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Wednesday's papers: Pipeline progress, dearer EU membership, aviation tax support, white elk

Finland's press looks at a new LNG supply line from Estonia, the EU budget, flying tax party support and more.

Valkoinen hirvi Hyvinkään Nopossa heinäkuussa 2010.
This rare white elk was spotted in Finland in 2010. Image: Antero Junttila, Janakkala

Turku daily Turun Sanomat reports on the opening of a new natural gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia that is expected to lower prices, make supply more reliable and lessen Finland's energy dependence on Russia.

The Baltic Connector travels 77 kilometers under the Baltic Sea, connecting Paldiski, Estonia with the southern municipality of Ingå (Inkoo) in Finland. Completed this autumn, the transmission capacity of the two-way pipeline is 7.2 million cubic metres per day.

It will begin operations in January 2020, when Finland's natural gas market opens up to competition. Natural gas currently makes up about eight percent of Finland's energy use.

Finland has been entirely reliant on Russian natural gas, TS reports. The next big step towards moving away from this dependence will take place in 2021, when a pipeline connecting Poland and Lithuania will be complete and the entire Baltic market, Finland included, will be linked to the European network.

Seventy-five percent of the cost of the 250-million-euro Baltic Connector pipeline was funded by the European Union, the paper notes.

Finland's EU funding set to increase

Finland's most widely-read newspaper Helsingin Sanomat has a story about Finland's EU membership costs, after the European Commission released its budget proposal for the coming years on Tuesday.

The membership fees of all of the European Union member states will go up by 1.11 percent in terms of the EU's gross national income (GNI). In 2027, the paper says Finland's membership payment would be 2.3 billion euros, while Germany's annual payment would be close to 35 billion euros.

The Commission's CFO Gert-Jan Koopman said there are four reasons for the slight increase: inflation, economic growth, Brexit and new funding needs. The hole left by the UK's withdrawal from the union will be filled with higher membership fees and a reduced overall budget, HS reports. The paper says many eastern and southern EU countries are already protesting the possibility of lesser funding.

Finland is a net contributor to the EU, but is nowhere near the top of the list. In 2014-2018, Finland paid an average of 0.55 billion into the union, or about 550 million euros more than it received.

Agreeing on a long-term budget for the European Union has been one of the main goals of Finland's rotating EU presidency. Budget negotiations will continue into next year, and a deal has to be reached by Christmas 2020 at the latest.

Only two parties support an aviation tax

The Joensuu-based newspaper Karjalainen carries an Uutissuomalainen report that says that the recently successful citizen's initiative to impose an aviation tax in Finland does not have the necessary support in parliament, as only the Greens and the Left Alliance back the proposal.

The news syndicate asked each of the eight chairs of Finland's parliamentary parties their views on the issue. Only the Green and Left Alliance leaders supported the idea as a Finnish initiative, although the chairs of the conservative National Coalition Party and the Finns Party both said they would consider support of a tax on flying if it was made binding on an EU level. None of the party leaders said an EU-wide aviation tax was out of the question.

Rare white moose in Masku

And the tabloid Iltalehti reports on a rare white Eurasian elk (Alces alces), that was spotted in the southwest city of Masku on Monday.

Rita Pitkänen says she rubbed her eyes several times after she woke up to the sight of a white giant traipsing through her garden.

"It stayed for about a half hour and I was just amazed. […] I had never seen anything like it before, like most people. I think it was a female because it didn't have antlers," she tells IL.

Although very rare, white moose have been spotted in Finland in the past. Reports of a white male have circulated this autumn in the nearby area of Parkano, the tabloid reports. The white animals may not be albino, IL says, as they could also have a pigment cell differentiation known as leucism, in which darker pigments are missing.

The IL story contains Pitkänen's photos of her gangly visitor.

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