longer needed to have sex, which he believes is to blame for Finland's low birth rate.

After deleting his screed criticising transgender people and polyamourous and promiscuous lifestyles, he published an apology.

"The Defence Forces are committed to everyone's, including different minorities', absolute equality and human dignity."

Trans community protests

Helsingin Sanomat reports on new recommendations from the Ministry for Social Affairs and Health on the treatment of transgender people.

The new recommendations handed down by the 'Palko' committee on healthcare services state that trans people should now seek help from their local public healthcare provider.

To get a referral to one of two gender dysphoria clinics in the country, trans people will have to have their local healthcare provider assess their psychiatric state.

That is interpreted by trans activists as placing another obstacle in their path to get treatment, which they say is already difficult.

The LGBT rights organisation Seta had submitted evidence that current guidelines produce wide regional disparity in treatment, and that treatment depends on whether a diagnosis is 'transgender' or 'non-binary'.

Seta had asked that treatment for people with a 'non-binary' diagnosis be guaranteed.

"Palko's recommendation in the worst case scenario will lengthen this obstacle course, because it will add another stage to the local health centre's assessment," said Panda Eriksson, a trans activist who chaired trans rights group Trasek until resigning on Sunday for reasons unrelated to the recommendations.

Finland 'lacks vision' in EU policy

On Friday EU leaders gathered by video call to discuss a proposal for 750 billion euros in stimulus spending to help the European economy get back on its feet.

The proposal came from the EU commission, at the instigation of Germany and France. It is opposed by the 'frugal four' of Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands, and Finland too is slightly sceptical.

That Finnish stance took a hammering from business daily Kauppalehti's Brussels correspondent Soili Seminki, who says Finland's talk is mostly empty.

While the EU has put a figure on the spending required to get over the coronavirus hump, Finland has not. It just wants 'less' spending, and has not presented an alternative. It does not seem to have clear goals in the negotiations, according to Seminki.

"That's what this kind of politics is: horse trading. I'll give you this but I want that in return. Germany does have the EU's development over the next decades in mind. Finland just stares at its feet and wonders if they'll get wet. What could be looming on the other side of the beach doesn't even interest it."

Seminki suggests that Finland should be lobbying for wise use of the stimulus funds. She says the sums are relatively small in cost, but if they provide a stable base for other member states to weather future storms — and buy Finnish exports — it will be to the long-term benefit of Finland and the EU.

EDIT 24.6.2020 An earlier version of this review incorrectly used 'intersex' instead of 'non-binary'. The mistake was ours and was not in the original article.

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