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Wednesday's papers: The Stasi's window on Finland, functional illiteracy, and working off the books

The Stasi's interest in Finland's SDP comes under scrutiny, many Finnish adults struggle with literacy, and intra-agency cooperation helps catch tax evaders.

Mauno Koivisto nousee autosta, ja on toimittajien ympäröimänä.
After receiving the Stasi name list from West Germany in 1990, then-president Mauno Koivisto (pictured) and Supo head Seppo Tiitinen though that it did not require them to take any action and locked it away in Supo's archives. Image: Yle

Helsingin Sanomat's main feature this morning looks at a controversial new autobiography by longtime director of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) Seppo Tiitinen. Loosely translated as "Spies and Rogues", the book claims the East German security police (Stasi) mainly focused their efforts on the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Finland.

Tiitinen, a former Secretary General of the Finnish parliament, says the Stasi cultivated the relationship because the SDP was effectively the only party in Cold War Finland during Urho Kekkonen’s 25 years as president.

”In the 1980s, the Social Democrats held a strong position and the East Germans were very rational. It only made sense to fraternize with the SDP because they were the only ones with power,” Tiitinen explains.

The so-called 'Tiitinen's list' has been a hugely controversial document for more than two and a half decades. The list contains 18 names of people in Helsinki whom the Stasi were interested in during the Cold War. It was presented to Finland by West German intelligence in 1990, and then-president Mauno Koivisto decided its contents should remain confidential. Over the years there have been sporadic attempts to open up the list to public scrutiny.

Many adults struggle with literacy

The national daily also reports that around half a million people in Finland don’t have the literacy skills necessary to survive in today’s text-based world, says Jyväskylä University researcher Sari Sulkunen, referring to the results of the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC).

The problem does not lie in basic reading and writing skills, which essentially all adults in Finland possess, but in reading comprehension and the ability to function in increasingly technology-rich environments.

Researchers have found that those struggling with different aspects of literacy, often rooted in neurological abnormalities, are over-represented in school dropout and unemployment rates.

You can take a sample OECD literacy test here.

Tax evasion crackdown

The Finnish Tax Administration says it is filing an increasing number of requests for criminal investigation with the police over tax fraud, reports business weekly Talouselämä.

Last year the body filed over 1,000 requests for criminal investigations with police, up from 550 in 2015, thanks to increased cooperation between different authorities.

So far this year the tax authority has reported some 418 offences to the police. Clamp downs this year have garnered the state some 25 million euros in additional tax revenue.

The tax office says avoidance is most commonly practiced in the transport, construction, cleaning, and restaurant sectors.

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