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Tuesday's papers: Mattis in Helsinki, Estonian returnees and boozing pensioners

The newspapers on Tuesday cover a high profile visit from US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Estonians leaving Finland to return home, and a survey that suggested one in ten over-65s might be drinking too much.

 Puolustusministeri James Mattis ja Sauli Niinistö
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis (left) and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

On Monday US Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Helsinki, and the trip made big headlines in the Finnish press. He held meetings with President Sauli Niinistö and on Tuesday joins his Finnish and Swedish counterparts for what Finnish Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö said is the first trilateral meeting between the three countries' defence ministers.

Aamulehti takes the opportunity to examine Finnish national security discourses in the light of the current presidential election in an editorial. The ghost of Urho Kalevi Kekkonen, Finland's strong man president for 26 years from 1956, casts a shadow over every Finnish presidential election and AL notes the contrast in style on the question of Nato.

None of the current candidates for president support Nato membership except the Swedish People's Party's Nils Torvalds, whose support in the last Yle poll was recorded at one percent (in a poll with a 1.9 percentage point margin of error).

That reflects Finns' opposition to Nato membership, which consistently polls well above 50 percent. AL lauds the democratic spirit of the candidates' calibrated policy positions, but also wonders if maybe it might be time for politicians to try and influence public opinion--like Kekkonen used to do. The paper then poses a question: how much is public opinion influenced by foreign actors?

Estonians returning home

Helsingin Sanomat reports on Estonians who have, in the newspaper's words, discovered that living in Finland is not a lottery win. The Ööpik family are moving from Vantaa to Estonia, and the reason might be surprising: state benefits for families with children, which now exceed those paid in Finland in some cases.

In Estonia, bigger families get extra child benefit, so a four-child family (which the Ööpiks will soon be, when Mum Kristin gives birth) gets 600 euros in child benefit--some 100 euros more than the same family would receive in Finland. Maternity pay is also better, with new parents entitled to 100 percent of their salary for 18 months--twice as long as in Finland.

When Finland's government cut family benefits, Estonia decided to raise them. Taxes on low and middle income earners have also been slashed to try and tempt back Estonian emigrés. When cheaper rent in Estonia is also taken into consideration, the move makes a lot of sense financially--although the Ööpiks are also moving to be closer to family and friends in Estonia, not simply to improve their bank balances.

Mum Kristin, though, has still not decided whether she'll remain in Estonia after her maternity leave. Salaries in Estonia have remained pretty low in the three years since she left, so the impetus to move to Finland might well still be there.

Over-65s and alcohol

Several papers report a statistic from an anti-addiction charity suggesting that a tenth of over-65s drink too much. It's part of an anti-substance abuse week, and suggests that older people may not know their limits.

Helsingin Sanomat interviews an addiction specialist who suggests that older people can be tempted to fill their time with a glass or two too many, but that they easily drink more than they should. That's partly because of reduced limits for older people, as recommended levels are designed for those in their 20s and 30s, so drinkers should start to cut back when they hit forty.

It's also partly due to depression and loneliness, according to the experts, and is therefore a tough nut to crack.

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