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Aug 06, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

Let’s have a candid conversation about Finland

Hungary has become a popular topic among some in Finland recently. In an opinion piece published online in Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat, the former Finnish ambassador to Budapest, Petri Tuomi-Nikula, writes that “Hungary is one of the most corrupt countries in the European Union”.

It’s a strange way for the Finn to repay the hospitality he enjoyed in Budapest. And at this point, it’s impossible to tell whether this is Tuomi-Nikula’s own, biased view or the official stance of the Finnish government. In either case, it’s rather unfortunate. Now we can imagine the kind of reports about Hungary that he used to send home to Helsinki.

Perhaps it’s time then to put opinion aside and have a candid conversation about Finland.

First of all, as I wrote a few weeks ago, it’s not only that Finland (the EU Member State that currently presides over the Council and has launched a rule of law inquisition against Hungary and Poland) doesn’t have a Constitutional Court, independent judiciary or press freedom, it also shows signs of other serious problems as well.

In Finland, for example, even though domestic violence affects 5.4 percent of population, it is not listed as an offense in the Criminal Code. Because of this shameful record, Amnesty International and the United Nations have both called upon Finland to implement further measures to protect victims.

In his opinion piece, the former ambassador stresses the topic of corruption. He scolds Hungary but stays silent about questionable transactions in his own country. Did you know that Russian oligarchs are buying up whole islands in the Finnish archipelago’s most strategic locations? And that NATO has even issued warnings about typical Russian infiltration techniques? They don’t seem to care.

When talking about corruption, we should also mention the notorious case of Jari Aarnio, the former head of the Finnish Drug Enforcement Administration. While the first allegations date back to 2013, a 2016 court ruling has confirmed that DEA agent Aarnio was, in fact, deeply involved in drug trafficking and similar activities. The Helsinki court found him guilty on 22 different counts and sentenced him to ten years in prison.

But of course, you won’t hear these details from the former ambassador.

They won’t talk much about the situation of minorities, either. According to a report by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, more than 10 thousand girls and women suffer from female genital mutilations in Finland. Petrifying numbers for a population of 5.5 million. At the same time, freshly settled religious minorities are under grave threat: a Muslim prayer room in Oulu, for example, has been attacked nine times in the last year.

The rights of the 10-12 thousand-strong Roma community in Finland are also suffering: in a survey, 68 percent of Roma respondents said that they were subject to discrimination last year, while another study found that 54 percent said they suffered discrimination on the job and in the housing market.

If we’re going to speak candidly, let’s put opinion aside and look at the hard facts.