Bank strike closes branches, slows down services and delays meetings

Summary:
Finnish banks started a new two-day strike on Thursday, 4 January, as the parties did not reach agreement in settlement negotiations. The previous strike was held last week. The finance industry strike is expected to affect customers similarly to last week’s strike. Most branches are closed and other services are limited. However, a new twist to the strike that begins on Thursday is that the ICT industry supports it so that they do not fix problems in bank systems during the strike. Banks inform their customers about the strike’s impacts on their websites. The customers are advised to prepare for slower services and longer waiting hours, In addition, meetings may be rescheduled.

President Niinistö’s message in New Year’s speech: « Finland likes to offer services when there is demand for them »

Summary:
Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö spoke about various topics in his annual New Year’s speech. In the part that focused on foreign affairs, President Niinistö talked about the major powers, North Korea and climate change. According to President Niinistö, the small Finland has its own place in world politics, and the country likes to offer its services to others when there is demand for them, while the world is spinning around and major powers control world politics. President Niinistö is concerned over the shrinking roles of the European Union and United Nations (UN). Finland supports the initiative to reform the UN, with the aim to increase the effectiveness and responsibility of the organisation, the President said. In his speech, President Niinistö also expressed a wish on stopping climate change and progress of the Paris Climate Agreement. He pointed out that Finland is taking responsibility in the sector. The planet is not only for us, it is for continuity, and that we must guarantee, the President stated.

In his second term, Sauli Niinistö would like to lead Finland “by way of three peaces”

Summary:
Helsingin Sanomat interviews President Sauli Niinistö, who says that if he was re-elected in the upcoming Presidential elections in January, he would approach his second term through « three peaces ». By this, the President means avoiding wars, as well as maintaining the peace of nature and society. What comes to relations with Russia, President Niinistö finds that they are as good as they can be under the circumstances. « Under the circumstances means that Finland was the first to condemn the Crimea takeover and Finland has shown its support to sanctions, » the President adds. He declines to comment on under what circumstances Finland should join NATO. However, the President says that if Sweden joined NATO, Finland should consider its options. In EU affairs, President Niinistö does not believe that Brexit is a breaking point for EU. When Finland becomes EU president in autumn 2019, President Niinistö thinks that Finland should then keep mutual solidarity as well as security issues on the agenda.

Finland might have to agree on increasing joint liability in EMU

Summary:
Finland’s government outlined in October that Finland emphasises market discipline and member states’ own responsibility in the development of EMU. Finland does not support reforms that increase joint liability of member states, the government stated. Taneli Lahti of the Federation of Finnish Industries says that when looking at the euro area, Finland is in the minority with its opinion, Verkkouutiset reports. Mr Lahti thinks that the majority of euro member states support some kind of a cyclical adjustment mechanism. The European Commission publishes its proposals on EMU’s future on 6 December. Mr Lahti thinks the Commission could propose a cyclical adjustment mechanism or euro area’s own budget. « During the next weeks or months, EMU will start moving ahead, » Mr Lahti says.

Survey: Finns less keen on Nato membership

Summary:
The number of Finns supporting Finland’s Nato membership is declining, shows a survey by the Advisory Board For Defence Information (ABDI). 22% of the respondents said they see Nato membership positively. It seems that the EU crises have not affected Finns’ trust in the Union’s future: 58% say their trust in EU’s future has not changed. Furthermore, Finns’ trust in the EU as a security institution has slightly grown. Issues that concern Finns the most include the refugee crisis, international terrorism and climate change. The most important threat that Finland should be prepared for in the next decade is terrorism in Finland, the respondents found.

Petteri Orpo: EU defence cooperation is also in the interests of the US

Summary:
Verkkouutiset writes that according to Finland’s Minister of Finance Petteri Orpo, worries over the weakened security situation in Europe and the US demands of more fair burden sharing have made it clear that Europe must take responsibility for its own defence. Orpo says that tightening the European defence cooperation is the long-term goal of Finland in the EU. However, the EU will not become a defence union. Nato and EU will be complementary structures, and tightening EU cooperation does not contradict Nato. For Finland, both cooperating with Nato and developing EU defence is very important.

Minister Kai Mykkänen: Russia is breaching its commitments

Summary:
According to Minister of Foreign Trade Kai Mykkänen, the trade between Finland and Russia is recovering. Exports are growing and the number of visas granted to Russian tourists has clearly increased from last year. However, the Minister is concerned over Russia’s increasingly strong import substitution policy. When it comes to state-owned companies, Russia is breaching its World Trade Organisation commitments. Mr Mykkänen is to discuss the issue with Russian colleagues and adds that also EU and Russia should discuss it. Minister Mykkänen says that though the Russian economy is growing slightly, no boom is expected, which means that the superpower ideology continues to dominate after next spring’s election in Russia.