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Wednesday's papers: Mayor v Minister tensions, youth funds, and African care workers

Finland’s press reports on an escalating row between politicians in local and national government.

Helsingin pormestari Jan Vapaavuori Helsingin kaupungin ja HUS:n koronaepidemiatilannetta käsittelevässä tiedotustilaisuudessa Helsingin kaupungintalolla tiistaina 24. marraskuuta.
Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori speaking at Tuesday's press conference. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

As residents of the Helsinki metropolitan area come to terms with the latest regional restrictions announced at a press conference on Tuesday, Helsingin Sanomat reports on escalating tensions between Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) and Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru (SDP).

HS writes that Vapaavuori did not participate in an online meeting organised by the minister on Tuesday, during which restrictions and recommendations aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus were discussed -- an absence which was "not viewed well".

For his part, the mayor criticised hasty invitation to the meeting, and added that the format was not conducive for discussion of effective action on tackling the coronavirus crisis.

"The invitation to the Skype meeting for Tuesday at 11am came on Monday night just before 8pm," Vapaavuori said. "This kind of behaviour is unconvincing. I would hope that in a civilised state, dialogue could take place in other ways than by sending invitations to meetings the night before."

This is not the first time the mayor has clashed with the government over coronavirus strategy.

Tensions first began to rise in September, when Vapaavuori criticised the government's decision to limit opening hours and customer capacity limits in bars and restaurants.

Then in October, Helsingin Sanomat reported that Vapaavuori rejected a 'decision in-principle' by the government on the restriction of free time activities and public events. At the time, Helsinki’s mayor said he expected the government to provide precise guidelines on which sports and hobbies should be suspended, arguing that failing to do so was avoiding responsibility -- comments which made Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko (Cen) "nervous".

HS writes that Minister Kiuru refused to be drawn into commenting on Vapaavuori’s non-attendance at the online meeting, or whether she considers the restrictions he announced later on Tuesday morning sufficient for curbing the coronavirus spread.

Youth centres facing bleak future

Jyväskylä daily Keskisuomalainen writes that several youth centres in the Central Finland region face closure and a number of workers may be laid off, as the city plans to cut 200,000 euros in youth services funding from next year’s budget.

Youth Manager Katariina Soanjärvi tells the paper that even the loss of a small number of employees will have a detrimental impact on the running of the centres.

"If staff numbers are reduced, we will not be able to operate safely, which is why the facilities will have to be closed," Soanjärvi said, adding that hundreds of people have already signed to petition to save one of the centres.

"I hope decision-makers understand the value," she added.

KSML writes that the city council's education and culture committee will meet on Wednesday evening to decide the fate of the workers and the centres.

Gambian care workers and Finnish folk music

Tabloid Iltalehti speaks to two care workers -- and iskelmä, or Finnish schlager music, fans -- from the Gambia, Musa and Masa, who the paper writes have "found their calling" by helping to fill a much-needed gap in the Finnish care industry.

Both men tell IL that they receive only positive feedback from the people they work with every day, and elderly patients are especially interested to hear stories about Africa and what the two men think of life in Finland.

Their clients have also taught them a few things about Finland too, as Musa revealed a growing taste for Finnish iskelmä music, which is popular among care home residents.

"I like to listen to Finnish iskelmä songs with the elderly patients. Olavi Virta's Metsäkukkia (Forest Flowers) is a great song," Musa told IL, while Masa says he prefers the more modern sounds of Jukka Poika, Haloo Helsinki ja Ellinoora.

Both men add that they have experienced racism in Finland, but they try to avoid situations where they can see the conversation is escalating in a racist, or even violent, direction.

"I am often asked, in a roundabout way, why am I here and what am I doing for a living," Musa explained.

IL adds that last year, according to Statistics Finland, there were more than 420,000 people with a foreign background living in Finland, of which more than 54,000 had an African background.

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