Every country has a sensitive nerve. Find and touch it and you will hear pain – or outrage. In the US it is Washington’s unilateral approach to foreign policy, accepting that it was a crime against humanity to drop two atom bombs on Japan, in Spain it is the pillaging of Latin America from the 16th century, in France it is accepting that French culture has been relegated to a second-class global status, in Argentina it is being an animal rights advocate and in Germany it is exposing in great detail the crimes committed against the Jews and other nationalities during the Nazi regime.
What is Finland’s vulnerable nerve? In my opinion it is having a totally new look at Russia and immigration in general. Specifically, seeing these two latter matters as an opportunity – not as a gas pump to feed one’s nationalism and an opportunity to exploit to the maximum.
Those who know little about Finland will usually claim that the country has been hardened by its uneasy relationship with its giant eastern neighbor Russia. Three terrible wars (Civil, Winter and Continuation) shaped how some Finns saw the outside world. Basically it was seen as a threat compared with being an opportunity.
If anything, Finnish immigration policy, especially after the Second World War, reflects this attitude. Imagine, if the “white” Russians have caused so much harm to Finland, what kind of a unknown threat would other cultures pose on the country? Finland’s attitude towards outsiders had also been expressed in its antiquated foreign investment laws that prohibited foreigners from owning stakes in key industries such a forestry, own land etc. The law, which came into force in 1939, was only thrown into the trashcan of history after Finland became a EU member in 1995.
Even though I have a lot of hope that matters will eventually change for the better in Finland, I’m not holding my breath. Many of the policy makers who are now drafting Finland’s immigration and multicultural policy grew up during the cold war era, when Finland walked a very thin geopolitical line. Another factor that has kept Finland’s immigration policy lost in time is that it is guided mostly by nationalist emotions. How many foreigners or sons of foreigners wield enough power in Finland to influence such decisions? Very few – if none. The situation is a bit like being a white racially ignorant social worker from Alabama offering advice to Blacks in Harlem. The best people to help such Blacks are the Blacks from Harlem.
To conclude, Finland’s stance and policy on immigration is like the internationalization that Finnish companies underwent in the 1980s. They became “international” companies but had few if any non-Finns working for them.