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Tuesday's papers: Finland and Nato, English gaining ground, peeking at your neighbour's finances

In Tuesday's papers Helsingin Sanomat says Nato cooperation is not a backdoor to membership, while HBL reports moves to give the English language official status.

Naton Trident Juncture -sotaharjoitus.
Land, sea and air units are taking part in major NATO exercises in Norway. Image: Marius Vagenes Villanger / EPA

Looking at the Finnish military's participation Nato's Trident Juncture exercises in Norway, the daily Helsingin Sanomat writes that Finland no longer stands out as a non-member of the alliance. Both Finland and Sweden, it says are a part of the defence structure of northern Europe, not just coastal states on the shores of the Baltic.

Even so, this increasingly close cooperation is not stealthily taking Finland into Nato. It points out that no country can secretly join.

Helsingin Sanomat goes on to note that former Swedish Foreign and Prime Minister Carl Bildt published a recent column under the title, of "The end of Scandinavian non-alignment".

"Bildt is happy to shock [readers], but according to the view of some others, as well, the defence networks of Finland and Sweden are already much like military alliances," writes the paper.

This article argues that the reasons given for Finland taking part in major Nato exercises like Trident Juncture need to be updated. An expanded rationale could be that Finland is strengthening its own defence capabilities, its capacity to receive and provide military assistance, and in concert with Sweden strengthening the credibility of northern European defence.

It continues by stating that on the basis of the role of Finnish and Swedish troops in the exercises in Norway, it is impossible to distinguish these partner countries from the troops of Nato member states.

Helsingin Sanomat wraps up, though, by pointing out that on the political level there still is the difference that member countries have a commitment to mutual defense. Even so, it concedes that Bildt may be right, "This does not look like military non-alignment," the daily concludes.

Official status for English?

Last week, the Institute for the Languages of Finland issued a warning about the inroads being made by English, saying that the increased use of English poses a threat to Finnish and Swedish in many walks of life, and issued a call for new measures to promote the current national languages.

Today, Finland's largest Swedish-language daily, Hufvudstadsbladet, reports on a proposal to give the English language official status.

The proposal is contained in a report published Monday by the influential Confederation of Finnish Industries EK.

Written by Mikael Jungner, former party secretary of the Social Democratic Party of Finland, MP, and former managing director of Yle, the paper is a shopping list of measures that the EK would like to see implemented to make Finland more attractive to foreigner investors, capital, and skilled workers.

Among the suggestions are eliminating the need for employers to show that jobs cannot be filled by local talent before hiring from outside the EU-EEA, and making English an official language.

According to Jungner's proposal, English could be given official status by municipalities that wish to do so. In practice, this would entitle immigrants in those towns and cities to receive public services in English, and the right to use English at work.

Still on the record

Information on taxation of capital and earned income are a matter of public record in Finland. That means that the tax authorities make everyone's earnings available for scrutiny. In what has become an annual ritual, the media publishes lists each year in a sort of "who's who" of the rich, the famous and the notorious. Just as easily, anyone can look up what his or her neighbour's are making.

A new poll commissioned by the Uutissuomalainen news syndicator, and published by several papers including today's Iltalehti, indicates that few people are pleased by the practice.

The survey shows that only 28 percent of the more than one thousand people interviewed support this information being in the public domain.

The largest number, 38 percent, were willing to let each individual decide if personal tax information is available to the general public.

Meanwhile, 14 percent was found to favour the publication of income and tax data for only the wealthy, and a mere 12 percent think that all information about income and taxes should be completely confidential.

The long way around - a really long way

Today's Aamulehti relates how last weekend a Finn in distress on a beach in Sydney, Australia summoned an ambulance via the emergency call centre in Turku.

According to the head of emergency services Marko Nieminen, the individual had first phoned a friend in Finland who then called the emergency number here.

The Turku call centre passed on the cry for help to national coordinators located in Kerava. They made contact with the New South Wales ambulance service via colleagues in the UK.

It took about half an hour from the time the Turku emergency centre received the call until there was an ambulance on Sydney's Bondi Beach.

The circuitous routing may sound odd, but Nieminen told the paper that with more and more people spending time abroad, such things happen regularly.

He added that it has happened in reverse, as well, with people calling from abroad to report an emergency in Finland.

Nieminen mentioned examples springing from online poker games. There have been cases in which someone in Finland has become so distraught at losing money at virtual poker that fellow players have contacted emergency services from abroad to say that the individual might be in danger of self-harm.

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