Finland. In January, the 200-year commemoration of Finland and Sweden was celebrated. Among other things, President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen visited Stockholm at a ceremony in Parliament and royal gala dinner at the palace.
A protest storm blew up against the government at home when Prime Minister Vanhanen in February revealed plans to raise the retirement age from 63 to 65. This was to take place gradually between 2011 and 2022, and the intention was to counteract the shortage of labor as the proportion of pensioners grows. The union had not been allowed to influence the proposal and threatened with a general strike. After negotiations, the government withdrew its proposal. Instead, a working group was set up with representatives of government, trade unions and employers to investigate whether the working life could be extended in the long term by three years. According to Vanhanen, three years longer working life would improve the Treasury as much as if the income tax were increased ten percentage points. But the opposition condemned the government’s handling of the pension issue and demanded a vote of no confidence in Parliament. However, the government won with the numbers 108 against 59.
After a tough political battle in March, Parliament voted for the so-called Lex Nokia, a law that gives companies the right to control but not read employee e-mails. The government also disagreed; a few members of the Greens voted against the controversial proposal. The law gives companies the right to handle identification information for e-mail and other data traffic if there are serious grounds for suspecting that important corporate secrets are leaked. Mobile giant Nokia had demanded to check the company’s network traffic since suspected leaks of secret information to a Chinese company.
In June, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the Russian Federation. The atmosphere was not said to be the best in the meeting between Putin and Vanhanen, who explained, among other things, that the mines in the Gulf of Finland must be cleared before the Russian-German gas pipeline Nord Stream can be built. It also stifled the negotiations on Russian timber chairs, which Finland and Sweden fought against. The Russian Federation later decided not to raise export duties on timber in 2010.
According to countryaah, Prime Minister Vanhanen explained during the year that the Finnish Language Act does not work in practice, since Swedish-speaking people do not receive the Swedish-speaking community service to which they are entitled under the law.
In September, the opposition demanded that Vanhanen resign and a new election was announced when it became known that a number of politicians in the Center Party and the Samling Party had received election contributions that were not reported. Among these were Vanhanen, who among other things received large contributions from the nonprofit Youth Foundation, where he himself chaired. Media reports also claimed that Vanhanen had received special wood for his private villa by a company that wanted a contract for work for the Youth Foundation. Vanhanen rejected the information and allowed media and experts to investigate his villa.
However, the scandal accusations forced Vanhanen through the second distrust vote for the year, which was requested by the Social Democrats. It was held in October, when a clear majority voted against the demand for Vanhanen’s departure. In a survey that was conducted afterwards, Vanhanen received his worst popularity figures to date as prime minister. Of the respondents, 41 percent said they were unhappy with him. Vanhanen announced at the end of the year that in 2010 he intended to step down as party leader of the Center Party and thus probably also as prime minister.
On New Year’s Eve, Finland suffered the third massacre in just a couple of years. The school massacres in Jokela and Kauhajoki were then followed by the death of six people in a shopping center in Espoo outside Helsinki. A man shot to death his former partner, four of her workmates and herself. The tragedy immediately sparked a debate about further tightening of the gun laws.
Sauna bathing becomes a world heritage site
The UN agency Unesco puts the Finnish custom of bathing in a sauna on the list of intangible cultural heritage, ie cultural phenomena that are considered worthy of preservation. In Finland with 5.5 million inhabitants, it is estimated that there are about 3 million saunas. Unseco justifies the increase in sauna bathing as follows: “The sauna culture in Finland is an integral part of the life that the majority of the Finnish population lives. It contains so much more than just a hygienic aspect. In a sauna, you cleanse both body and soul and get a feeling of inner peace ”.
Foreign Minister survives vote of no confidence
True Finns initiate a no-confidence vote against Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. This happens after the Constitutional Committee has come to the conclusion that Haavisto has acted in violation of the Public Administration Act, but that it has not been serious enough to prosecute him. The case concerned a dispute between Haavisto and the consular chief over the repatriation of Finnish children from the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria. The consular chief who opposed a repatriation was transferred to another post by Haavisto. True Finns, however, do not succeed in their plans. Only 68 of the 200 members of parliament vote to oust Haavisto.
Restrictions in Helsinki against the pandemic
The number of people infected with covid-19 is increasing and the mayor of Helsinki announces that higher education institutions as well as libraries and swimming pools will be closed to stop the infection while public events are banned. While the spread of infection has picked up speed in the capital, Finland has the lowest proportion of infections in the EU at national level.
Economic problems in the wake of the pandemic
When the government sums up the second quarter of economic development, it is clear that the pandemic has resulted in falling revenues, increased spending and a rising deficit in central government finances. During the second quarter, income from tax on gainful employment fell, as did income from tax on production, imports and real estate. At the same time, it has cost money when the government has financed various support measures for those affected by the economic downturn.
Restrictions for visitors from most EU countries
Finland introduces new border rules to prevent new spread of corona. Visitors from almost all EU countries now need to be quarantined for two weeks and have valid reasons for entering the country. Since June, the government has decided that only countries with less than eight cases of corona per 100,000 inhabitants will get the green light. On the other hand, the rules at the border with Sweden and Norway will be eased to facilitate daily border trade between the countries. In Finland, too, the number of corona cases began to increase slightly in August.