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Wednesday's papers: Defence debate, youth civics and Uusikaupunki property boom

Wednesday's papers continue the debate about Finnish defence policy prompted by high-level meetings this week, look at an uptick in voting among young people, and report on a booming property market in a small town on the west coast.

Puolustusministeri Jussi Niinistö puhuu lehdistölle.
Finland's Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö is under the microscope in Wednesday's newspapers. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

US Secretary of Defense James 'Mad Dog' Mattis came to Finland this week, and he's certainly prompted a debate about Finnish defence policy. Alongside a raft of meetings with Nordic, Baltic and European countries' defence ministers, his Finnish counterpart Jussi Niinistö announced US-Finnish military exercises slated for 2020 or 2021.

This announcement prompted some grumbling from Finnish MPs and on Wednesday Ilta-Sanomat continues mining that territory for discontented comments. Green MP Pekka Haavisto said that he wasn't sure if Niinistö was joking when he said the operations might be named 'Operation Jussi', Leftist Markus Mustajärvi said that he was irritated at the lack of information for legislators, and NCP MP Ilkka Kanerva wondered what stage the president, who is nominally in control of Finland's Foreign Policy, was informed.

The sensitive nature of the debate is an illustration of Finland's caution in defence policy, given its long-standing agreement with the Soviet Union during the Cold War to remain neutral.

In an editorial pondering the same topic, Helsingin Sanomat notes that the country has taken its Nordic and Nato co-operation almost as far as it can go without some kind of additional impetus or investment, perhaps even Nato membership. Regardless of that thorny question, HS says that a deepening of defence co-operation requires Finland and Sweden to take the initiative.

Young people well-informed

Helsingin Sanomat carries news or an international survey that showed Finnish civics education seems to be relatively successful. The broad, 24-country study interviewed some 94,000 teenagers and more than 37,000 teachers, and found that the Finnish participants had relatively good awareness and knowledge of politics and decision-making.

Finns' trust in institutions was also higher than that of participants from other countries, with the police the most trusted institution, followed by the Defence Forces and then educational institutions. Political parties were the least-trusted.

In terms of knowledge of politics and society, Finns were in fourth place behind Sweden, Taiwan and Denmark.

Uusikaupunki housing boom

Kauppalehti takes another look at Uusikaupunki, the town hosting a Valmet car plant that is struggling to hire enough workers to man production lines after securing big orders from Mercedes.

The firm has hired some 2,000 new workers in nine months, bringing the total workforce to 4,000. That makes it Finland's biggest factory, but there is an extreme shortage of housing for the new staff.

That's led to a 30 percent bump in property prices in a year, with plans afoot to build four new wood-constructed apartment buildings. The new flats will be marketed at small investors, with the project financed by the OP Group.

That will hopefully ease costs for workers, who according to KL have been paying up to 430 euros a month for a bed in a shared apartment.

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