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Wednesday papers: President on al-Hol families, new PM gets started, striking at full pay

President Niinistö is reportedly calling for a decision about possible repatriation of Finns from a refugee camp in Syria.

Sauli Niinistö
President Sauli Niinistö. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Helsinki daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that the dispute over the possible repatriation of Finnish women and children from the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria took a new turn on Tuesday evening when President Sauli Niinistö called for a "clear political decision on the matter".

In a comment forwarded to the paper by the president's office, Niinistö pointed to what he called an increasing flurry of speculation surrounding the issue and stated, "It would be good for the new government to have a moment of calm and consider making a clear political decision."

The possible repatriation of Finnish women and children being held in the al-Hol camp in Syria has become a major issue and the first serious challenge facing the new government headed by Sanna Marin, says Helsingin Sanomat.

The paper points out that this is a politically sensitive issue because bringing the children to safety would also mean repatriating their mothers. The mothers, writes HS, have close connections to Isis.

Parties in the coalition government have been avoiding a political decision on repatriation, instead relegating it to information talks at working meetings of the cabinet.

The opposition Finns party is planning to force a vote of no-confidence in the government over the issue. Helsingin Sanomat notes a STT news agency report that the National Coalition Party is considering joining in the push for a vote of no-confidence.

Turku's Turun Sanomat reports that the Christian Democratic Party decided late Tuesday evening to back the move. In its announcement, the CDP said that repatriation plans have been advanced without a clear political decision and without informing parliament. It added that Prime Minister Sanna Marin "has not been able to answer questions about the foreign minister's actions and conflicting statements".

New rules for politicians

Oulu's Kaleva notes that one of the first measures of the new Marin government after taking office was to shield cabinet ministers from corporate headhunters.

According to a decision taken on Tuesday, any minister leaving a government post will face a six-month ban on taking on any new job that could be seen as a conflict of interest.

Legislation is in the works that will prevent sitting ministers from resigning to go straight to jobs related to their work in government. Until such time as that becomes law, Marin is relying on the personal pledges of cabinet members.

A Council of Europe body, the Group of States against Corruption, has cautioned Finland against the practice of leading civil servants and cabinet ministers moving back and forth between public service and the private sector.

Advice from oldest to youngest

Sanna Marin's entry into the premiership at the age of 34, making her the world's youngest head of government, has attracted worldwide attention.

Finland's leading Swedish-language daily, Hufvudstadsbladet reports that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who at the age of 94 is the world's oldest head of government, Tuesday commented on Sanna Marin's rise by passing along a piece of advice to his younger colleague.

In an interview with Reuters, Mahathir Mohamad stated, “While we believe in the idealism of young people, it is important also for them to consider the experience of the old people”.

“Then there will be a combination of the two, and that would be good,” he added.

Striking at full pay

Strikes and solidarity strikes in the industrial sector this week have seen nearly 100,000 workers lay down their tools and walk off the job, trading lost pay for the chance pressure employers for better contract conditions.

There is once sector, however, where workers are on strike, but getting full pay anyway.

According to the economic and business daily Kauppalehti, some companies in the chemicals sector are paying striking employees to come to work even though they are not producing anything.

The paper points out that it is not only difficult, but also potentially dangerous to completely shut down some chemical industry processes.

Kauppalehti take as an example the Borealis Polymers plant in Porvoo where around 75 percent of some 900 officially striking workers have been coming in to supervise plant safety while production is suspended.

Company management told the paper that it is seeing significant losses because of the strike. The labour action has not only stopped production for the three day strike period. This was preceded by two days it took to wind down processes, and it may take another five days to get back up to speed once the strike ends.

Environmental visions 50 years ago

Kuopio's Savon Sanomat on Wednesday turned the clock back just about half a century with a look at an editorial published by its sister paper, Iisalmen Sanomat, on 14 December 1969.

The Council of Europe had just declared the new year, 1970, as European Conservation year. Even though Finland was not yet a member of the body, it joined in the effort to protect the natural environment.

Savon Sanomat writes that at that time, this was the greatest international wake-up call to the need to protect the planet and its natural resources.

What was envisaged was the creation of a strategy to protect the natural environment and a search to find the means to implement that strategy.

50 years ago, Iisalmen Sanomat wrote that awareness of the dangers was important, but that merely an interest in environmental questions would not be enough. The paper stressed that what was really essential was a long-term plan that would take into account the needs of future generations.

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