Morning headlines: Thursday 12th September 2019

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President Niinistö starts Ukraine visit 

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö starts a two-day official visit to Ukraine. The main set-piece event will be a meeting on Thursday afternoon with his opposite number Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev, the first time the two presidents have met. On the agenda they’re discussing bilateral relations but also the situation with Russia and in east Ukraine. Expectations of easing tensions between Russia and Ukraine have growin in recent weeks following an exchange of prisoners between the two countries last weekend. President Zelensky was elected in the spring, and before becoming a politician was more famous as an actor and comedian on TV, starring in a show where he played the role of the President. He defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko for the job. On Friday, Niinistö speaks at the European Strategy conference in Yalta alongside Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid.

EU Finance Ministers meeting in Helsinki 

European Union Finance Ministers are meeting in Helsinki on Thursday and Friday, the latest high level event during Finland’s six-month rotating Presidency of the European Council. They’re discussing enhanced action on climate change, and the financial sector’s resilience to hybrid threats. In terms of climate change, ministers see they have a number of tools at their disposal to tackle it including carbon pricing, budgetary planning and EU funding allocation. “As finance ministers we can strengthen such economic policy measures and thereby take a decisive step forward in climate action” says Finland’s Minister of Finance Mika Lintilä (Centre). Meanwhile Helsinki Police have warned local residents of road closures and traffic delays around the conference, which takes place at Finlandia Hall. The worst traffic snarl-ups are happening when the VIP delegates arrive at the venue from the airport and when everyone leaves again on Friday afternoon at the end of the meeting.

Speaker of Parliament has open heart surgery 

The Speaker of Parliament, and former Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) goes to hospital today to have open heart surgery. He’s had a number of health issues in the last year including heart problems and treatment for cancer, and he’ll be off work on sick leave for at least six weeks while he recovers from the latest surgery. During his absence the work will be covered by Parliament’s two deputy speakers. In an interview with Lännen Media on Thursday, Vanhanen says it was a mistake for him to step down as PM and Centre party leader in summer 2010. He says he wanted to give the new PM Mari Kiviniemi at that time a whole year in office to boost the party’s 2011 election chances. However with hindsight, Vanhanen says while this has worked in other countries it did not work so well in Finland, and the party were voted out of power.

New FIIA Director elected 

The Board of Directors of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs FIIA has elected a new Director. Mika Aaltola was chosen by 5 votes to 4 over Juha Jokela as the new head of the foreign policy thinktank. Both men are currently working at FIIA and will succeed the out going director who is going to be the new head of the Hybrid Centre for Excellence in Helsinki. “FIIA is a great organization with enormous potential to be a world-class research institute” Aaltola told reporters after his election win for the five-year term. FIIA gets most of its funding from the Finnish state.

Thursday morning weather

It’s turning colder and wetter across many parts of the country on Thursday as the day goes on. Although the temperatures aren’t too bad for this time of year, ranging from +11°C in Lapland to +13°C in central areas and +15°C across the south, it is going to feel colder in coastal areas with a strong wind warning in place in the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago too. There’s rain already this morning in western Lapland, down the Ostrobothnia coast, in Turku and the south west, and in the capital city region with blustery weather making it feel very much like autumn.

Finnish Meteorological Institute forecast for Thursday morning 12th September 2019 / Credit: FMI