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Immigration to Finland: Is the Finns Party Really Against It?

Commentary, Finnish Politics, Foreigners in Finland
immigration to finland

Last week, Yle News ran a debate in English involving political candidates across Finnish political parties. In that debate, the Finns Party was portrayed to be against ALL types of immigration to Finland.

I applaud the mainstream media’s initiative to conduct a debate in English with the intention of increasing the accessibility and inclusivity of politics to immigrants.

Having said that however, it does come across as a surprise as to how current debate has relegated to such a low level of intellectual discourse, evidenced by how Yle anchored the following topic:

Word-by-word QUOTE from the YLE video caption:

“Finns Party candidate Erlin Yang says that it’s “totally wrong” to say that his party is anti-immigrant.”

 

Of course The Finns Party–represented by an immigrant Erlin Yang himself– is “totally not” against immigration. Why is there a need to delegate such precious debate time to addressing such a silly anchor?

What The Finns Party is against is uncontrolled immigration to Finland.

Because I personally am tired of the Finns Party being misprepresented, I have taken the liberty to translate Mr. Erlin Yang’s stance into English. Also, translation does not mean endorsement. I am personally voting for the Greens Party.

Here is what Mr. Erlin Yang said, which I felt is an accurate official position of The Finns Party:

“The Finns Party is a political party which aims to serve and represent the working class in Finland. It officially espouses the following values:

1. To increase the employment rate in Finland;

2. To foster a healthy start-up scene and to promote entrepreneurship in Finland;

3. To advocate for the development of Finnish culture;

4. To secure the economic security of Finland and therefore enhance the well-being of every resident;

5. To insist on fair wages;

6. To protect the interests of minority and vulnerable groups in Finland;

7. To promote the health of children and ensure safety in schools;

8. To guarantee a high quality and accessibility of basic services to elder citizens and retirees, so that they can enjoy their retirement with dignity.

Related to immigration to Finland, the Finns Party is FOR immigration into Finland under one or more of the following reasonable conditions:

1. For the purposes of professional work;

2. For the purposes of studies;

3. For the purposes of reunion with family.

The Finns Party is against immigrants who are insistent on coming to Finland to exploit the Finnish welfare system. In particular, it is staunchly against immigrants who are involved with human trafficking, drugs dealing and “refugees” who insist on staying in Finland illegally.

The justification is because this latter group is considered net-takers to the Finnish welfare state. Furthermore, this group threatens the very social fabric of Finnish society.

Erlin Yang agrees with the basic tenets that underlie the vision and mission of the Finns party.

As a Chinese immigrant to Finland himself, he greatly respects the Finnish way of life and values. Erlin Yang considers it his personal calling to contribute to the betterment of Finnish society by encouraging more meaningful interactions between legal immigrants and natives. He strongly believes that immigrants and natives can work together to achieve a more prosperous, cohesive and harmonious Finnish society.

Erlin Yang admits that there might have been some members of the Finns Party who previously made controversial and provocative statements targeted at immigrants, in particular refugees. He stresses however, that this is not the official stance of the Finns Party and that these members are in the rare minority.

Here, Erlin Yang attests to the fact that he has never once faced discrimination within his party. On the contrary, he has received overwhelming support from fellow party members who wish for immigrants to be represented.

Against this context, The Finns Party does not necessarily encourage “multiculturalism”—undoubtedly a sensitive term in Europe these days.

As one viable alternative to a “multicultural Finland”, he stresses that the will to integrate is key to maintaining a harmonious society. From the current situation, Erlin observes that not all immigrants have demonstrated this desire to integrate.

All in all, Erlin Yang concludes by purporting the view that it is only logical, humane and essential that a country accepts new immigrants along principles of common values.
These values include the pursuit of freedom, the desire for progress, principled virtues of loyalty and integrity, and the willingness to work hard.

Erlin emphasized that it is ideal for immigrants to adapt proactively to the ways of the locals and respect local traditions, people and cultures.”

So please agree and disagree to official positions, not what you THINK the official position is. -.- And please do not sensationalise political topics unnecessarily.

[The Hieno! Suomi 100 series] Inspirations from President Tarja Halonen.

Finnish People, Finnish Politics, Official Finland 100 Series Endorsed by Prime Minister's Office

Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series celebrating Suomi 100 in 2017, we have the huge privilege of featuring President Tarja Halonen.

We are especially thankful that President Halonen and her team made precious time from her busy schedule to do this interview with us! 🙂

Tarja Halonen: The First Female President of Finland.

President Tarja Halonen served two terms as the president of Finland from 2000-2012. A vocal champion of social equality and minority rights, she is a tremendous inspiration and role model to many female leaders worldwide.

In 2009, Forbes named President Halonen as one of the top 100 most powerful women in the world.

Aside to her political career, President Halonen served extensively in trade unions and various non-governmental organisations. She also chaired the main Finnish gay rights organisation SETA from 1980-1981 and was an early proponent of gay rights.

An interesting fun-fact for our Singaporean readers: President Halonen made significant contributions towards the excellent diplomatic ties between Singapore and Finland.

In February 2008, President Halonen visited Singapore with high-level Finnish business and state delegations, 13 years after any Finnish president went to Singapore on a state visit.

In October 2010, President Halonen extended a state invitation to our Singaporean President Nathan, where many fruitful discussions were made and concluded. The 2010 presidential state visit to Finland was a clear affirmation of the start of many stronger bilateral collaborations and goodwill between the two nations.

The 3 things President Tarja Halonen considers as “Finnish”.

Firstly, President Tarja Halonen regards the sauna as “Finnish”, affectionately saying that the sauna is “very dear to us.”

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Next, she felt that the concept of “sisu” is also particularly Finnish, for it is “the spirit in which we raise our kids.”

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Last but not least, she considers the northern nature to be particularly Finnish, too.

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The 3 things about Finland that President Halonen is particularly appreciative of.

Equality, education and solidarity are three things that President Halonen hold particularly close to heart when it comes to Finland.

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President Halonen once made a speech in 2000 at the opening of the Women of Learning exhibition in Helsinki which highlighted these three values.

We present the following extract from that speech:

“We are a model country where gender equality is concerned…Under-representation of women and other inequality among researchers is a problem that will not solve itself as women acquire competence….The Finland of the 21st century can thrive only if women of learning – in common with their male counterparts – are guaranteed the opportunity to use their creative potential to the full.”

In the book “Te naiset, te naiset: Sitaatteja vain naisilta” (2006) by Laine Jarkko and Jung Irmeli, President Halonen also mentioned that–

Naisille annetaan helposti vaikeimmat tehtävät”;

which translates to:

“Women receive easily the most difficult assignments.”

As a distinguished lady who served two terms as the President of Finland, President Halonen truly walks the talk!

The one birthday wish President Halonen has for Finland 100.

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For Finland 100 in 2017, President Halonen wishes that:

“Finland would be strong in implementing and promoting sustainable development both at home and internationally.”

Don’t we all love President Halonen already for her big hearted-ness? ♡ ♡ ♡ 

Some personal reflections.

I first met President Halonen at an UN-Economic conference in 2014, and will always remember how approachable and knowledgable she is.

President Halonen really has no airs at all and is generous in sharing her wisdom and experiences with the audience. We even took this picture where she locked her arms into mine! :DDD /fangirls

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Foreigners who have met President Halonen spoke especially fondly of her. I personally don’t think that “warm” is a word you will use to describe many presidents or ambassadors in the world.

Lilian Neo, the chair of the Singaporean Association in Finland for instance, once told me that she is particularly inspired by how sincere and modest President Halonen is.

It’s truly a great privilege to have President Halonen on our series and we are very grateful. We hoped you have enjoyed this feature!~♡

Credits| Feature photo: Tarja Halonen. / Other photos: Unsplash.

[The Hieno! Suomi 100 series] Interview with Her Excellency Paula Parviainen, the Finnish ambassador to Singapore.

Finnish People, Finnish Politics, Official Finland 100 Series Endorsed by Prime Minister's Office

(Feature Picture: Her Excellency Paula Parviainen with our Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong!)

Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series celebrating Suomi 100 in 2017, we feature Her Excellency Paula Parviainen, the Finnish ambassador to Singapore.

An experienced diplomat with over 20 years of experience in the Finnish Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Paula regards her posting to Singapore with fondness having first served here as the Deputy Head of Mission from 1996-2000. She has also served at the UN, in Paris and in Beijing in addition to serving as Press Attaché to the Finnish Minister for Foreign Trade. In September 2015, Paula became Finland’s 7th Ambassador to Singapore.

Singapore’s also Paula’s first ambassador posting, and everybody loves Paula!!~~

Enjoy the interview! ♡


WW: Hello Paula! Thank you for accepting our interview. Can you tell us more about yourself and what you do?

Paula: Boring as it may sound, I am a Finnish civil servant.

I have been a career diplomat at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs since 1995. I joined on the same day when Finland became a member of the European Union.

It was the beginning of a new Era for Finnish diplomacy.

Since then, I have held about ten different jobs in the Ministry, and some of them so different from the previous that it is almost like changing your profession.

From Middle East peace process in the United Nations to press attaché of your minister for foreign trade, and from Paris to Beijing…in very different cultures.

That is the fascinating aspect: you have to be humble and admit that you know very little at the beginning of a new posting.

And then on hindsight, you can see how much you have learned in just one year!

WW: What motivates you in becoming an ambassador?

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Paula: I think that most career diplomats want to become ambassadors one day.

As an ambassador, you are nominated by your country’s President to represent him and the people in another country. It is an honour but also a huge responsibility.

I was very happy to become ambassador of Finland to Singapore. I started my diplomatic career here 20 years ago, and I still have many Singaporean friends from those times.

I feel that there is so much that we can do to strengthen the bilateral relations between our countries and increase trade, investments, student exchange and tourism.

WW: I really liked the point you said about tourism! So many Singaporeans are now travelling to Finland and the Nordic regions to see the Northern Lights. Having said that, what is the Number One misconception foreigners have about Finns/ Finland, and why do you think it is far from reality?

Paula: That it is so faaaar and so cooooold!

[WW: LOLOLOLOLOL]

When you have a direct flight between Singapore and your destination, I tell you, it is not far.

‘Also, Finnish summers and even autumns are at their best very warm and pleasant. I have really learnt to appreciate the changing seasons – they are not only four, but twelve!

All months are different and the length of the day is the crucial factor.

And, in Finland, you never freeze indoors, like here with the artificial cooling of places like movie theatres – I bring my down jacket to the movies….

WW: Haha. On a more serious note, the Finnish economy has not been doing well since 2007. How do you think the Finnish welfare state can continue to take good care of citizens and residents in Finland?

Paula: We have to continue to be an inclusive society and support each individual to find his or her place in the society and use his  /her full potential.

Our welfare system has made people too passive in certain cases. Sometimes, the system does not always motivate one to work harder, since you get the basic income even if you don’t work.

We have to continue to educate our people, since a small country only has its brain power.

The welfare system should have more incentives to people to work in Finland and pay their taxes. If there are more beneficiaries than tax payers, then it just is not sustainable…

We have to continue on the path of lifelong learning to help even the older generation to keep up with the fast pace of digitalisation.

Also, we have to do a better job in integrating the foreigners coming to Finland.

WW: What are the three things you are most proud of as a Finnish citizen?

Paula:

1) Our education system, which is still world class and leaves space for creative thinking. Increasingly, it is also encouraging entrepreneurship among young people – and still free for all.

2) The equality between women and men, and the role women play in our country–be it in politics, public or private sector, arts and family life.

Finnish women are pretty strong and independent and most men are used to it.

3) Our nature, and how we seem to appreciate it more and more.

A weekend in a Finnish summer cabin, with sauna, tree–hugging :), berry picking, fishing and doing basic, physical chores like taking care of the forest etc.

It is just priceless!

WW: How about the three things you are not so proud of as a Finnish citizen? Do you think change is possible, and if so, how do you suggest change to be implemented?

Paula:

  • The increase in protectionism and prejudice against anything foreign.

When times are economically harder, some are scared that there will not be enough for them, if they have to share with “outsiders”.

However, healthy competition is good.

  • The stubbornness of some Finns, who don’t understand that good old times are not coming back (and were they so good anyhow?).

More flexibility and forward looking attitude is needed.

  • Jealousy. I think a lot of these negatives are explained by our history and historic position first as part of Sweden, then as autonomy in the Russian empire.

The younger generation is born to a global and more open world. I believe that there will be a generational change taking place naturally.

WW: Against the context of globalisation, who do you think can and should define “Finnish-ness”?

Paula: Anyone who has lived or visited Finland can define “Finnish-ness” and all opinions are valued.

Maybe you can have an opinion of Finland by only meeting Finns abroad, or by hearing from those Singaporeans who have visited Finland.

There are no minimum criteria to who can define the term….

WW: What is the happiest moment of your life in Finland?

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Paula: Becoming mother in Jorvi hospital, 26 years ago when my first son was born.

The second one was born two years later in Capetown, South Africa.

And that was a pretty amazing experience as well …

WW: Can you tell us the top 3 things/ traits you regard as “Finnish”, and why?

Paula:

  • Finns are original, we don’t pretend to be something that we are not.

Even if it makes us a bit “juntti” or blue-eyed, I still think that by just being yourself you can conquer the world 😉

  • Sisu” is a definition that is hard to translate but is actually a very descriptive adjective of Finns, especially the older generation.

Finns are strong and united when times are tough.

We all admire our grandparents spirit in the time of Winter War and how they built Finland from an agrarian to industrialist country.

Increasing complacency however, is a risk to the future of a nation.

  • Global” is the adjective I would use to the younger generation.

For example, my two sons and their friends take it as very natural to travel the world to work and study in different countries – this is a big change already when comparing with my generation…

WW: You’re so loved by so many Finns and Singaporeans! What do you think are the top three differences between Finland and Singapore, in your view? Can these differences be viewed as strengths?

Paula: Haha 😉 I don’t know who you are referring to?

[WW:♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥]

Finland and Singapore are similar in many ways. Be it the size of the population, open economies, countries in gateway position to a wider region – EU and ASEAN.

Actually it is easier to find similarities than differences. Of course, the climate is different, but we are both affected by climate change.

The tax system is very different!

Finland is more homogenous. Singapore is a cultural melting pot which makes it interesting for culture, food etc.

But on the other hand, Finland has also been part of Sweden and Russia, and has taken influence from both eastern and western cultures…

Finns are probably more creative, we had to find solutions to our problems by ourselves.

But we are not so good in doing business and selling our innovative creations in international markets – this is really where we could work more with the business-minded and well-connected Singaporeans.

WW: If a friend visits Helsinki, where are the top three places/ hidden gems you would recommend him/her to visit, and why?

Paula: If I were personally hosting these friends, I would invite them to sauna on our island, 100 kms from Helsinki. But beware, there is only a dry toilet.

Helsinki has made the sauna culture available to even tourists and this is something I would recommend. Sauna Hermanni is an old fashioned, “Aki Kaurismäki” movie styled sauna, then there are the new Löyly, Culture sauna and Allas…  definitely worth trying.

If they are visiting in winter, I’d recommend that they also try the ice swimming!

Helsinki has an incredible street culture, available to all.

Inventions such as Restaurant day, Cleaning day, open air dance parties, dinner under the Finnish sky etc are all started in Finland and many of such inventions have now spread overseas.

In November, the only reason to come to Finland, if you are a “techy” or an investor, is during SLUSH. SLUSH is the major ground–up start-up event in Europe.

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The first SLUSH Singapore was a success in September, and next year it will be bigger!

In late summer, take a hike in one of our natural forests or national parks and with the help of your local guide, experience the berry picking and mushroom picking.

You can enjoy the everyman’s right, that is,  you don’t have to own the forest to be able to collect your food from there…

During summer months, Finland is full of cultural festivals that are really world-class.

And of course, the Aurora Borealis – northern lights are something not to be missed. Now they are abundant, because there is so much of solar activity.

WW: What is the one advice you have for aspiring young Finns who want to become a Finnish ambassador like yourself?

Paula: Go for it!  The most interesting job I could imagine…

But beware– it is not just a job, it is a lifestyle!

And not always easy to combine with traditional family life…

WW: What is the one wish you would have for current and future Finland-Singapore bilateral relations?

Paula: That there would be more business, investments, tourism and student exchange between our two countries.

That there would be more awareness of one another.

There is so much potential for us to do more. We are complementing each other in many ways.

If we knew each other better, we could create more business together.

WW: We hear that there are so, so many exciting things lined up for the Finland 100 programme in Singapore! Can you tell us some of the events we can look forward to?

Paula: The calendar of all events is still in the making, but the main themes where we want to build bridges between Finland and Singapore are:

  • In education, especially early childhood and lifelong learning;
  • In healthcare, elderly care and wellbeing;
  • In innovations and start-ups, so SLUSH will be even bigger next year; and
  • In design.

We are working on partnerships with our local Singaporean friends to do a lot together.

We want to bring Finnish culture, such as music, cinema, design and fashion to Singapore and continue our meetings with the young people.

Many of them have already said that they want to participate in volunteering in our events!

WW: What is the one 100 year-old birthday wish you would make for Finland, since 2017 is Finland’s 100 years of independence?

Paula: It is great that we know our history, there is nothing to be ashamed of. But we can not live in history.

Just like Singapore, we have to take bold steps to look into the next 50 or 100 years and be  brave to make decisions that are needed for us to succeed.

It is of course harder in a multi-party democracy with strong opposition, but we should not be too idealistic when we talk about the economy.

I am proud of the values that Finland is based on.

We should be still more international and open and bear also our global responsibility while investing in the educational excellence in our schools and universities.


We hope you have enjoyed this interview with Her Excellency Paula Parviainen!

The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme.This series  “What is Finnish-ness”? is endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. Photographs courtesy of Paula.🙂 Feel free to follow Paula on twitter @paulaparviainen. ♡

Oh yes and please like The Finnish Embassy in Singapore facebook page and also Finngapore too! ♡