Independence Day begins with flag raisings
Flags are flying in Finland today to celebrate Independence Day, and the country’s 102nd birthday. A flag-raising ceremony takes place at Helsinki’s Tähtitorninmäki at 09:00 with a speech by the Speaker of Parliament Matti Vanhanen (Centre). There will be an ecumenical church service held at Helsinki Cathedral at noon, attended by President Sauli Niinistö. The national Independence Day parade this year will be held in Tampere.
Annual Independence Day party at the palace
Later on Friday President Sauli Niinistö and First Lady Jenni Haukio will host 1800 people at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki for the Independence Day celebration. The theme this year will be responsible information sharing and debate, with 200 of the guests invited to fit this theme. Other honoured guests include war veterans, including from the Winter War which started 80 years ago. The budget for this year’s presidential party is €220,000.
Protests and parades in Helsinki
A number of protests and parades are planned in Helsinki for Independence Day, including a traditional parade by university students and an anti-Nazi march. However police are preparing for three right wing events in the capital: one starts near the National Museum in Töölö at 15:00; there’s a Soldiers of Odin march which begins in Kansalaistori at 16:00; and the sixth annual 612 parade which begins at 18:00 in Töölöntori. It is advertised as a patriotic event, and does include thousands of people who are not neo-Nazis, but has also included many people linked to far right groups in previous years. It is thought that hundreds of extra police have been drafted in from around the country to secure the events taking place today.
HS: Consular Chief strongly criticises Pekka Haavisto
The Director of Consular Services at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pasi Tuominen has strongly criticised Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) in a new interview with Helsingin Sanomat newspaper. He says there is a climate of fear at the ministry over Haavisto’s actions to figure out how to help Finnish nationals stranded at the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria. Haavisto denies the accusations and says his mistake has been to spend too little time with ministry staff during Finland’s Presidency of the European Council.
One man killed in overnight fire
One person has been killed in an overnight fire in south west Finland. It happened in Kaarina with rescue services getting the alarm call to a block of flats on Pehtorinkatu around midnight. It took fire crews 90 minutes to put out the fire, which did not spread to other homes, but one man born in 1960 was dead inside. Police do not suspect a crime.
Friday morning weather
It’s a mild start to Independence Day across the southern part of the country with temperatures up to +6°C in Hank and +5°C in Åland. But it is rainy – with rain moving from the west into the capital city region, Turku and the south west, Tampere and Pirkanmaa and into Pori and Rauma on the Ostrobothnia coast. In Lapland temperatures drop to -8°C in the west and there’s snow forecast around Inari in the north east.