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Wednesday's papers: Citizens' initiatives, looking under rocks, pricey veggies, and who's your roomie?

Government job creation efforts and a spate of public-backed initiatives for new legislation are among the items in the morning newspaper press.

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

For the past five years, Finland has had a system in place for citizens to bring legislation before Parliament. These citizens' initiatives require the signatures of at least 50,000 people, and so far, 17 have come before legislators.

This spring, notes Helsingin Sanomat, will see a spate of these initiatives.

Today, Parliament will formally be presented with a citizens' initiative for legislation aimed at protecting Helsinki's Malmi airport, and on Thursday, the full house will begin debate on a citizens' initiative to link pensions to the wage index.

Another initiative that has passed the 50,000 signature mark is one on legalizing euthanasia. Five more initiatives are currently making their way through committee reviews.

Few of these initiatives have actually been passed. So far, the only citizens' initiative approved by Parliament was on gender-neutral marriage. In addition, three other initiatives that were voted down did, however, lead to Parliament requiring the government to take action.

Interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat, University of Turku political science Professor Maija Setälä said that even more important than getting new laws on the books is that the initiatives are seen as a way to influence the democratic process.

At early as by the spring of 2015, one-in-three citizens had signed at least one initiative. Four-fifths said then that having the opportunity to participate in citizens' initiatives had improved democracy.

The paper pointed out that some citizens' initiatives have brought up questions on values that had previously been excluded from the political agenda. These are matters that move the public, but may be hard for political parties to deal with because of internal divisions.

Turning stones

The newsstand tabloid Iltalehti reports that Centrist Prime Minister Juha Sipilä will kick off today's session of Parliament with a preview of key measures that the government plans to introduce over the next few months.

This comes hard on the heels of a two-day cabinet strategy seminar which ended Tuesday afternoon.

The Kuopio-based Savon Sanomat quotes the Prime Minister as saying that since all of the "easy" means to boost employment have been exhausted, "every stone must be turned" to find new ways to create jobs.

The Prime Minister said that there is now a need to think outside the box and find measures that have a real impact.

"These are being sought. We've found small steps and it's a long list," he added, but also argued that there is a need for structural reforms.

Any final decision on new job creation ventures will not, though, be seen until after upcoming local elections.

Pricey veggies

Turun Sanomat reports that recent cold weather in Spain has hit supplies of some fresh vegetables and bumped up some prices in Finland. 

Wholesalers are having difficulties securing supplies, especially of lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower, but also of red peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers.

According to Turun Sanomat, the owner of the Amica restaurant chain, Fazer Food Services, has instructed its cooks to replace these vegetables with domestically-grown tubers and cabbage.

Tomi Hakkarainen, the CEO of the Satotukku wholesaler, told the paper that the prices of imported vegetables are expected to continue to rise and so also push up the prices of Finnish produce.

He added that some fast-food chains have started importing lettuce from the US. Finland does, however, have significant hothouse production of both lettuce and tomatoes.

Your roommate, really?

According to today's free sheet Metro, if you have a roommate, come March, you may find yourself explaining that you just share rent, not romance.

With the introduction of gender-neutral marriage in March, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland Kela might be checking if people of the same sex sharing a residence are not actually partners living in a "marriage-like relationship".

Marriages or romantic partnerships can affect the legibility for benefits paid by Kela. In the past only male-female roommates were scrutinized if Kela thought that they might be hiding a relationship.

Anna Mäki-Jokela, who oversees benefits services at Kela, told the paper that the intention is to implement strict gender equality. If someone applying for housing benefits does not mention a partner on the application form, but shares a residence with someone else, regardless of the gender of either, Kela plans to make inquiries, although Mäki-Jokela says it will be on a case-by-case basis.

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