The ongoing debate about the perceived threat of dual nationals in Finland and the proximity of municipal elections should raise some serious questions. One of these is why are we having such a discussion now and who is fueling it?
The answer is more than obvious and highlights a segment of society that refuses to see multicultural Finns, migrants and minorities as equal members of society. These are none other than the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* and other parties that are suspicious of cultural diversity in varying degrees, like the Center Party and National Coalition Party.
The proximity of the municipal elections on April 9 is crucial for the PS, which has seen its popularity in the polls plummet, to show to its government partners that it is still has political life in it.
Thursday’s A-studio talked about the threat that dual citizens pose. PS MP Simon Elo revealed with his comments that plans to discriminate against dual nationals and water down their rights is a general political strategy of his anti-immigration populist party to undermine cultural diversity in Finland. See full talk show here.
The debate on dual citizenship in Finland reveals how institutional racism works in this country and how some political parties will stop at nothing to undermine the civil rights of minorities.
YLE News published on January 31 a story where it claimed that the defense forces place restrictions on dual nationals of Finland and Russia.
“Finnish Defense Forces have not been waiting for legislative changes but have adopted their own rules and procedures for dealing with Russian-Finnish dual nationals,” YLE News reported.
After such a scoop, Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö, who is a member of the PS and whose far-right views are well-known, and representatives of the defense forces have gone on record to either deny that such restrictions on dual nationals are part of a wider policy.
Another YLE News story on Wednesday added more fuel to such allegations by citing an insider source who claims that it is the defense forces’ intelligence department that is responsible for such policy guidelines against dual citizens.
YLE News published on Thursday a new story where a woman was denied a job at a garrison kitchen because of her Finnish and Russian citizenship.
An email from the subcontractor that serves the garrison tells why they cannot hire the woman: “Our employer [defense forces] demands that employees must be Finnish citizens, not dual citizens.” Source: YLE News.
Certainly the PS, President Sauli Niinistö, who is most likely seeking re-election in 2018, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä of the Center Party, are all eyeing the municipal elections and hope that this issue will attract votes.
In the debate we have other parties as well with a vested interest and which are suspicious of our ever-growing cultural diversity. These include the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo), National Border Guard and other ministries.
What are we supposed to make out of this?
For one, it should concern us that an institution like the defense forces, which claims it has zero tolerance for racism, takes the law in its hands and openly discriminates against dual citizens.
We must understand the context of the present debate, too. At around the year 2000, Finland passed a lot of far-reaching laws that marked the end of the stark days of the Cold War. To name a few of these far-reaching laws there was the new Constitution, Non-Discrimination Act, Integration act, and in 2003 the Nationality Act, which permitted dual citizenship.
Section 6 of the Constitution is crystal clear about non-discrimination in Finland:
Everyone is equal before the law.
No one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person.
These laws, however, have been under fire ever since the rise of the PS and other mainstream parties that should know better but continue to eye cultural diversity, and especially Russians, with suspicion.
The best example of the latter is what we are seeing as well in post-Brexit United Kingdom, the rise of far-right populism in other parts of Europe and Donald Trump in USAmerica.
A very worrying reminder of the hostility towards cultural and ethnic diversity in Finland is justice and employment minister, Jari Lindström, who was quoted as saying in YLE that he would be ready to debate changes in the constitution.
Should we be surprised that such calls to water down the non-discrimination clause of section 6 of the Constitution is being targeted by PS politicians? PS MP Kaj Turunen tweeted in December that the constitution has become hinderance and Islamophobic PS MP Laura Huhtasaari stated that country’s highest law is “partly outdated.”
Such statements and the ongoing debate is a much wider one that exposes the hostility that some Finns have of cultural diversity and how they fear that their power and privileges are being challenged.
For this reason, Finns, minorities and migrants should stand up and let politicians know that nobody in this country can take away our rights, those very rights that Finland has fought so hard to gain.
And consider that we are having this debate on its centenary year celebrations as an independent country.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. The direct translation of “Perussuomalaiset” is “basic” or “fundamental Finn.”