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Vol 2, No 31
18 September 2000
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News from Finland
All the important news since 9 September 2000
Aleksi Vakkuri

Hostages finally home

The two Finnish citizens held hostage on the Philippine island of Jolo finally returned home on Tuesday. Seppo Fränti and Risto Vahanen were kidnapped from Malaysia in May and had to spend 140 days as prisoners of the Muslim guerrilla group Abu Sayaf. Both men were tired but overwhelmingly happy and relieved when they arrived at Helsinki airport together with Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja. President Tarja Halonen said that she is extremely happy and that both men would be invited to the presidential private residence at Mäntyniemi in Helsinki on a date to be agreed upon later.


No changes in petrol tax

Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö said that the government will not propose any reductions on petrol taxes. Niinistö argued that the taxes have not increased lately, and that the reductions do not necessarily mean lower prices. He also said that Finland wants to be in line with other EU countries. However, the biggest opposition party, Keskusta (Centre Party), announced that it is going to challenge the issue.


Two candidates left

The parliamentary supervisors of the central bank chose their candidates for the two vacant seats on the board of directors of the Bank of Finland. The candidates are Mauri Pekkarinen, the leader of the Keskusta parliamentary caucus, and Finance Ministry under-secretary Johnny Åkerholm. It is now up to Finance Ministry State Minister Suvi-Anne Siimes to put forth a recommendation to the cabinet on how the two seats are to be filled, which, in turn, will put its recommendation to President Tarja Halonen. Siimes, however, announced on Thursday that she is not satisfied with the supervisors' proposal. It is likely that Siimes will propose a female candidate for one of the posts. President Halonen has not commented on the issue yet.


Parliament on nuclear power

A poll shows that 78 members of the Finnish Parliament favour the introduction of more nuclear power in Finland, while 76 of the members are against this. Some 200 Finnish MPs did not want to note their opinions. A large number of those in favour were from the conservative Kokoomus (Coalition Party). At present, Finland has two nuclear power stations. One is on the south coast, with two Soviet-built units, and the other one, on the west coast, has units built in Sweden. The poll was done by the weekly magazine Seura.


Russian oil harbour

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov promised to provide Finland with more information about the environmental effects of the Primorsk oil harbour. He assured Finland that the harbour meets Russian environmental requirements. Finland has planned to turn to the EU to get support for an international investigation. Kasyanov said also that it is possible to open discussion about building an oil pipeline from north-western Russia to Finland. The discussion could, however, take place only after the first phase of the Primorsk harbour has been finished next year. Primorskor Koivisto, in Finnishis situated near the Finnish border, at the bottom of the Gulf of Finland. There have been accusations that the risk of an oil catastrophe will increase considerably after the construction of the harbour. Russia has denied this.


Finns smoking less

The consumption of tobacco products in the late 1990s in the Nordic countries fell most in Finland. But still, 23.3 per cent of the population smokes daily. Smoking declined most in Sweden, but the use of snuff raised in overall consumption. In Finland, the drop in consumption from the year 1970 was 40 percent. Tobacco products in Finland today cost relatively more than in 1970. A package of cigarettes costs today approximately FIM (Finnish markkas) 24 (EUR 4.04).


More medicines and travelling

Finns are spending more money on medicines each year, with last year's total at FIM 6.4 billion (EUR 1.08 million). The best selling medicine last year was once again an anti-depressant called Cipramil. Also, Finnish travel agencies increased their sales last year. The rise compared to the previous year was 10.7 per cent. The growth was the largest the travel industry has ever seen.


Charity concert

The charity music festival, Elämä lapselle konsertti (Concert for the Life of a Child), held at Helsinki's Olympic Stadium last Friday was a huge success. Despite the rainy weather, Irish star Ronan Keating and local musical acts managed to raise FIM 2.6 million (EUR 440,000) for charity. The money will be passed on to different childrens' hospitals and research projects.


And in other news...

The jackpot of the Finnish lotto has not been won for seventeen weeks. Finally, a family from south-eastern Finland decided to check their ticket. To their surprise, they had all seven numbers right and now they can collect a prize of FIM 16 million (EUR 2.69 million).

The Finnish Championships for drinking songs will take place on 15 October in Helsinki, where some 50 songs will compete. After this, the top five songs will compete against the top five Swedish drinking songs on 18 November.

A prisoner got stuck while trying to taste freedom at a Helsinki district prison, after he pushed his head through the bars in a roof window but could not pull it back. He cried for help and the guards tried to free him without any success for 45 minutes. Finally, the fire department came to the rescue, and the unlucky prisoner was able to return to his cell.

Aleksi Vakkuri, 15 September 2000

Moving on:


TV1 and TV2
Yle Ykkönen, Radio Suomi
Radio Nova
Helsingin Sanomat


Catherine Lovatt
Sex is a Crime

Alexei Monroe
Laibach's Legacy

Kai-Olaf Lang
Leaving Liberalism

Brian Požun
Class Time

Mel Huang
Questionable Justice

Sam Vaknin
The Value of a Life

Jan Čulík
Ticket, Please!

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Enough Problems

IMF in Prague:

Andreas Beckmann
A Bubble Burst

Tiffany G Petros
Old Friends

Ron Breznay
Greener Grass

Emil Kerenji
The Road to War in Serbia

Culture Calendar:

Timothy Hendon
Casting Calls


Press Reviews:

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