By Enrique Tessieri
The lead story in Sunday’s Helsingin Sanomat is about how racism and intolerance at home have tarnished Finland’s image abroad, according to a survey of Finnish expats living in different countries. Even if the daily blames the rise of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party for our country’s questionable image, the real culprits are none other than us.
What Helsingin Sanomat forgets to tell its readers is that such a negative international image will cost us dearly, especially during a time when we need more skilled immigrants and foreign investment in our country.
The economic damage caused to Finland by our near-silence and the vacillating stance of our media and too many politicians to racism and populism is a big one. The longer we remain quiet on this front and flirt with our silence with parties like the PS, the more we will continue to destroy our good image abroad.
Before Finland’s entry into the European Union in 1995, the foreign ministry worked hard to improve our negative international image caused by Finlandization. While our refugee policy and draconian treatment of immigrants before 1983, when Finland’s first Aliens’ Act came into force, officials ran the Aliens’ Office like a state within a state.
Issues like racism took backstage in the international media because of Finlandization and due to the size of our underwhelming immigrant population, which totaled about 7,000 in the 1970s. Most of these “foreigners” were native Finns who were naturalized citizens of other countries.
The experiment by 19.1% of the population in the April election to seek the help of a populist, anti-EU, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim party to lead us in this decade is proving to be a mistake.
There are positive signs, however, that voters have had enough of the PS’ political shenanigans as the presidential election showed.
Apart from voters giving the thumbs down to anti-EU presidential hopefuls like Center Party’s Paavo Väyrynen and PS’ Timo Soini, the party has been damaged by numerous scandals in the media that have exposed the racism, homophobia and anti-democratic credentials of some of its MPs.