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Wednesday's papers: Macron in Helsinki, budget talks, neo-Nazi trial and no mail on Fridays

Today's papers talk about the French President's first visit to Finland, on-going budget negotiations, neo-Nazis on trial, and a possible end to post on Fridays.

Emmanuel ja Brigitte Macron käsi kädessä.
Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron Image: Ludovic Marin / EPA

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat starts this Wednesday with a story on Emmanuel Macron's official visit to Finland today. The French President and his wife Brigitte Macron will join the Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio for a gala dinner at the Presidential Palace in the Helsinki city centre.

The evening will begin with a welcome ceremony in front of the palace at around 7:45 pm, after which the presidents and their spouses will move inside, exchange gifts and take photos before sitting down to their meal. The tabloid notes that the public can view the welcome ceremony from the Market Square.

A press release from the office of the Finnish President says that Macron and his wife will be staying the night, and that official discussions between the two statesmen are scheduled for Thursday morning. The French president will then visit Aalto University with Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, followed by a working lunch at the PM's Kesäranta residence in Helsinki. The first ladies will visit the soon-to-be-opened Children's Hospital and the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress in Helsinki. This is Macron's first visit to Finland.

Day two of Kesäranta budget talks

The Joensuu-based newspaper Karjalainen has an article on the government's on-going budget negotiations, marking the last time the three-party centre-right coalition will meet to hammer out a fiscal framework before the next parliamentary elections in April 2019. If all goes according to plan, a final version of the budget for the coming year will be announced sometime today.

Thanks to the slight upswing in the economy, Finance Minister Petteri Orpo has said that about 200 million euros is available for added appropriations. Karjalainen writes that some of this money is expected to go towards emergency relief for drought-struck farmers and Baltic Sea conservation, although the main priority is to improve employment figures.

The paper says PM Sipilä dampened hopes of touted tax relief for low- and middle-income households on day one of the negotiations, saying that "it would not be a very big package". The premier said that news yesterday that the Unemployment Insurance Fund had proposed lowering employee unemployment insurance contributions to 1.5 percent would already save workers about 320 million euros.

Neo-Nazi group appeals ban

Next, the tabloid Iltalehti gives a summary of what likely happened in the Turku Court of Appeals yesterday, where the Finnish branch of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement is appealing a lower court's decision to outlaw the group's activities.

In November 2017, in a case introduced by the National Police Board, the Pirkanmaa District Court found that the group known as PVL should be abolished in Finland. IL reports that the earlier ruling said the PVL was "hostile to a democratic society and possessed a sense of entitlement to use violence".

The tabloid says it received a copy of the PVL's rebuttal, which says that the only similar calls for a group to disband in Finland targeted the motorcycle club Cannonball MC, and in these cases, proposals to ban the club's activities were rejected by the courts. It also argues that it is not a registered organization, and so a ban would not be applicable.

The neo-Nazi group argues that the European Court of Human Rights has maintained a very high threshold for limiting people's basic rights, and a ban would limit the members' freedom of speech.

In the original case, the National Police Board argued that PVL encouraged violence. The fact that Jesse Torniainen was employed by the group was offered as proof of this. Torniainen was convicted of aggravated assault in late 2016, after kicking a passerby in the chest during a PVL demonstration. The kick caused the victim to fall to the ground and hit his head, and he died about a week later. In Turku yesterday, the PVL argued that Torniainen's actions were his own and "did not reflect the group's acceptance of or support for violence".

Posti tries out longer Thursdays in exchange for free Fridays

And the Tampere-based newspaper Aamulehti closes this review with a story on a new experiment being undertaken by the national postal carrier Posti. It now seeks to cut down on Friday deliveries by giving employees the option of working longer days on Thursdays. AL reports that the trial would primarily apply to magazines and letters that are not tied to specific delivery days.

"The initiative came from our employees and shop stewards. Friday is a lighter day in general, and some of our mail carriers would like to have a longer weekend break. We'll give it a try and see if the new work arrangement is feasible," Posti's distribution director Juhani Vuola tells AL.

Vuola says that postal employees would still be required to fulfil 38.25 hours a week and participation in the new distribution of working hours would be voluntary. At first, the trial would be limited to the capital city region and the southern city of Kouvola. As of July 2017, Posti has already stopped delivering letters, magazines, ads and fliers on Tuesdays. The Tuesday and new optional Friday delivery stoppage does not affect the delivery of newspapers, packages and certified letters.

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