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Wednesday's papers: Healthcare reform, Swedish defence offer, Eurovision disappointment

Helsingin Sanomat reports on new efforts to reorganize and streamline Finland's social and health care services.

Kolme lääkäriä kävelee kadulla.
Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

The daily Helsingin Sanomat asks the question whether Finland's next government will be able to assure the nation's residents better access to healthcare services.

According to the paper, the five parties involved in government formation talks are now working on a revamped project to reform Finland's social and healthcare system.

The model, it says, is based on the same "sote" reform of the previous government that was intended to shift responsibility for services away from municipalities to 18 elected regional authorities.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that its sources say that the issue under discussion at this stage is only the integration of services, not an expansion of the mandate of the regional authorities.

One of the Centre Party's non-negotiable demands in the formation talks is that the reform sticks to the 18-region scheme and that regional authorities are given a wide range of responsibilities.

As HS points out, the last government's overhaul plan failed in large part because of a dispute over the inclusion of allowing people to choose public services or publicly funded services provided by private and third-sector operators.

Now, some of the parties in government formation talks are those who oppose opening public healthcare to private companies.

HS says that the biggest questions, though, centre on financing the reform and the right of regional authorities to levy taxes.

Talks on a policy programme for social and health care services are being carried out by a broad-based group led by former Social Democratic Party minister Krista Kiuru.

EU advance voting starts

Oulu's Kaleva was among the papers reminding readers that advance voting in elections to the European Parliament starts on Wednesday, and continues through Tuesday, 21 May.

Election day is Sunday, 26 May.

For the purposes of the European Parliament elections, Finland is a single election district.

When going to the polls, voters need to be able to present an ID, such an identification card issued by the police, a passport, driver's licence, or other official document including a personal photo.

Citizens of other EU countries living in Finland may vote in Finland's European Parliamentary election as long they have signed up to the voting register in advance.

In a related item, the Kuopio-based Savon Sanomat reports that veteran politician Paavo Väyrynen has announced that if he wins an MEP seat in the European Parliament elections, he would be willing to accept the chairmanship of Finland's Centre Party next year.

Väyrynen claims that he has received feelers from within the Centre about taking over the party's top spot, a position he held between 1980 and 1990. Only this week, Väyrynen announced he was leaving the party he founded less than a year ago, the Seven Star Movement.

He says, though, that his availability to chair the Centre is conditional on being elected to the European Parliament, which he would consider an endorsement of his future political plans.

Swedes ready to defend Finland

Turun Sanomat carries a syndicated Lännen Media report on a Swedish defence plan published Tuesday that includes a full brigade of some 5,000 soldiers earmarked for operations in Finland, in the event of a conflict or war.

Antti Pihlajamaa, an instructor in strategic studies at Finland's National Defence University, is quoted as saying that although the Swedish proposal is clear and straightforward, it is still only a proposal and that no far-reaching conclusions should yet be drawn. It will take another decade, he said, until it is seen what Sweden's overall defence plan means.

Last year, Finland and Sweden signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the objectives of their defence co-operation.

According to Pihlajamaa, the importance of Sweden's plan to offer troops would depend to a large extent on the nature of any crisis, and what kind of troops would be provided.

Disappointment in Tel Aviv

Probably without exception, morning newspapers reported that Finland's hopes at the Eurovision Song Contest were dashed Tuesday evening when the Finnish entry, "Look Away" featuring artists Darude and Sebastian Rejman, was eliminated in the first semi-final in Tel Aviv.

The Finnish entry was composed by Darude (Ville Virtanen) an award-winning producer/DJ best known for his iconic 1999 trance instrumental "Sandstorm" and featured Rejman on vocals.

Writing for the tabloid Iltalehti, reporter Mari Pudas attributed the loss not to the quality of the music, but to the performance's lack of exciting visual elements.

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