Climate change and migration create discussion in Finland

The Climate and Energy Package stirs emotions

The climate and energy package got a lot of attention in Finland. According to a survey conducted earlier this year, 77 percent of the Finnish citizens said that they were worried about climate change and environmental problems. 72 percent of Finns see them as issues which the EU can have a positive impact on.[1] Professor Esko Antola warned that it should be realised that there is a gap between Finns’ expectations and what the EU can actually do.[2]

The climate and energy package has also a lot of attention amongst the officials in Finland. Minister of Migration and European Affairs, Astrid Thors, was of the opinion that without the EU, Finland would hardly be progressing with the use of renewable natural resources as it is now.[3] Member of the European Parliament, Satu Hassi (Greens), has expressed her disappointment about the climate and energy package. Hassi stated that the EU copped out and gave too many concessions to the industries’ lobbying. The Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen considered the package a good thing from Finland’s point of view. Industry has also had mainly positive views on the package, for example, the forest industry got about 80 percent of their emissions for free. Finland also got through its goal about the reference year: the emission rights to be auctioned off are now based on more than one reference year.[4] Finland is especially keen on the forest industry being among the industries getting free emission rights.[5]

The environmental organisations have stated their disappointment about the climate and energy package. “Friends of the Earth Finland”, the “Finnish Association for Nature Conservation” (“Suomen Luonnonsuojeluliitto”), and “WWF Finland”, all considered the package as “a disgraceful failure”. According to Leo Stranius from the “Finnish Association for Nature Conservation”, the leaders of the European government’s went back on their words and turned their backs on the global fight against climate change.[6]

The “Confederation of Finnish Industries” (EK) considers the package as a very heavy burden to Finland and is afraid that the demands of the Commission mean diminished chances for the Finnish companies in the international markets.[7] The “Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff” (AKAVA) considers the package as challenging but obtainable. AKAVA stated that the Commission has acted commendably in this difficult matter, since without its initiative not much would have happened.[8] The “Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners” (MTK) thinks the package is a positive and challenging issue for the Finnish agriculture.[9]

Finland agreed with the UK on the fact that controlling climate change is a part of solving the financial crisis. Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen reminded that during the last recession, Finland invested in developing new technology which in time led to a huge rise in the economy. Vanhanen thinks this is a good time for the EU members to invest into developing renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.[10] The leader of the Green Party, Tarja Cronberg, agrees with Vanhanen that this is the right moment to invest into climate and energy. However, she considered that there should be more emphasis on services and that from the climate point of view, Vanhanen’s vision is short-lived.[11]

Finns concerned about migration

Migration became a much discussed topic in Finland last year. This was largely due to the increasing popularity of the True Finns Party, which enabled them to bring the issue up in the public debate. The True Finns Party pushes for work-based migration and the effective assimilation of immigrants into Finnish culture.[12] At the same time, the migration pact was discussed at the European level. For Finland, the pact was acceptable, but Finland underlined the fact that the development of a comprehensive migration policy needs to be continued. Finland emphasises that there is a need to create a common asylum system and cooperation on practical level between the member states.[13] In a survey conducted during year 2008, nearly three out of four (72 percent) Finnish citizens saw immigration as an EU wide problem and an issue needing a joint EU-level policy. Only a small minority (15 percent) disagreed.[14] In a survey held at the beginning of January 2009, 44 percent of Finns said that immigration-related problems were a concern for them and 43 percent reported that they felt the EU was in a position to be able to affect these problems.[15]

The Minister of Migration and European Affairs, Astrid Thors, presented a new migration law late last year that would have been the most liberal in Europe. The proposal got immediately a lot of visibility. In three days nearly 13,000 people signed an address against the new law. The organiser of the address, Juha Mäki-Ketelä, said that he is worried about Finland opening its borders while its neighbours (Sweden and Denmark) are tightening their migration policies.[16] The committee later rejected the governments’ proposal for the new migration law.[17]

Edvard Johansson and Sixten Korkman from “The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy” argued that the Finnish migration policy has to be reconsidered. Due to the ageing of the population, Finland needs a more qualified work force and needs to be able to attract skilful immigrants. This calls for better migration policy. With the support of well managed integration policy, immigration can be beneficial in improving both employment and the financing of the public sector.[18] Pentti Arajärvi has just finished an investigation for the Ministry of Interior on the employment situation of immigrants in Finland. According to the investigation, language training should be offered faster and an integration plan should be drafted for all immigrants. The Ministry of Interior will review the integration policy for immigrants this spring and Arajärvi’s suggestions will be utilised in this work. According to Arajärvi, the resources targeted in migration are far too limited at the moment.[19]

The “Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities” (“Kuntaliitto”) agrees with the European Commission’s green paper[20] that immigrants’ training and development of training services should be connected with integration of immigrants.[21] The association states that in the long term, more substantial migration will profit the whole Finnish society.[22]

 

 

 

[1] Survey conducted between 1-11 January 2009 by TNS Gallup Oy on behalf of the European Parliament’s Information Office in Helsinki and MTV3, available at: http://www.europarl.fi/ressource/static/files/dokumenttipankki/EU-2009-RAPORTTI_1.pdf (last access: 10 March 2009).
[2] ”Suomalaiset odottavat EU:lta toimia ilmastonmuutoksen hillitsemiseksi”, Maaseudun Tulevaisuus (web edition), 23 January 2009, available at: http://www.maaseuduntulevaisuus.fi/uutiset/paauutiset/01/fi_FI/eu_barometri/ (last access: 29 January 2009).
[3] Astrid Thors, Minister of Migration and European Affairs: Speech at FIIA seminar, 16 December 2008.
[4] ”Ilmastopaketti iski riitasoinnun”, Suomen Kuvalehti, 22 December 2008.
[5] ”EU-kokous taiteilee talouden ja ilmaston edun välillä”, Helsingin Sanomat, 10 December 2008.
[6] ”EU:n ilmasto- ja energiapaketti vesittyi – Euroopan parlamentin tulee hylätä esitys vastuunjakodirektiivistä”, Suomen Luonnonsuojeluliitto, 12 December 2008, available at: http://www.sll.fi/tiedotus/tiedotteet/liitto/2008/eu-n-ilmasto-ja-energiapaketti-vesittyi-2014-euroopan-parlamentin-tulee-hylata-esitys-vastuunjakodirektiivista (last access: 22 January 2009).
[7] Confederation of Finnish Industries: ”Ilmasto- ja energiapaketti kova taakka Suomelle”, 23 January 2009, available at: http://www.ek.fi/www/fi/index.php?we_objectID=7072 (last access: 22 January 2009).
[8] Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff: ”Akava vaatii julkista tutkimuspanostusta ilmastonmuutokseen”, 23 January 2009, available at: http://www.akava.fi/files/32/Tiedote_Ilmastonmuutos_23012008.doc (last access: 10 March 2009).
[9] Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners: ”EU:n energiatavoitteet tuovat työtä ja toimeentuloa maaseudulle”, 23 January 2009, available at: http://www.mtk.fi/maaseutu/ajankohtaista_maaseutu/maaseutu_uutiset/maaseutu_uutiset_2008/fi_FI/uusiutuva_energia/ (last access: 29 January 2009).
[10] ”EU-maiden sitoutumista ilmastopakettiin”, Helsingin Sanomat, 16 October 2008.
[11] ”Cronberg: Vanhasen visiot ympäristölle kestämättömiä”, Helsingin Sanomat, 22 January 2009.
[12] ”Ulkomaalaisten kotouttamisesta voitava keskustella”, Perussuomalaiset Naiset ry:n hallitus, 29 November 2008, available at: http://www.perussuomalaiset.fi/ajankohtaista/?issue=94 (last access: 30 January 2009).
[13] ”OSA-neuvosto 25.9. Brysselissä: Maahanmuutto- ja turvapaikkasopimuksesta yhteisymmärrys”, bulletin of the Ministry of Interior, available at: http://www.intermin.fi/intermin/bulletin.nsf/PFBD/3D14EE2405CB5701C22574CF00412D46?opendocument (last access: 20 January 2008).
[14] Ilkka Haavisto/Pentti Kiljunen: ”Kenen joukoissa seisot? EVA:n Suomi, EU ja maailma-asennetutkimus 2008“, available at: http://www.eva.fi/files/2166_kenen_joukoissa_seisot.pdf (last access: 30 January 2009).
[15] Survey conducted between 1-11 January 2009 by TNS Gallup Oy on behalf of the European Parliament’s Information Office in Helsinki and MTV3, available at: http://www.europarl.fi/ressource/static/files/dokumenttipankki/EU-2009-RAPORTTI_1.pdf (last access: 10 March 2009).
[16] ”Thorsin ulkomaalaislakia vastaan 13,000 nimeä”, Aamulehti, 12 December 2008.
[17] ”Järki päihitti pilvilinnat”, Aamulehti, 13 December 2008.
[18] Edvard Johansson/Sixten Korkman, researchers: ”Maahanmuuttopolitiika on pantava uusiksi”, Talouselämä, 28 November 2008.
[19] ”Arajärvi: Lyhtykin työjakso edistää maahanmuuttajien kotoutumista”, Helsingin Sanomat, 29 January 2009.
[20] European Commission: Green Paper. Migration & mobility: challenges and opportunities for EU education systems, COM (2008) 423 final, available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2008:0423:FIN:EN:PDF (last access: 20 January 2009).
[21] ”Maahanmuutto- ja liikkuvuus- EU:n koulutusjärjestelmien haasteet ja mahdollisuudet”, statement of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities to the Education and Culture Committee of the Finnish Parliament, 23 September 2008, available at: http://www.kunnat.net/k_perussivu.asp?path=1;29;63;376;135102;141553;142166 (last access: 30 January 2009).
[22] ”Monikulttuurisuus ja maahanmuutto”, Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, available at: http://www.kunnat.net/k_perussivu.asp?path=1;29;121;43719 (last access: 30 January 2009).