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Finnish News Recap, Week 24: New Government edition
Finland finally has a new right-wing government. Really, that’s basically what’s occupied everyone’s mind the whole week.
I’m planning a longer essay on this topic, hopefully in some magazine but if not in here, but just a few notes here. This government has been called the most right-wing one in Finland's postwar history, since it is headed by prime minister Orpo’s centre-right National Coalition, contains the right-wing populist/nationalist Finns Party and doesn't contain the Centre Party, which has been previously been in government with these two but is, as the name says, more centrist.
Essentially, the new government is combining an anti-union, austerity-oriented economic agenda of the center-right with a list of anti-immigration measures favored by the nationalists. However, while the foreign papers have mostly been concerned with the claims that the most important thing about this govt is far-right inclusion, the economic agenda comes first; the anti-immigration measures, while they probably will lead to immigration cuts, are still not as hard as, for instance, those that a roughly similar coalition in Sweden has set last year.
Among other changes, a work-based residence permit would expire if an individual fails to find a new job after more than three months of unemployment. Those with a student-based residence permits would not be allowed to rely on Finnish income support, while the tuition fees of Finnish educational institutions are to be reviewed.
The annual refugee quota is to be cut by more than half to 500 people, down from the present 1,050. Asylum would be granted for a maximum of three years , after which the need for international protection should be reassessed.
In future, obtaining a permanent residence permit will require six years of residence, a language proficiency test, a two-year work history without long-term unemployment or income support, and a requirement of an impeccable record.
Citizenship rules are also to be tightened, with the minimum residence requirement extended to eight years, along with an income requirement and mandatory civics and language tests.
Insofar as economic measures go,
The four parties have agreed on many other changes to the labour market, according to STT. It says that in the future an employee's first sick day would be unpaid, unless otherwise stipulated in their collective agreement.
Iltalehti reported that – assuming the government's plans are approved by Parliament – in future it will be possible to dismiss an employee more easily, simply citing any "reasonable cause". It will also make it easier for employers to offer one-year fixed-term employment contracts without having to cite any special reason for them.
The future government also wants to expand local bargaining – as opposed to centralised national collective agreements – to cover all companies. It will also seek to curtail the right to launch sympathy strikes and politically based labour actions.
There's also two minor parties, the Christian Democrats who basically set no demands for participation and are just happy to be a part of this government and Swedish People's Party, a liberal party that watches over the interests of the Swedish-speaking minority and had considerable troubles fitting in with the Finns Party's nationalism and probably managed to prevent some of their more hardline immigration proposals from taking force, as some previous recaps have demonstrated.
Of course, now we’ll see how the government’s proposals will actually play out. The big issues are what happens when the economic policies face the test of Finland's powerful union movement and when economic and social policies come to grips with Finland's welfare-state-oriented constitution. Regarding the latter one, I've read a number of commentators saying that the economic measures are likely to pass the constitutional test but at least some immigration measures might not, which would of course be just another example of the economic right being the top dog in this coalition compared to the nationalist right.
Image: the heads of the new government’s parties, with PM Orpo in the middle. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Petteri_Orpo#/media/File:Orpon_hallituksen_nimitys_20.6.2023_(52988801371).jpg
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