Category Archives: Finland

PM SipiläFinland and India have good opportunities for cooperation

STOCKHOLM, April 18(Greenpost) — Prime minister Juha Sipilä and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a bilateral meeting in Stockholm.

The development of economic relations between the Nordic countries and India was the main theme in the India-Nordic Summit in Stockholm on Tuesday 17 April. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä also held a bilateral meeting with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, including negotiations on trade relations between Finland and India and on promoting investment and other cooperation.

“Finland’s exports to India have grown over the past few years. Prime Minister Modi and I noted that opportunities for cooperation between our two countries exist especially in sectors such as energy, satellites and education. We have agreed to deepen cooperation in these fields and will hold further negotiations on concrete projects at the level of public officials, Prime Minister Sipilä said.

“I first met Prime Minister Modi in 2016 in India in conjunction with the Team Finland trade mission to India. India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and it is important for Finland to continue fostering good economic relations with India. There are many opportunities for cooperation,” observed Sipilä.

In the meeting, Prime Minister Sipilä also raised the importance of free trade; indeed, negotiations on free trade and investment protection agreements are on-going between the EU and India. Sipilä also stressed the importance of international cooperation in regard to climate change and counter-terrorism.

India interested in Nordic solutions

The initiative for the India-Nordic Summit of the prime ministers of the Nordic countries and India was made by India. The premiers of all five Nordic countries attended in the summit.

In the summit, Prime Minister Sipilä held an introductory presentation on the impact of innovations, digitalisation and artificial intelligence on trade and commerce, jobs and economic growth worldwide.

During Prime Minister Modi‘s premiership, India’s infrastructure, economy and society have been modernised. Economic growth in India is forecast to continue to at a rate of over 7% both this and next year. Last year, the value of goods exports from Finland to India amounted to EUR 532 million and the value of imports was EUR 340 million. Finland’s main export products are machinery and equipment as well as paper and cardboard. In 2017, our services exports totalled EUR 747 million and services imports amounted to EUR 534 million.

Sweden holds presidency of Nordic Council of Ministers this year

By Xuefei Chen Axelsson

Finland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini will attend the Nordic foreign ministers’ meeting in Stockholm from 17 to 18 April 2018, according to a statement from Finland’s government. 

The Nordic foreign ministers will discuss, among other things, topical UN affairs and international questions, such as North Korea and Syria, the development of transatlantic relations and Russia, Ukraine, and security in the North Atlantic. Topical EU issues will also be on the meeting agenda, including Brexit and the Western Balkans.

The Nordic foreign ministers meet approximately three times a year on the invitation of the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. This year, the Nordic Presidency is held by Sweden.

Authorities and researchers to seek solutions to Arctic navigation

By Xuefei Chen Axelsson

STOCKHOLM, April 13(Stockholm)–Satellite navigation is part of our everyday life. In addition to navigation, satellite positioning is required in electric and communications networks and transport services, for example. However, these systems and services do not function optimally in high latitudes, especially in the Arctic areas.

On 16-18 April 2018, authorities, researchers and business representatives of European and Arctic countries will convene in Muonio, Finland, to seek solutions to these problems in a workshop called Challenges in Arctic Navigation. The event is part of Finland’s Chairmanship Programme for the Arctic Council. It is arranged by the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI) that operates under the National Land Survey of Finland. The Arctic countries have not previously met to work specifically on the feasibility of positioning systems in northern latitudes.

“I am pleased that the event will bring together, for the first time, all Arctic countries to address the challenges of positioning in northern areas,” says Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner.

A concrete example of an Arctic problem in satellite navigation is related to landing of airplanes. It is possible with satellite navigation in Central Europe but not in the Arctic region. This is because the network of base stations needed to focus the satellite signals is not dense enough in the northern areas. Another reason for the poorer accuracy of a navigation system are satellite flight paths.

“As accurate and reliable positioning is needed in the north as in Central Europe. Currently the systems are unable to completely serve the Arctic areas. Now we are trying to find answers to this,” says Minister Berner.

Satellite positioning is tightly related to the development of intelligent transport systems and services. The challenge in the Nordic areas is the uneven coverage of positioning. It unnecessarily slows down the development of autonomous transport in particular.

“In the next generation Galileo satellites, the northern dimension will be better taken into account and they will provide more accurate information in high latitudes,” says Heidi Kuusniemi, Director at the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute.

Finland will chair the Arctic Council in 2017-2018. As the chair, Finland is paying particular attention to positioning and good communication connections, safety of maritime transport and development of meteorological cooperation. These are tightly connected to positioning and satellite technology.

The event in Muonio will be carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Geospatial Research Institute as part of the Arkki project financed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The project’s international network includes, among others, the European Commission, the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). The cooperation partners include authorities, businesses and universities.

Minister of Justice Antti Häkkänen’s speech in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences CASS in Beijing 2 February 2018

Ministry of Justice  3.2.2018 12.00
SPEECH

Ladies and gentlemen, dear professors,

It is a great pleasure to be here to discuss with you about a theme that I, as a lawyer, as a Minister of Justice and as a citizen, feel greatly attached to: the rule of law.

I studied law at the University of Helsinki. In 2012, the Finnish Center of Chinese Law and Chinese Legal Culture was established in Helsinki to promote mutual legal research between our countries. The Center has built strong connections with CASS Law Institute and several Universities as well as with many other major Chinese academic institutions.

Actually, CASS is the Finnish China Law Center’s key partner in China and has contributed significantly to deepening Sino-Finnish China legal research. A notable joint international research project has been conducted in the field of labour law. Other research collaborative projects between CASS and Finnish institutions have covered intellectual property rights, law and gender and climate change. These are important priorities also to our government. I am very happy to acknowledge that my former professors of faculty of law in Helsinki University have so actively engaged in Finnish-Chinese academic cooperation.

The rule of law is the core foundation of a modern society. It is the very backbone of Finland as well. Finland celebrated the 100th anniversary of its independence on 6 December 2017, and the festivities gave me an excellent opportunity to look back on the times when my country gained its independence: it was the respect for law and legality that paved our way to independence. Since the very beginning of the independent era, the rule of law has been enshrined in our constitution. Therefore, it is for a good reason that the rule of law was one of the key topics discussed during the year of Finland’s 100th anniversary. Several events were held where we discussed how the rule of law could be ensured in our country also in the future and how we could enhance the respect for it. Today, the rule of law still continues to be a highly topical matter in Finland.

As a matter of fact, this is true also at international level. Promoting the rule of law and ensuring equal access to justice for all is one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals that aim to transform our world.

What does the rule of law actually mean? Globally, the concept of rule of law does not have one mutually agreed meaning. Instead, states’ interpretation of the rule of law varies, which can be explained by historical, political, social and institutional differences between states. Your exact understanding of the concept probably differs from what I have come to understand. There is not a single, consistent understanding of the concept in Europe either. That does not, however, prevent us from discussing the importance of the rule of law.

Even though the exact understanding of the concept varies across the world, there is a widely accepted common agreement on the most central elements of the rule of law. Those elements are endorsed by the international organisations such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union.

As you very well know, the rule of law is a multifaceted and complex concept, but I still would like to discuss some of its core elements next.

First of all, the rule of law is about legality. This means that a state and its institutions are bound by the law – any government is not allowed to act outside the law when pursuing its goals. The rule of law is not the same as rule by law. The state and its institutions must act in accordance with the law. Legality also means that the procedure for enacting laws must be transparent and accountable.

Secondly, the rule of law requires legal certainty. In order for this requirement to be met, it is vital that citizens and businesses have easy access to laws. All laws should  be published and written in a way that enables citizens to understand the contents of the law.

The third element of the rule of law I would like to mention is the independence of judiciary and citizens’ effective access to justice. An independent judiciary is a key element of the rule of law and plays a key role in upholding the rule of law.

Let me also say a few words about the role and functions of lawyers and attorneys. I would like to emphasise that access to justice is a universal and fundamental right that is protected by international instruments and constitutional provisions. The freedom of lawyers and attorneys at their work, as well as their independence, is one of the fundamental human rights.

Respect for the rule of law should not be taken as granted. It requires monitoring and there is always room for improvement. Society is changing constantly and these changes may bring about new challenges for the rule of law as well. Strong pillars of the rule of law help deal with new, unpredictable challenges or even a crisis. However, this also means that we might have to think about new ways to ensure that the rule of law is always and in all circumstances fully respected. Let me share a few examples with you from Finland and from the European Union.

Last autumn, I launched a reform of the administration of justice in Finland. I believe that the separation of state powers requires strong independence of the judiciary, and therefore, in my opinion, the Finnish system calls for reinforcement in this regard. Today, the Ministry of Justice is responsible for certain operative tasks of court administration. The aim of the reform is to improve the independence of the judiciary by setting up a new independent national council for the judiciary. The tasks related to the administration of courts will be transferred from the Ministry of Justice to the new independent agency. In addition, we are currently reforming the procedural law in general courts. The aim of the reform is to make legal proceedings more effective without compromising the legal safeguards. This may be achieved, for example, by making wider use of videoconferencing possible in legal proceedings.

I am convinced that this reform will enhance the rule of law in Finland.

The other example deals with access to justice. In Finland, when it comes to public legal aid, the desired state of affairs is that every person receives the aid necessary to solve his or her legal problem at the earliest possible stage, regardless of the person’s economic situation. The objective is that all citizens have easy access to legal advice services through various channels. These channels include different forms of online counselling, electronic services, distance services, a telephone service and personal consultations.  These channels include different forms of online counselling, electronic services, remote services, a telephone service and personal consultations. The more advanced online booking system and the chat service through which lawyers and other staff of public legal aid offices can provide general legal advice and guidance for citizens can be mentioned as concrete examples of the extended multi-channel service provision.

The European Union is founded on the rule of law. The Treaties which establish the Union confirm this, and the respect for the rule of law is a prerequisite for EU membership. Cooperation within the Union would not be possible if this requirement was not met. The European Union consists of independent and sovereign countries, but cooperation within the Union goes much further than in any other international organisation. The EU is based on the idea of free movement of persons, goods, services and capital. There is a huge amount of interaction between the EU Member States, state authorities, individuals and companies, covering a wide range of policy fields. The respect for the rule of law makes all this possible.

Judicial cooperation is one of the central policy fields in the EU. A number of legal issues follow from the fact that persons, goods, services and capital move freely between the EU states without any internal frontiers. Hence, there is a need for effective judicial cooperation. In the EU, judicial cooperation between the courts and other judicial authorities is based on direct contacts. A judgment given in one EU state is directly recognisable and enforceable in another EU state. This means that a judgment given by a Finnish court in civil and commercial matters or, in many cases, also in family matters will be recognised and enforced either directly without any intermediary procedures or otherwise in a quick manner in all other EU Member States. The EU cooperation in family matters covers issues such as divorce, child custody, international child abduction, maintenance, successions and wills. In addition, judicial cooperation in criminal matters between the EU states is based on direct contacts between the authorities. This enables effective procedures.

For mutual trust to exist, the rule of law needs to be fully respected in all Member States of the Union. A judge who is asked to enforce a judgement given in another Member State needs to be able to trust that the judgement was given by an impartial and independent court where fundamental rights of the parties were respected. Similarly, it is vital for the parties to be able to trust that a judgement for which they are seeking enforcement in another EU state will be executed in accordance with law.

Any threat to the respect for the rule of law within the European Union could hinder such cooperation. Therefore, the EU has developed new means to ensure the respect for the rule of law in the EU. The heads of state and governments have in recent years paid more attention to the rule of law in the EU. Thus, the rule of law is being discussed at the highest political level of the EU.

Member States can now together identify new challenges that are posed to the European states and exchange best practices to promote and ensure the rule of law. New challenges may originate from a variety of sources. In recent years, Europe has faced challenges not only with the enormous migratory flows to Europe but also with hate speech and fake news, which form the reverse side of the positive technological developments and digitalisation. New technologies improve our lives in many ways and the social media provides new opportunities for communication with people around the world, but they can also bring about negative side effects. Fake news and hate speech are easy to spread in social media. These issues have brought about new concerns, also as regards the rule of law. These concerns need to be addressed, and this must be done in cooperation with other states. The annual rule of law dialogue at ministerial level helps to ensure and enhance the rule of law in the EU.

Lastly, I would like to highlight an aspect of the rule of law’s influence which is not always recognised: its implications for the economic growth. For business, legal certainty and effectiveness of the judiciary are vital. Various international studies show that there is interrelation between justice and competitiveness. Well-functioning, stable and predictable justice systems play an important role in determining economic performance and in boosting investments. Protection of property rights and enforcement of contracts encourage savings and investments but, at the same time, they also promote the establishment of economic relationships and have positive impacts on the development of economic growth and innovation. Businesses need to know that their rights are enforced and their cases dealt with by impartial courts. Effective justice systems create confidence and business-friendly environments. The impact of the rule of law on the economic growth further underlines its great importance.

I have understood that the new Supervision law in China, which is announced in 2017, could go into effect as early as March 2018.  If it is enacted, the law will create one organization, a hierarchy of “Supervision Commissions,” to investigate and punish extra-legally, would have an authority to pass an extrajudicial investigation and punishment without formal court proceedings, not only Party members, but also many millions of non-Party-members who work as state employees across a wide range of professions and positions. Maybe you are able to elaborate this. Do you think that the adoption of the new law would mark a significant departure from the separation between the Party and the justice system?

As a matter of fact, according to the agreement between the Ministries of Justice of China and Finland, the aim of our cooperation is to strengthen the rule of law, and more specifically, to enhance access to justice, promote crime prevention and develop our judicial systems. The cooperation started as early as in 1995. Open dialogue, expert seminars and exchange of information on the crucial and central questions of the respective legal systems have been at the core of the Cooperation Programme at all times. As a result of this cooperation, a number of recommendations and proposals for development have been produced. We have agreed that the cooperation between our countries during the period from 2017 to 2020 will focus on legal aid and advice and on the development of community sanctions.

The relations between Finland and China are excellent are are being elevated to new level with the established “Future oriented new type of cooperative partnership” which was agreed during President Xi’s visit to Finland in April.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear professors,

I hope that I have managed to demonstrate to you how important I think the rule of law is for a modern society, for international relations, for cooperation between the states, for businesses, and for each and every citizen.

Thank you for your attention!

Mikko Kinnunen appointed Finland’s first Ambassador for Hybrid Affairs

Ministry for Foreign Affairs  30.3.2018 6.00
PRESS RELEASE

On 1 April, Counsellor for Foreign Affairs Mikko Kinnunen will become the Foreign Ministry’s first Ambassador for Hybrid Affairs.

Mikko Kinnunen transfers to the new position from the Foreign Ministry’s Unit for Security Policy and Crisis Management, where he has served as Director of Unit.

“From the perspective of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, hybrid issues can be related to foreign and security policy, legal and commercial matters, strategic communications, also international cyber security cooperation, for example. In other words, in practice they can be linked with any or all of the activities that the Ministry and its missions abroad are engaged in,” Kinnunen says.

The Ambassador for Hybrid Affairs will build up the Foreign Ministry’s expertise in hybrid issues and help raise Finland’s profile on these issues with the international arena. The Ambassador will work in close cooperation with different authorities in Finland and support their involvement in international cooperation. The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, which was established in Helsinki last year, is naturally a key partner for the new Ambassador.

Hybrid warfare and the use of influence-seeking hybrid methods have attracted wide attention both in Finland and internationally. Finland, too, is a target of hybrid attacks and activities, and it has strengthened its capacity to detect and respond to hybrid threats.

“Hybrid methods are a new way of seeking to influence our security, and we must respond to these effectively,” says Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini.

Dealing with hybrid issues is part of the work of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the network of Finnish missions abroad. This can involve detecting the use of hybrid attacks and activities targeting Finland, tackling these and taking part in international cooperation on hybrid issues.

Mikko Kinnunen has extensive experience of security policy and matters related to Russia and the former Soviet area. He has served as Finland’s Ambassador to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and worked in the Embassies of Finland in Moscow and Washington and the Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN in New York.

Government proposal for the new Radiation Act submitted to Parliament

Government proposal for the new Radiation Act submitted to Parliament

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health  28.3.2018 14.11
PRESS RELEASE 43/2018

Government proposal for the new Radiation Act submitted to Parliament

The Government has submitted the proposal for the new Radiation Act to Parliament. The new Act would replace the current Radiation Act and would enter into force on 1 July 2018. The Act would implement the EU’s new Basic Safety Standards Directive concerning radiation safety. It would protect people’s health from the damage caused by radiation and prevent and reduce environmental damage and other detrimental effects caused by radiation.

The proposal would also amend the Health Protection Act, the Criminal Code of Finland, the Nuclear Energy Act, the Act on Healthcare Appliances and Supplies, the Act on the Market Surveillance of Certain Products and the Act on the Recognition of Physicians Monitoring the Health of Radiation Workers in Category A.

The Radiation Act as a whole will be reformed

The new Act would apply to the following exposure situations: radiation practices, existing exposure situations and emergency exposure situations. The EU’s Basic Safety Standards Directive lays down provisions on the responsibilities of the parties responsible for the use of radiation, on the safe use of radiation and on radiation safety in emergency exposure situations and existing exposure situations. The Act would clarify regulatory control and emphasise the risk-based principle in regulatory control.

The implementation of the Basic Safety Standards Directive requires Finland to make many structural and terminological changes to its radiation legislation. It was therefore appropriate to reform the radiation legislation as a whole in connection with the implementation of the Directive.

Exposure to radiation should be kept as low as possible

The new Act would emphasise that the overall benefit of radiation practices and protection measures would have to outweigh the detriment caused by them. Work-related exposure and the exposure of the general public should be kept at the lowest level practically possible in radiation practices and protection measures. In addition, exposure to radiation for medical purposes should be limited to the level that is necessary to achieve the results of the examination or treatment or to carry out the procedure in question.

The proposal would specify the provisions on targeting radiation not only at patients, but also at asymptomatic persons.

The Act would specify the regulation of exposure to natural radiation, such as exposure to radon in indoor air and exposure of workers to natural radiation, for example, in mines.

Responsible parties’ responsibility will be emphasised

The proposal for the Radiation Act emphasises the responsible parties’ responsibility and risk-based control. The proposed Act would impose on responsible parties a new obligation of conducting a safety assessment based on the risks involved in their activities. The safety assessment would involve assessing radiation exposures in the activities and identifying potential radiation safety incidents. Measures would also be presented to ensure radiation safety, prevent the identified potential radiation safety incidents and prepare for the occurrence of such incidents.

In all activities requiring a safety licence, responsible parties would have to consult a radiation safety expert when planning, implementing and monitoring safety protection measures concerning workers and members of the public, in accordance with the nature and extent of their activities. Responsible parties would also have to appoint a radiation safety officer to assist them. The officer would monitor in practice that staff at the place of work ensure radiation safety and follow regulations and guidelines.

The radiation safety expert and radiation safety officer would have to possess the qualifications and radiation protection expertise required by the Radiation Act. Training in radiation protection may be included in a higher education degree or completed as separate continuing education and training.

Statutes concerning exposure for non-medical purposes to be included in the Act

The new Act would include provisions on human exposure to radiation for non-medical imaging purposes, in which the main purpose of imaging is not to promote the person’s health. These include X-ray examinations to determine the age of immigrants, for example.

More efficient control of radon exposure

In the proposed Act, exposure to natural radiation, such as radon, would mainly be regulated in the same manner as exposure to radiation from other sources. This would enable improved control of radon exposure.

According to the new EU Basic Safety Standards Directive, the reference level for radon concentration is 300 Bq/m3 in dwellings, workplaces and other places with public access. If the radon concentration in the working area cannot be decreased below the reference level despite efforts, the responsible party would have to obtain a safety licence from the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) for its operations. The protection of workers from radiation should then be ensured in the same way as in all other radiation practices: for example, the radiation dose sustained by the worker should be determined on a regular basis and the results should be submitted to the Dose Register of radiation workers.

The Radiation Act and other statutes issued under it would provide more clearly how responsible parties have to notify the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of practices that may cause exposure to radon. Further provisions would also be issued on the obligations to report and limit radon concentrations.

Regulations on non-ionising radiation to be reformed

The Act would also reform the provisions concerning non-ionising radiation, although the Basic Safety Standards Directive does not concern non-ionising radiation. The reason for this is the rapid technical development of the equipment using non-ionising radiation and the large variety of its different applications. The reform would ensure the safety of non-ionising radiation applications and create a framework for efficient risk-based control.

As required by the Constitution, some provisions contained in decrees and the current instructions of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority would be moved to the Act, as applicable. The Act would specify the current authorisations to issue decrees and would authorise the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority to issue regulations on certain detailed and technical matters.

Data utilisation and intelligent automation to boost the digitalisation of logistics

Ministry of Transport and Communications  28.3.2018 13.37 | Published in English on 29.3.2018 at 16.20
PRESS RELEASE

The Government has issued a resolution on the digitalisation of freight transport data. The aim of the resolution is to boost the digitalisation of the logistics sector and promote new business opportunities. It also paves the way for Finland as a hub for international transport and supports emission reduction targets in the transport sector. The resolution is part of the Government key project on building a growth environment for digital businesses.

“Digitalisation, urbanisation and growth of online business increase the importance of short-distance logistics. We must develop new consumer-oriented services and business models. The operating models of the sharing economy will also be adopted in freight transport,” says Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner.

“Finland is a global leader in promoting the “mobility as a service” thinking. It is important that this expertise will be utilised in freight logistics, too,” Minister Berner states.

She says that a lot of air is being transported nationally and internationally, in other words the transportation capacity is not being used to its full potential.

“This is expensive and inefficient for all the parties involved. More efficient use of the transportation capacity is also important for achieving the climate and emission targets,” she says.

Better utilisation of data is an essential question in digitalisation. The movement of goods must be directed by data.

The resolution includes four goals: Flow of information in and between the logistics chains must be substantially improved and the efficiency of short-distance logistics increased, efforts must be focused on developing intelligent automation in logistics and the digitalisation of ports must be boosted. National and EU regulation on information security and confidentiality of commercial, industrial and personal data must be carefully observed in everything that is done.

The set of measures in the resolution includes regulation, networked cooperation, promotion of tests and pilot projects, increase in the competence levels, and advocacy work in the European Union and on international forums.

The Ministry of Transport and Communications launched an open logistics digitalisation network in the autumn. The resolution was drafted together with the network and will be implemented in close cooperation with the sector.

Report: Banning coal in 2030 would affect only a few energy companies, while a ban in 2025 would cause significant costs for many

Report: Banning coal in 2030 would affect only a few energy companies, while a ban in 2025 would cause significant costs for many

Phasing out coal in energy production by 2030 would have only minor effects on energy companies, according to a survey commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. However, this would require that the Greater Helsinki area have access to reasonably priced biomass for replacing coal in energy production.

Enforcing a ban on coal in 2025, on the other hand, would have serious economic impacts especially in Helsinki, Vaasa, Espoo and Vantaa, and coal would be replaced by biomass and to a significant degree by natural gas.

Pöyry Management Consulting submitted its report on the effects of phasing coal in energy production to Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing Kimmo Tiilikainen on 27 March 2018. The Minister discusses the report results and the future of the coal phase-out project in press conference.

The Pöyry report focuses on the effects of phasing out coal in district heating networks and industry where coal has been a significant source of energy in recent years. Eight cities have large coal-fired units, accounting for 90 per cent of the coal used in energy production in Finland. Helsinki, Naantali, Espoo, Vantaa, Vaasa and Lahti topped the list in 2016.

Phasing out coal by 2030 would have cost implications chiefly in Vaasa and Helsinki, where measures to replace coal would have to start earlier than currently planned. The estimate is that the other coal-fired power plants could be replaced before 2030.

Banning coal in 2025 would have significant effects on district heat generation especially in Vaasa and Helsinki. It would have cost implications even in Espoo, Vantaa and Turku, but to a considerably lesser degree. The overall impact of phasing out coal by 2025 could grow to EUR 200 million in 2024–2033, based on the assumptions used in the study.

The report estimates that the price competitiveness of coal will decrease in the future. However, banning coal would cause power plants additional costs due to earlier replacement investments, potentially higher production costs, premature decommissioning of existing equipment and additional investments in existing power plans.

There will be a considerable market-driven drop in the capacity of coal-fired heat generation by 2030, while most replacement investments will take place in the mid-2020s. This will reduce the economic effects of the coal phase-out. It is estimated that the use of coal for energy will drop from 22 TWh in 2016 to around 5–7 TWh by 2025 and to 3.5 TWh by 2030, while the coal-fired district heat capacity will decrease from 2,055 MW to 1,100 MW by 2025 and to 480 MW by 2030.

Finland aims to phase out coal in energy production in the 2020s, according to the current Government Programme. The National Energy and Climate Strategy puts forth that a Government proposal on a transitional period for phasing out coal power by 2030 will be prepared during this government term. Minister Tiilikainen requested Pöyry Management Consulting to even consider a scenario where coal power is phased out by 2025.

GRECO issues new recommendations to Finland to prevent and combat corruption

GRECO issues new recommendations to Finland to prevent and combat corruption

The Council of Europe’s anticorruption body GRECO (Group of States against Corruption) has issued recommendations to Finland to prevent corruption among ministers, senior government officials and members of law enforcement agencies (the police and the Border Guard).

In the country evaluation carried out by GRECO, special focus was placed for example on the ethical principles and rules of conduct, conflicts of interest, secondary employment, declarations of interests and income, compliance with guidelines in practice, and awareness of corruption and its prevention among senior government officials, ministers and law enforcement authorities. Furthermore, post-employment waiting period practices, risk management, and whistleblower protection were among the topics examined by the evaluation team.

In its evaluation report, GRECO states that Finland should intensify its anticorruption work and emphasises that an expedited adoption of a national anticorruption strategy and its subsequent implementation would be a very welcome and positive step. The report pays special attention to the corruption risks that relate to privatisation in the forthcoming health, social services and regional government reform.

Six of the recommendations issued by GRECO to prevent and fight corruption in Finland concern senior government officials and ministers and eight of them law enforcement authorities.

GRECO recommends, for example, adoption of a code of conduct for ministers and other senior government officials and provision of related training, establishment of a formal system for review of the declarations of interests and development of the declaration procedures, and intervention in conflicts of interest that relate to the so-called revolving door phenomenon. The revolving door phenomenon refers to the movement of persons entrusted with top executive functions from the public sector to the private sector and vice versa. Furthermore, GRECO recommends that Finland take measures to ensure that the procedures for lifting parliamentary immunity do not hamper or prevent criminal investigations in respect of ministers suspected of having committed corruption related offences.

Regarding law enforcement agencies, GRECO recommends that the police and the Border Guard develop a dedicated anticorruption strategy or policy, compile a code of conduct and specify their guidelines for secondary employment, organise training on the prevention and combating of corruption, and reinforce ethical practices in their career-related processes. In addition, it is recommended that the police enhance their risk management, internal oversight, and procedures to be followed by their officials when taking up secondary employment.

When it comes to whistleblowing and whistleblower protection, GRECO recommends that the police and the Border Guard be obliged to report suspicions of corruption and that protection of these whistleblowers be enhanced. In connection to this, GRECO also recommends that the police and the Border Guard draw up guidelines on whistleblowing and provide related training.

The previous country evaluations concerning Finland were conducted in 2001 (focus on the independence of the judiciary), in 2004 (public administration), in 2007 (criminalisation of corruption offences and party funding) and in 2013 (risk of corruption in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors). The on-site visit related to the fifth evaluation round was carried out in September 2017.

GRECO will publish the entire evaluation report on its website in English. A Finnish translation of the report will be published on the website of the Ministry of Justice (www.oikeusministerio.fi) later this spring.

Finland will report back on the action taken in response to GRECO’s recommendations by 30 September 2019.

Air pollution prevention in Finland

Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities
Financial benefits of reducing air pollution can be assessed with a new tool

Government Communications Department  27.3.2018 9.43 | Published in English on 27.3.2018 at 12.21
PRESS RELEASE 154/2018

Financial benefits of reducing air pollution can be assessed with a new tool

The Finnish Environment Institute has together with the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the Finnish Meteorological Institute developed a method for assessing the costs caused by air pollution and the financial benefits of reducing it. The benefits result from the reduction in adverse health effects. The tool can be used to support decision-making concerning air pollution control both at the municipal and at the national level.

Particulate matter that is harmful to human health is emitted from transport, energy production and wood burning by households. There are internationally established methods for calculating the adverse health effects. IHKU, the Air Pollution Damage Cost Model for Finland project, developed an easy-to-use tool for assessing the costs caused by air pollution and the financial benefits resulting from reducing air pollution in Finland. The tool can be used to support strategic decision-making concerning air pollution control both at the municipal and at the national level.

Compared with Central Europe, concentrations of particulate matter in ambient air are relatively low in Finland. However, even low concentrations of particulate matter have adverse effects on health. One of the central conclusions made in the project is that, by limiting emissions, it is possible to reach considerable financial benefits in public health in Finland, as well.  The greatest benefits can be achieved when the emissions from transport and wood burning by households are reduced in urban areas.

The majority of the costs caused by the adverse health effects are composed of the costs resulting from the shorter life expectancy. Costs also result from hospital visits and the lower capacity to work.

Final product is a tabular tool

The results of the project are based on a chain of many calculation models. First, the emissions were modelled and, based on them, the concentrations of particulate matter in ambient air. Next, the exposure of the population to particulate matter was modelled and, based on that, the health effects were calculated. In the end, the health effects were converted into damage costs. The examination was conducted on primary particulate matter and the most important gases forming secondary particulate matter (nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and ammonia). The final product of the project is a tabular model describing the health costs that can be avoided by reducing emissions by one tonne. The costs have been estimated separately for transport, small-scale combustion by households and for power plants. Examinations at the national level also take into account the population density and the locations of the emission sources. The calculation methods have been chosen in a way that enables comparisons with examinations carried out elsewhere in the world as well as possible.

The effects of air pollution are not limited to adverse health effects. For example, air pollution reduces the diversity of nature. In the final report, the significance of these adverse effects has been assessed on the basis of a literature review.

The analysis was coordinated by the Finnish Environment Institute and it was implemented in co-operation with the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the National Institute for Health and Welfare. The study was part of the implementation of the Government plan for analysis, assessment and research activities for 2017. The steering group for the project had representatives from the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Finance and from local authorities. Stakeholders were also heard regarding the development of the calculation model.

Crisis management now – resolving conflicts and building peace together

The 100-year-old Ministry for Foreign Affairs with its partners are organising a Crisis management now seminar in Kalasatama, Helsinki, on 17 May 2018. The event will present Finnish actors’ participation in the resolution of international crises and peacebuilding. The main theme of the seminar will be comprehensive cooperation between different actors in crisis areas in order to achieve sustainable peace.

Central government actors involved in crisis management (Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Justice) together with civil society and private sector representatives will present their cooperation in crisis management and peacebuilding in diverse and participatory ways.

Visitors to the event can, for example, try on Teatime Research’s virtual reality glasses and get an idea of what it would feel like if Helsinki was a conflict area similar to the one in Aleppo, Syria.

The Crisis Management Centre (CMC Finland) and other actors will tell about job opportunities in the field.

The Finnish CSOs attending the seminar are the Finnish Red Cross, Finn Church Aid, and the Wider Security Network (WISE). International organisations will be represented by the World Bank, which will present the Pathways for Peace report prepared in cooperation with the United Nations.

Finland is a pioneer in comprehensive crisis management and peacebuilding. In addition to military and civilian crisis management, crisis areas are supported by means of development cooperation, humanitarian assistance, mediation, and human rights and arms control policies. It is important that the various actors’ complement each other, because a number of different organisations and crisis management operations may be simultaneously active in the same crisis area. Coordination and cooperation enhance the effectiveness of crisis management activities and contribute to the building of sustainable peace.

You are welcome to the Crisis management now -event to see and experience how crisis management functions and how sustainable peace is built through cooperation – stabilising conflict areas calls for everybody’s contribution.

The event is open to all and free of charge. It will be organised in Kellohalli at the Abattoir complex in Kalasatama, Helsinki.

Finland seeks a leading role in the European battery market

Finland seeks a leading role in the European battery market

The demand for batteries will grow more than tenfold from 2015 to 2020, especially in response to the increasing use of electric transport and renewable energy. Business Finland has launched Batteries from Finland, a two-year activation programme for the battery sector to get Finland into the European and global battery networks.

Asia produces 80 per cent of the world’s batteries, especially primary batteries. Europe, too, has versatile expertise in battery technologies, and Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Energy Union, encourages operators to develop safer batteries with longer lifetime. He emphasises the need to further develop the European batter expertise.

Finland has some of the raw materials and chemicals needed in the manufacturing of batteries. Now the goal is to master the higher value part of the chain, including the manufacturing and developing of battery cells. Finland will also invest in battery recycling.

“Finland has what it takes to build a significant battery cluster for raising added value in Finland. We can provide a unique combination of raw materials, processing and energy expertise in a reasonably-sized geographical area,” Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä says.

“Finland wants to be more than just the producer of raw materials. Our companies have competitive concepts and know-how throughout the value chain. The market is booming, and our primary objective is to get a slice of the new market, not to compete with existing operators. Business Finland sees here a great opportunity for Finland,” says Director-General Pekka Soini from Business Finland.

Finland is an attractive place for mining investments

The growing battery manufacturing sector needs new mining capacity, since at the moment there is not enough minerals to meet the rapidly growing demands, even with recycling. Finland is an attractive place for international mining investments.

“Finland has unique reserves of raw materials and strong geological and mining expertise. Finland is attractive for mining due to its good operating environment and one of the world’s most comprehensive geological databases. We have high levels of expertise in chemistry and material research, including analysis of global raw material chains. Finland has excellent opportunities to become a leading country in the European battery market,” says Director-General Mika Nykänen from the Geological Survey of Finland.

Transport and renewable energy drive battery market growth

Electric transport is a major contributor to the growth of the battery market. Emissions reduction targets increase the demand for electric cars, buses, bicycles and scooters, which are now available at more competitive prices. Many major cities have already announced plans to restrict the use of internal combustion engine cars in their city centres. Ferry transport is also going electric, followed by mining and forestry machines.

Another factor contributing to the battery market growth is grid-connected batteries. A problem with the renewable wind and solar energy is that energy is produced when the wind blows or the sun shine, but not necessarily at times when energy is needed.

“Batteries are increasingly used to replace peak-load power stations. Power stations have been necessary to cover peak load, but in the future it will be possible to deploy energy storage to replace at least some new power stations. Similarly, households, too, can use batteries and store solar energy, for example,” says Head of Industry, Cleantech & Bioeconomy Vesa Koivisto from Business Finland.

“From the perspective of sustainable development, battery recycling will be a key sector for development in the future. Recycling can also mean new second-life applications for batteries: electric car batteries, for example, could be re-used for home energy storage,” Koivisto says.

Batteries from Finland

Business Finland aims to accelerate the construction of a national battery ecosystem. The activities aim to contribute to improving the Finnish knowledge base and increasing Finland’s international competitiveness throughout the value chain from raw materials and battery cell manufacturing to various battery-related applications and services.

“Our companies have competitive concepts and know-how throughout the value chain. We have already a national knowledge base, thanks to Business Finland’s earlier innovation programmes promoting electric vehicles and green mining, among others. This base will serve as an excellent foundation for a new battery ecosystem,” says Director-General Pekka Soini from Business Finland.

“Products, services and business concepts related to electric transport and energy storage are developing at a rapid pace, and the expanding market naturally creates a lot of interest.

Business Finland is creating operator networks to access the European battery network and through it the global network. We also aim to attract foreign battery investments into Finland. In February, Business Finland invited 70 industry representatives to develop together the future of battery technologies in Finland. The event was extremely well received. Next, Business Finland and the companies involved will be planning measures to develop the battery market.

Finland’s first Action Plan on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will strengthen the rights of people with disabilities

Finland's first Action Plan on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will strengthen the rights of people with disabilities

Finland has published, for the first time, a National Action Plan on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Action Plan will implement the UN Convention that entered into force in summer 2016. The aim is to strengthen the rights of persons with disabilities and to improve their opportunities for participation.

The objective of the Action Plan is to raise awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities and to take account of their rights in all activities in the different administrative branches and in society at large. Accessibility, availability and participation are essential when implementing the rights of persons with disabilities.

– Everyone is entitled to basic and human rights. However, there are groups of people who cannot use these rights until particular attention is paid to the implementation of these rights and special measures are carried out to secure the rights. Persons with disabilities is one such group. Therefore, we need the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as national actions. This is what Pirkko Mattila, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, stated at the publication launch of the National Action Plan on the UN Convention on 13 March.

The Action Plan contains 82 measures that the ministries are committed to implement. Part of the measures will be implemented during the current Government’s term of office. Some measures take a longer time to carry out.

There is much room for improvement in the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities

According to a survey conducted last autumn, persons with disabilities felt, as a rule, that their rights are secured relatively poorly. The right to work was considered as the objective that was achieved least well. An adequate standard of living and social protection emerged in the survey as the primary issues to be rectified.

– Work and an adequate income are in a key position when we think about the opportunities of people with disabilities to live independently and to participate. I find it very important that working should always be economically profitable. We must remove people’s fear that their income will weaken if they start to work, said Minister Mattila.

– Safeguarding employment for people with partial work capacity is one of the Government’s goals, and it is being carried out by the key project Career opportunities for people with partial work ability. The key project is constructing, among many other measures, a linear model to combine pension and earned income, Minister Mattila continued.

Services are also part of social protection. The Social Welfare Act, and particularly the Disability Services Act, secure that persons with disabilities receive assistance in their everyday lives. The services will be further developed as part of the ongoing reform of regional government and health and social services.

Persons with disabilities participated in drawing up the Action Plan

A key principle of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities involves the inclusion of persons with disabilities in decision-making that concerns them. The Advisory Board for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (VANE) was responsible for drawing up the National Action Plan, and the Advisory Board will also coordinate the national implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Advisory Board includes representatives of disability organisations, labour market organisations and the ministries with key significance to the rights of persons with disabilities.

Disability organisations and persons with disabilities were heard, as agreed, when drawing up the Action Plan. They provided important information on how the matters relating to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities should be primarily promoted.

Source Finlands website.

Finland to hold EU ministerial meetings in Finlandia Hall

Finland to hold EU ministerial meetings in Finlandia Hall

During Finland’s EU Presidency in 2019, Helsinki will host six informal meetings of ministers and dozens of meetings of officials. In line with the practice of recent holders of the presidency, Finland will hold all meetings to be paid for from the EU Presidency budget in a single location in the capital city.

Finlandia Hall was selected as the venue following a competitive tendering process. The choice of venue took into account the facility requirements specified for EU meetings, the costs and the venue’s availability on the dates in question.

“Having a centralised venue in the capital is an economically advantageous solution. It saves time, money and staff resources. For example, once the arrangements are planned and put in place, there is no need to dismantle or transfer them, as they can be used in most of the meetings. Having a venue in the centre of the capital also means that the best transport connections are close at hand,” says Head of the Secretariat for Finland’s EU Presidency Anja Laisi from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Finlandia Hall will host informal meetings of the finance, competitiveness, environment, agriculture and justice and interior ministers. A joint meeting of the foreign and defence ministers will also be held. In addition, Finlandia Hall will host meetings of officials.

All formal meetings of Heads of State or Government and of ministers will be held in accordance with normal practice in Brussels and Luxembourg during Finland’s EU Presidency. The idea is also that all informal meetings of Heads of State or Government arranged during Finland’s EU Presidency will be held in Brussels, with the EU responsible for both the arrangements and the costs.

Finland’s forthcoming EU Presidency will be its third and will cover the six-month period 1 July – 31 December 2019. Finland’s previous Presidencies were in 1999 and 2006.

Arrangements already well under way

The practical arrangements for the meetings to be held in Finland are the responsibility of the Secretariat for Finland’s EU Presidency, which has been set up in the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Up to the start of the Presidency there are twenty of us altogether. We are currently busy with the preparations that cover the Presidency as a whole, and putting together the meetings calendar and site arrangements. Now that the venue has been chosen, we can get up to speed with the details, too,” says Anja Laisi, who also led the Secretariat during Finland’s second Presidency in 2006.

For the second Presidency the total budget was EUR 75 million, at 2006 prices. A sum of EUR 70 million has been reserved for Finland’s EU Presidency in 2019. This covers all the costs of the Presidency, including additional personnel and the meeting arrangements.