National Coalition wouldn’t raise fuel tax to pay for scrapping car tax, says Mykkänen

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Kai Mykkänen (NCP), the Minister of the Interior, says the National Coalition is not prepared to raise fuel taxes in order to compensate for its proposal to abolish the car tax. (Credit: Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

Kai Mykkänen (NCP), the Minister of the Interior, says the National Coalition is not prepared to raise fuel taxes in order to compensate for its proposal to abolish the car tax. (Credit: Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

THE NATIONAL COALITION is not prepared to raise fuel taxes in order to compensate for the roughly 950 million in lost tax revenue caused by the abolition of the car tax – a proposal it made in its newly published climate and environment policy programme.

The car tax is collected upon the first registration of a motor vehicle in Finland.

Osmo Soininvaara, a former chairperson of the Green League, has calculated that if the abolition was to be carried out cost-neutrally, it would require for example that fuel taxes be raised to the extent that consumer fuel prices increased by 50 cents per litre.

Kai Mykkänen (NCP), the Minister of the Interior, confirmed to Uusi Suomi on Thursday that the party is supportive of abolishing the car tax and shifting the focus of road traffic taxes on emissions by 2030. He pointed out, however, that even if the tax rates remained at their current level, revenues from the taxes would be “very different” in 2030, as cars would produce less emissions and consume considerably less fuel.

The Finnish government estimates in its budget for this year that the car tax will generate revenues of 959 million euros, the motor vehicle tax revenues of 1,182 million euros and the diesel and petrol tax revenues of 2,637 million euros, adding up to a total of over 4.7 billion euros. Mykkänen admitted that it would be difficult to allow this sum to decrease substantially.“In that sense this is all just a bit of shadow boxing,” he phrased.

“We’re talking about an important, several billion-euro part of the government budget. The National Coalition’s main goal is to reduce taxes on labour and entrepreneurship. We have to collect taxes from somewhere,” he said.

“But the plan is not to collect more taxes from motorists than right now,” he added.

Mykkänen, who was in charge of drafting the climate and environment policy programme, also stressed that the objectives laid out in the programme have not been scrutinised in terms of their impact on state coffers but simply outline the tax policy direction of the National Coalition.

“The direction we’re heading in in practice is cutting the car tax especially for cars with lower-than-average emissions and raising the fuel and motor vehicle tax with an emphasis on the carbon dioxide component. Maybe in the future we can introduce taxes related to mobility and congestions, but all of this is still up in the air and we won’t measure these kinds of objectives,” he said.

He did, however, float the possibility of lowering the car tax already during the next electoral term, as a first step towards abolishing the tax completely by 2030.

“Since we’ve lowered the car tax and raised the fuel tax slightly this electoral term, that’ll be the direction we’ll try and stick to. We’re making it possible for people to get lower-emission cars for less money – not to mention from Finland,” told Mykkänen.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

 

Source : Helsinki Times

Finnish Air Force’s commander suspected of service offence

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Major General Sampo Eskelinen is suspected of neglecting his duty to open a pre-trial investigation into suspected offences by a former commander of the Karelia Air Command. (Credit: Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva)

Major General Sampo Eskelinen is suspected of neglecting his duty to open a pre-trial investigation into suspected offences by a former commander of the Karelia Air Command. (Credit: Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva)

MAJOR GENERAL Sampo Eskelinen, the commander of the Finnish Air Force, will be charged with either service offence or negligent service offence, according to the Office of the Prosecutor General.

The charge is related to a case against a former commander of the Karelia Air Command, who is suspected of abuse of superior position, service offence and defamation over events that took place during a voluntary military refresher organised in Inari, Lapland, in September 2017.

The ex-commander is believed to have violated the military code of conduct and treated his subordinates inappropriately during the exercise. Eskelinen, in turn, is believed to have neglected his duty to ensure a pre-trial investigation into the suspected offences is carried out without undue delay.

Eskelinen has largely denied the criminal allegations, whereas the ex-commander has denied being guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, according to a press release issued by the Office of the Prosecutor General on Tuesday.

With the exception of the suspected defamation, the offences have been investigated by the legal division of the Defence Command.

 

Source : Helsinki Times

Data shows Finnair was world’s safest airline in 2018

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THE JET AIRLINER CRASH DATA EVALUATION CENTRE (JACDEC)which examines safety data from all global airlines, has announced that the Finnish national carrier Finnair was the safest airline to fly with in the world in 2018.

The rankings show that Finnair has the lowest number of accidents, safety incidents, and injuries out of the 100 airlines assessed, with Finnair beating last year’s winner, Emirates, by a considerable margin.

In new rankings published on Thursday evening, Finnair has been awarded a risk index of 93.91%, placing it ahead of runners-up Norwegian Air and Singapore Airlines. Finnair has had zero major accidents since at least the 1960s, with pilot training and maintenance checks being among the most thorough in the world.

With Finnair looking to greatly expand their services in Europe and beyond in 2019, its position as the safest option for travellers will likely prove a welcome boost to ticket sales.

The worst performer in this year’s index was Garuda Indonesia, with a risk index of 52.11%.

 

Source : helsinkitimes.fi

Oulu sex crime suspect to be extradited to Finland from Germany in coming weeks

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A MAN SUSPECTED OF INVOLVEMENT IN A CHILD SEX ABUSE RINGin Oulu has been arrested in Germany and is expected to be returned to Finland to face charges at some point within the next few weeks.

The suspect is believed to have taken part in the sustained sexual abuse of several underage girls in the northern city of Oulu earlier in the year, alongside seven other men of foreign-born origins. The case has attracted widespread outrage and revulsion across the country, as the grim allegations have emerged over a period of months.

The suspect is a male aged between 20 and 30 and is wanted in connection with the aggravated rape of a girl younger than 15. He had previously been arrested on German soil, before being quickly released following an apparent mix-up among the German police.

He was re-arrested in the German city of Saarbrücken on Wednesday evening, with conversations between Finnish and German authorities now ongoing. In a statement to News Now Finland, the leading detective on the case, Superintendent Markus Kiiskinen, has said that “it will take about two to four weeks to move him to Finland. Sometime during January, depending on how fast the process goes, because there is a certain process between Finnish and German police”.

The list of suspects involved in the case includes both foreign and Finnish citizens and has ignited a heated debate over asylum and immigration policy in Finland.

 

Source :  helsinkitimes.fi

KT: Harmonising wages in health care to cost employers up to a billion euros

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYERS (KT) has urged lawmakers to mitigate the effects of the wage harmonisation necessitated by the upcoming social, health care and local government reform.

Markku Jalonen, the labour market director at KT, on Monday reminded that the wage harmonisation is expected burden employers in the social and health care sector with substantial costs, ranging from roughly a hundred million to almost a billion euros.

The wages, he underscored, should under no circumstances be aligned with the highest wages in each hospital district but rather with the median wage, for example.

Employee and employer organisations remain up to hundreds of millions of euros apart in their estimates of the costs of the harmonisation, partly because there have yet to be any negotiations on the remuneration system to be adopted as part of the massive reform.

The harmonisation is to be carried out as approximately 220,000 employees of hospital districts and local governments move on to the payrolls of counties most likely at the beginning of 2021, unless the reform bill fails to pass in the Finnish Parliament.

Labour market organisations also disagree on whether the harmonisation should be implemented through legislation or negotiations.

Public Sector Negotiating Commission (JUKO), the largest bargaining body for social and health care professionals, for example, has been reluctant to allow lawmakers to intervene in wage formation, which has thus far been the responsibility of labour market organisations.

The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland (Tehy) reveals that wages for the same job can vary by hundreds of euros a month even within a single hospital district. Tehy views that the current situation is unlawful and has demanded that it be addressed as employees move from municipalities and hospital districts to counties as part of the reform.

“The harmonisation should have already been carried out. Hospital districts are paying different wages for the same job without no proper justification,” states Else-Mai Kirvesniemi, the head of labour market affairs at Tehy.

She laments that lawmakers have failed to address the issue, despite being aware of it for a long time.

 

Source :  helsinkitimes.fi

Left Alliance’s proposal would reduce disposable income for people earning over €3,500

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Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance, assures that the opposition party’s social security model would only reduce net income for individuals earning more than 3,500 euros a month. (Credit: Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)
Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance, assures that the opposition party’s social security model would only reduce net income for individuals earning more than 3,500 euros a month. (Credit: Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

 

Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance, underscores that the social security system advocated by the opposition party would only have a negative impact on the disposable income of individuals earning more than 3,500 euros a month.

“Net income, or the amount of disposable income, would increase up until monthly earnings of roughly 3,500 euros,” she stated in a press conference in Helsinki on Tuesday.

The Left Alliance on Tuesday presented its proposal for overhauling the social security system in Finland. The system, it stated, should ultimately be based on a universal basic income of 800 euros a month as it would remove the need for people to resort to the social allowance to supplement their low earnings.

The proposal would also introduce a progressive tax on earnings exceeding 800 euros.

“One tax table would be such that the lowest tax rate would be approximately 30 per cent and the highest approximately 60 per cent on the part exceeding the amount of basic income,” explained Andersson.

The Left Alliance admitted that the social security reform could not be carried out in full until the electoral term starting in 2023. Finland, however, should take the first step towards the system as early as during the next electoral term by consolidating a number of social security benefits into a basic benefit tied to the cost-of-living index.

 

Source : Helsinki Times

Dozens exposed to measles in Ostrobothnia, Western Finland

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A stock photo of a bottle containing a measles vaccine next to a syringe at the Miami Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida, on 28 January 2015. (Credit: Joe Raedle – AFP)
A stock photo of a bottle containing a measles vaccine next to a syringe at the Miami Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida, on 28 January 2015. (Credit: Joe Raedle – AFP)

 

Annika Saarikko (Centre), the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, has urged parents to vaccinate their children following news that a case of measles has been confirmed in Ostrobothnia, Western Finland.

“An infection in a region with low vaccination coverage. Community immunity is important. I wish the young patient a speedy recovery. A reminder from the bottom of my heart: mothers and fathers, vaccinate your children,” she stated on Twitter on Thursday.

Mediauutiset reported earlier yesterday that an unvaccinated preschool-aged child has been diagnosed with measles in Luoto, Ostrobothnia, after returning from a family holiday in the Middle East. Dozens of their family members and friends have been exposed to the highly contagious disease, according to the Vaasa Central Hospital. People infected with measles are infectious approximately four days before and after the onset of rash, which is a classic sign of the virus.

The child in question may have come in contact with people in a daycare centre, in a hospital in Kokkola and at a public event during the communicable period.

The Vaasa Central Hospital also revealed that many of the people exposed are either not vaccinated or only partly vaccinated against the virus, which can be transmitted by direct contact or airborne droplets.

Luoto has a population of roughly 5,500 and is located between Kokkola and Pietarsaari in Ostrobothnia.

 

Source : Helsinki Times

Niinistö signs initiative calling for more ambitious climate measures

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Finnish President Sauli Niinistö is one of 16 heads of state to sign an initiative calling for determined and swift action to stop climate change and adapt to its adverse effects. (Credit: Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö is one of 16 heads of state to sign an initiative calling for determined and swift action to stop climate change and adapt to its adverse effects. (Credit: Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

 

President Sauli Niinistö and 15 of his fellow heads of state have signed an initiative for more climate ambition.

Spearheaded by Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, the initiative urges all parties to the Paris Agreement, an agreement within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to take joint, decisive and swift action to stop the global climate crisis.

“Current measures taken by the international community […] are not sufficient to reach the long-term goals set out in the Paris Agreement. More has to be done – and action needs to be quick, decisive and joint,” it reads.

“We, the heads of state and governments signing this declaration, are convinced that effective measures to combat climate change are not only necessary in their own right, but will bring about additional co-benefits and new opportunities for our economies and societies. We are confident that substantial measures will help us lead our planet into a safe, peaceful and prosperous future.”

The other signatories include the presidents of Germany, Iceland, Italy and Switzerland, and the prime ministers of Sweden and the Netherlands.

The initiative was launched on the eve of the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, which according to the signatories is of particular significance as it will determine implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement.

Its signatories urge all parties to the agreement to formulate and communicate by 2020 their respective strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the long-term goals of the agreement. Global average temperatures, they highlight, have already risen by roughly 1ºC above pre-industrial levels, signalling an unprecedented increase in the history of humankind.

“The climate crisis is a concern to all of us. Global warming impedes the global economy. It threatens various sectors including agriculture, forestry, tourism, energy and water supplies and, inevitably, it is a serious threat to peace and stability around the globe,” they emphasise.

 

Source : Helsinki Times

Finland urges EU to invest in reforestation projects in Africa

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Jari Leppä, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, has encouraged the European Union to adopt reforestation as one of the themes of its new partnership with Africa. (Credit: Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)
Jari Leppä, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, has encouraged the European Union to adopt reforestation as one of the themes of its new partnership with Africa. (Credit: Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)

 

Finland has urged the European Union to adopt reforestation as one of the themes of its newly announced partnership with Africa.

“Every year as much as two million hectares of forest is lost in Africa. One of the main reasons for this is the collection of firewood and clearing of arable land,” Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä (Centre) stated yesterday at the Forest Academy, a meeting of decision makers from the EU organised by Finland and Sweden.

Finland, he revealed, is proposing that a forest fund be established as part of the so-called Africa—Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, a comprehensive partnership programme announced in September by Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission. One of the main objectives of the programme is to create up to 10 million jobs for youth in Africa by 2023.

Leppä pointed out that the sustainable use of forest resources would not only support efforts to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but also promote employment in the rural areas of Africa.

“Investments worth billions are needed in afforestation, forestry and the management and protection of forests,” said Leppä.

Finland, the most forested country in the EU, is set to promote sustainable forest management and afforestation also as part of its Presidency of the European Union in 2019.

Mika Anttonen, the founder and chairman of the board at St1, has been one of the most vocal advocates of reforesting Africa in Finland, saying repeatedly that reforestation is one of the key means to combat climate change and absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

The Finnish energy company has even launched a commercial project with the ambitious objective of reforesting 85 per cent of Sahara.

“The positive effects would particularly include those related to climate refugees,” Anttonen saidin his speech at last year’s Forest Days, an event organised annually in Helsinki by the Finnish Forest Association.

Finnfund, a Finnish finance development company, has similarly said it has invested hundreds of millions of euros in commercial afforestation projects in Africa.

 

Source : Helsinki Times

Vapaavuori: Is Helsinki getting its money’s worth from membership in Kuntaliitto?

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Jan Vapaavuori (NCP), the Mayor of Helsinki, says the capital has to examine whether it is getting its money’s worth from its membership in the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities. (Credit: Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)
Jan Vapaavuori (NCP), the Mayor of Helsinki, says the capital has to examine whether it is getting its money’s worth from its membership in the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities (Kuntaliitto). (Credit: Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

 

Jan Vapaavuori (NCP), the Mayor of Helsinki, has stated that the capital should carefully weigh up the merits of its membership in the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities (Kuntaliitto).

“Helsinki is paying roughly two million euros a year in membership fees to the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities,” Vapaavuori highlighted in a blog on Puheenvuoro on Tuesday. “It is my duty as mayor to consider and examine if we are spending this money smartly.”

“What kind of advocacy needs will we have in the future and how should we position ourselves in regards to them?”

Helsinki, he argued, is along with a couple of other large cities becoming increasingly different from the rest of the country – “for better or worse, whether we like it or not” – if only due to its size: the city has added a higher number of people to its population each year than the total number of residents in most municipalities in Finland.

“The age of cultural uniformity is if not crumbling, then dissolving also in Finland,” he wrote. “I have noted a number of times that people in the capital have a very different approach to, for example, immigrants, sexual minorities and vegan food, but also to car ownership and eating outside, than the rest of the country on average.”

His views are shared by Anni Sinnemäki (Greens), the Deputy Mayor for Urban Development at Helsinki.

“It has been easier to find partners from a couple of other large cities than from the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities. These are questions that have prompted us to consider whether the association is the right advocacy partner for us,” she commented on YLE Radio 1 on Wednesday.

Sirpa Paatero (SDP), the chairperson of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, told Uusi Suomi that the announcement will be taken seriously. She also reminded, however, that similar announcements were made following the publication of new municipal borders by then Minister of Public Administration and Local Government Henna Virkkunen (NCP) in 2012.

“But that didn’t happen. This isn’t the first time,” said Paatero.

 

Source : Helisnki Times