The Finns Party Youth has lost a final ruling about paying back tens of thousands of government money – but the group tells the Ministry of Education and Culture “see you in court!”
Back in June the ministry decided to cancel an annual grant of €115,000 after the political group posted racist content online.
The Ministry also decided to reclaim half that annual grant which had already been paid out in the first part of the year – a total of €57,000.
At the time, the Finns Party Youth said they hadn’t broken any rules and appealed against the decision but on Friday the Ministry made its final ruling on the subject, and upheld its initial findings.
“The claim for rectification was rejected, so the original decision remains in force, whereby the state subsidy granted for the first half year will be collected back and the rest of the grant will not be paid at all” says Esko Ranto, Director General of Youth and Sports Policy at the Ministry of Education and Culture.
“This was thoroughly investigated. The essential conclusion was that there was nothing substantial new to this claim, which would have warranted a reassessment of the earlier case” he tells News Now Finland.
Finns Party Youth reaction
The Finns Party Youth have responded strongly to the order to repay money they had already been given – and presumably spent.
On Twitter the group said “this is a test of freedom of expression. Now the Finns Party are being targeted for silencing. They are trying to silence us by depriving us of funding which is absolutely wrong.”
What was posted on social media?
During the spring, the Finns Party Youth and its members posted a number of social media
messages which were branded ‘racist’ by politicians and members of Finland’s civic society.
One post showed a European Parliament election campaign advert with two dark-skinned parents holding their child.
An official Finns Party Youth social media account had shared the advert, and added the comment “vote for the Finns Party if you don’t want Finland’s future to look like this”,
written in Finnish.
In their defence, the group says this was the act of one individual person Toni Jalonen, and not the organisation as a whole, and the post was removed.
However, Friday’s final ruling showed the Ministry still didn’t believe their explanation.
Back in March ministry officials already spoke with Asseri Kinnunen to let him know the expectations of organisations which receive official funding.
A grant from the Ministry is given with the agreement that organisations accepts the general rules of the Youth Act to promote equality, non-discrimination, internationality and
diversity of cultures.
Ombudsman’s opinion on the matter
When making their initial ruling on this issue, the Ministry too into account a statement from from Finland’s Ombudsman for Equality who said that the Finns Party Youth were in clear contradiction of the Youth Act.
The Ombudsman says the social media posts discriminate on the basis of ethnic origin, and
will create a hostile, degrading and humiliating atmosphere for minorities.
“This is the first time in history when a youth organisation’s grant has to be recovered because of its conflict with the objectives of the Youth Act” Henni Axelin from the Ministry’s youth work policy department said in June.
Axelin added that the Finns Party Youth group need to be aware that there are consequences for its activities in terms of what money they can receive from the public purse.
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