PM’s New Year message: Oulu sex abuse case, tolerance, economy, environment

Juha Sipilä looks ahead to a year of elections with optimism that parties engage in "honest campaigning".

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File picture of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) / Credit: Laura Kotila, PM's Office

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) has published a New Year message to Finland, covering a range of issues.

He highlighted the cases of suspected abuse of young girls in Oulu by foreign-born men, and said the stories had “provoked feelings of shock and anger” and that everyone who comes to Finland must comply with Finnish laws.

Sipilä said that if migrants are guilty of breaking the law they’ll be held responsible, and unlikely to get a permanent residence permit.

The PM also stressed that in this case “the suspected offences have been committed by individuals, not population groups” a clear reference to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Finnish political right wing.

“I urge everyone not to use these events to incite hatred against refugees or people with a foreign background” said the Prime Minister.

Economic growth

In his New Year message the Prime Minister also wrote about the country’s third year of economic growth, the improved employment rate and the number of jobs which have been created during this government.

“I am especially happy that we have managed to half the rate of long-term unemployment”, he said, adding that the employment rate should be increased to 75% now that it had already hit the government’s target of 72%.

More cooperation required

Citing Finland’s tradition of political cooperation, despite ideological differences, Prime Minister Sipilä stressed that this should continue.

“We have recently seen examples of how a lack of cooperation can shake even the strongest democracies” said the PM, but also added that strong ideological movements, organised as political parties, played a vital role for democracy.

Sipilä said that political parties must maintain a direct connection with the feelings and wishes of citizens, otherwise there was a risk that legitimate political parties could be replaced by what he called “other forces”.

“In the worst case, we may have to face the rise of extremist movements that openly scorn and ridicule the principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights” said the Prime Minister.

Looking ahead to 2019

Looking forward to 2019, Prime Minister Sipilä noted that Finland will mark the 100th year of the country’s constitution; and hold elections in the spring as well.

“I hope to see honest campaigning focused on finding solutions, rather than inciting fear and placing blame. I believe that voters share this hope”.

The PM also said that just before Christmas all of the parties in parliament – except the Finns Party – had a greed a common position on climate policy goals. “This provides an excellent foundation for our work in the last half of [2019] when Finland takes on the Presidency of the Council of the European Union”.