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Vol 2, No 32
25 September 2000
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News from Finland
All the important news since 16 September 2000
Aleksi Vakkuri

Fuel price fallout

Truckers arranged a demonstration early this week at the Sköldvik oil refinery near Porvoo in southern Finland. Demonstrators opposed to the high fuel costs blocked all roads leading to the refinery. The demonstration ended peacefully, after about three hours. On Wednesday, the government announced that the truckers have been made exempt from this year's fourth instalment of vehicle tax. The offer was the government's response to an opposition challenge to the high prices of fuels.

However, neither the opposition nor the truckers' federation were satisfied with the offer. Truckers want a reduction on the tax for diesel fuel, and the opposition reminded the government that there are also several other industries that are suffering from the high fuel taxes. Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö rejected any idea of reducing the tax rate. He said that there is no power that would ensure the benefit from lowering taxes would be received by the Finnish consumer. The parliamentary debate on the opposition challenge took place on Wednesday and was unusually brief. It closed late on the same day, although Parliament was prepared to go on with the debate on Thursday. The members of Parliament will have a vote of confidence on Friday for the ruling coalition government.


Almost appointed

The government decided after a vote to propose Johnny Åkerholm and Mauri Pekkarinen to be appointed to fill two vacant seats on the governing board of the Bank of Finland. The decision is in line with the recommendations made by the parliamentary supervisors of the central bank. However, Finance Ministry State Minister Suvi-Anne Siimes proposed that the government nominate a female candidate, European Commission official Anne Brunila, but she was voted down. Siimes was extremely disappointed and said that the big parties, Sosiaalidemokraatit (Social Democrats) and Kokoomus (Coalition Party), had fallen into power politics again. President Tarja Halonen will make the final appointments to the board of the central bank on Friday.


Tight borders

Finnish guarding of its maritime frontiers has made a great impression on EU officials. An EU expert group became acquainted with Finnish coastguard activities in Mariehamn. The group especially praised the efficient co-operation between the coastguard, customs and police at Finnish frontiers. The purpose of the visit was to find out how the various EU countries fulfil the demands of the Schengen agreement at their borders.


Fury at fur farms

The latest attack against mink farms took place on Monday, when unknown activists released two thousand minks from a fur farm in Ostrobothnia. The same farm was also attacked last week, when almost 600 minks were set loose. Farmers in the region said that they were furious, but so far the police do not know who is behind the attacks. Finland is one of the world's biggest fur exporters, and in recent years activist groups opposing the industry have frequently raided fur farms.


Still on the Commission?

It is probable that Finland and the other small EU members will be able to keep their European commissioners in the future. This was a topic in Brussels last Tuesday, when questions concerning the commissioners were discussed. Antti Satuli, the permanent Finnish representative at the EU, says that all small nations were in favour of keeping their commissioners. The final decision about the commissioner question will probably be made at the Nice European Council summit in December.


Halonen in Iceland

President Tarja Halonen and her husband, Pentti Arajärvi, made a three-day visit to Iceland. During the visit, Halonen held talks with her counterpart, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, and Prime Minister Davíð Oddsson. Among the discussion topics were developments in Europe and EU-NATO relations. President Halonen also presented birch seeds—which are rare in Iceland—as a gift.


Minister Niinistö on tour

Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö is going to lead a delegation of the European Democratic Union (EDU) to Russia. The delegation is going to meet the leaders of Russia's reformist parties. The EDU is composed of the non-socialist members of Parliament and officials from eight EU countries. From Moscow, Minister Niinistö will fly to Prague, where he will attend the annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank.


Nokia in China

Finnish mobile telecom giant Nokia announced that it reached a deal worth over USD 100 million with China. It is a GSM expansion deal with China's second largest operator, China Unicom. The GSM expansion will increase capacity for more than a million subscribers. Nokia said that the deliveries have already started, and the systems will be operational later this month.


And in other news...

Last Friday, an earthquake occurred in Kuusamo, in north-eastern Finland. The quake registered 3.4 on the Richter scale, which is a large earthquake for Finland. The biggest earthquake registered in Finland to date was approximately 4.8 on the Richter scale. It took place near Tornio in north-western Finland in 1898.

Approximately 5000 people formed a human chain around the old state railway warehouses at Töölö bay in central Helsinki to protest local politicians' and decision-makers' plans to replace the brick warehouses with a new music hall.

Sexually transmitted diseases have risen sharply in Finland this year. In the first six months of this year, there were 600 more cases of chlamidia than in the same period last year. Also, other sexually transmitted diseases have become more common this year.

Petrol worth at least FIM (Finnish markka) ten million (USD 1.5 million) is stolen from petrol stations every year. According to police, the thefts have increased this year by 10 to 15 per cent, compared to last year.

Because of the time difference between Australia and Finland, most of the Olympic events take place at night in Finland. Statistics also show that 15 per cent of the traffic accidents are caused by tiredness. As a result of these two facts, the Organisation for Traffic Safety has reminded drivers that watching the Olympics may reflect on the next day's way to work. If you are tired, take a bus, tram or train.

The Foreign Ministry has warned Finns about the danger of being kidnapped in eastern parts of Malaysia. According to the Ministry, especially dangerous are the coastal areas of Sarawak and Sabah, where the holiday resorts of Sipadan and Pandanan are located.

Aleksi Vakkuri, 23 September 2000

Moving on:


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


Seán Hanley

Andrew Kotas
Steel Structures

Jan Čulík
Czech Depression

Andrew Stroehlein
Online Journalism

Mark Preskett
Moldova's Bad Luck

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Fuelling Hungary

Mel Huang
Grave Diving

Sarah Whitmore
Ukraine's Constitution

Wojtek Kość
Jerzy Giedroyc (1906-2000)

Benjamin Halligan
Miloš Forman

Sam Vaknin
Dreamworld and Catastrophe

Press Reviews:
Oliver Craske
UK: Velvet Demonstrations?

Andrew Mrozek
Left Hanging

Culture Calendar:


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