Wednesday’s papers: NATO enthusiasm, Sámi controversy, winter power divide

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Helsingin Sanomat is one of the morning papers to publish the results of a new poll (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on support for NATO membership, published Wednesday by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum (Eva), a Helsinki-based think tank.

According to this poll, 78 percent of respondents now support Finland’s NATO membership. Only eight percent were very or very negative about membership in the alliance.

Eva’s last poll on this topic was conducted in early March, before Finland decided to apply for membership. At that time, 60 percent supported joining NATO.

Opinion pollsters have noted a significant change in women’s attitudes since last spring. In March, less than half of female respondents supported NATO membership. This time, 75 percent of the women surveyed are positive about Finland’s membership.

Men continue to be more supportive of NATO membership: 83 percent in this latest poll, compared to 75 percent in the spring.

A slim majority, 53 percent of respondents, agreed that Finland should be open to all forms of cooperation within NATO and also accept military bases on Finnish territory, if deemed necessary. A quarter rejected the idea.

“The impetus for the Finns to join NATO was an increasingly threatening Russia. In the new world situation, the Finns are ready to consider at least all additional measures that could mitigate a Russian threat,” said Eva’s general director Sami Metelinen in a Wednesday press release.

The poll, conducted by Taloustutkimus at the end of October, collected the opinions of 2,088 respondents in an internet panel. The margin of error is 2 to 3 percentage points in both directions.

A Helsingin Sanomat survey published over the summer showed even more support for NATO membership than in this new Eva survey. The HS survey published in June found that 79 percent of Finnish citizens supported NATO membership.

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Sámi controversy continues

Finnish lawmakers had a short but heated debate on Tuesday over the controversial law passed by the Sámi parliament, which has sparked major friction within Finland’s coalition government.

The dispute largely centers on who has the right to be put on the electoral roll for elections to the assembly representing the indigenous Sami population in Finland. If passed, the law would change how that register of voters is compiled.

Ilta-Sanomat writes (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that hardly any issue has recently stirred up so much emotion in domestic politics as the new Sámi law.

The government’s proposal finally came up for debate in parliament on Tuesday afternoon, but the discussion lasted only 45 minutes.

Of the ruling parties, the Center is against the bill, and Ilta-Sanomat reports MP Mikko Karna (Cen) was the most outspoken opponent of the bill, shouting objections even during opening remarks from the Justice Minister Anna Maya Henriksson (SPP).

“In the future, this (law) will be about inclusion in the electoral roll, not about who should be considered Sámi in general,” Henriksson said.

“A caste system!” Kärnä intervened from the floor.

Attempts have so far been made to revise the electoral law for the Sami parliament during three governments’ tenures. The United Nations has reprimanded Finland several times for not taking Sámi rights sufficiently into account when making decisions.

According to the government’s proposal, eligibility to participate in Sámi parliamentary elections would be determined primarily on the basis of Sámi languages ​​in the future.

“The law of the Sámi Parliament is a complex matter, but the main issue is ultimately very simple: the current law is hopelessly outdated and the interpretation of the law has caused serious problems. Bella Forsgren (Green) pointed it out.

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MP Kathryn Kulmuni (Cen) criticized the proposal not to ease tensions but to increase them, pointing to what she said was a wider acceptance of self-identification among the Sámi in Norway and Sweden.

Justice Minister Henriksson stressed that the new law is not about removing someone from the electoral roll. Nor is it about land rights.

Parliament is likely to continue debate on Wednesday, after which the bill will go to the constitutional law committee, which will then prepare a report on the matter.

If the bill is reviewed by the committee and the report is ready in February, parliament could vote on the bill before adjourning ahead of April elections.

Ilta-Sanomat writes that, taking into account the Centre’s objections, the bill will fail if the opposition parties, as usual, vote against the government’s proposal.

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Winter power gap

The business and economic daily Kauppalehti l (siirryt toiseen palveluun)also takes into account the possibility of electricity shortages this winter.

In a column by name, the publication’s editor-in-chief, Jari Sariowrites that fears that Finland would not have enough electricity to meet demand became more concrete on Monday night, when it was announced that the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant would suspend regular electricity production until the end of January at the earliest.

Saario points out that the probability of a power outage this winter depends on three factors: how cold the winter is, the availability of imported electricity and the level of Finland’s own electricity production.

With Olkiluoto 3 seemingly out of this equation, there’s been a significant reduction in capacity.

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The gap between domestic consumption and production widens on cold winter days. The shortfall must be covered by electricity imports from Sweden and Estonia. If these neighboring countries also suffer from extreme cold, imports may be lower than expected.

In this case, there will be an electricity shortage and intermittent blackouts throughout Finland.

This Kauppalehti columnist says that the consumer and the higher prices charged for electricity play a key role.

Higher prices encourage energy conservation, and when the price of electricity skyrockets on the coldest days of winter, the industry is likely to start cutting back more and more. Industry uses about half of Finland’s electricity, so the savings potential is significant.

Consumption flexibility forced by higher prices should make it possible to get through the worst bottlenecks.

“However, a long and harsh winter could only make this wishful thinking,” concludes Saario.

PM moves to downtown?

The newsgroup Uutissuomalainen (siirryt toiseen palveluun)reports that the Finnish Prime Minister’s official residence may be moved from the seaside villa in Helsinki’s Meilahti district to a neoclassical mansion just a stone’s throw from the market square in Helsinki’s southern harbor.

The building under consideration, known locally as “Smolna”, is currently used as a banquet and negotiation room by the government and the prime minister.

The current official residence of the Prime Minister, Kesäranta, was completed in 1873 and last renovated in 2003-2004.

Smolna was built in the 1820s and is currently being renovated. It will continue to be used for negotiations and public functions, but will also be suitable for residential use.

Uutissuomalainen knows that while no decision has been made on moving the prime minister’s residence to the building, the matter will likely be considered next spring.

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