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Parliament is rushing through a new gun law to allow the military to provide arms and ammunition for civilian volunteer defence training.
Tampere's Aamulehti writes (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, voluntary defence training began to attract growing numbers of participants in Finland. Courses organised by the National Defence Training Association (MPK) became so popular that there are now waiting lists.
Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) told the paper that an upcoming change in the law will relieve the situation, allowing the MPK to expand its course offerings by up to 50,000 additional days of training for volunteers.
In practice, the change in the law means that the National Defence Training Association will have access to weapons and ammunition from the Defence Forces and the Border Guard.
Kaikkonen emphasized to Aamulehti that the handling and use of weapons will be under the strict control and supervision of the military.
“No Wild West is on the way. The change in the law reflects the wishes of our citizens,” he said.
Parliament is debating the legislation this week. The law is expected to enter into force at the beginning of July.
Increased funds were allocated for defence spending this spring, and according to Kaikkonen, procurement is already underway to replace materials provided in aid to Ukraine.
Asked if Finland will be sending further military aid to Ukraine, the Finnish defence minister told Aamulehti, "It’s not out of the question. We will let you know when the decisions have been made."
PM attending Bilderberg
Following a somewhat cryptic announcement Tuesday by Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) that she would be spending a few days in Washington this week, papers report that she headed to the USA on Wednesday to attend a meeting of the high-powered Bilderberg group from Thursday to Saturday.
Helsingin Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) writes that the purpose of the meeting is to be an informal and confidential exchange of views between leading European and North American politicians, journalists, researchers, business representatives and experts.
Marin told HS Wednesday that the trip does not include a meeting with President Joe Biden.
Lauri Voionmaa, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister, told the paper that other meetings in Washington were being "tuned in", but the Bilderberg gathering is the PM's first priority.
The annual Bilderberg meeting was not held during the previous two years of the coronavirus pandemic. When the meeting was last held in 2019, the only Finnish representative in attendance was Erkki Liikanen, the former Governor of the Bank of Finland.
More talks with Turkey
Helsingin Sanomat also reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun)that Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Wednesday that he plans to call a meeting in Brussels within the next few days, inviting high-level representatives from Finland, Sweden and Turkey to seek a solution to Turkey's opposition to Finnish and Swedish membership in the alliance.
Turkey's primary objection is its claim that Finland and Sweden are too sympathetic to Kurdish organizations, which Turkey considers to be terrorist groups and a threat to its national security.
HS reports that Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) said Wednesday that there has been no real breakthrough in talks this week, and Turkish opposition continues.
However, while Haavisto does not believe that the differences are at a final impasse, he did describe it as a “nerve-wracking situation”.
Squeeze on consumers' wallets
In the euro-zone, inflation rose to 8.1 percent, a record in the 20-year history of the single currency. In Finland, also, consumer prices jumped by more than seven percent, and in Estonia, a destination popular with Finnish tourists, prices were up by as much as 20 percent.
The paper predicts that accelerating inflation will increase pressure from the European Central Bank to raise interest rates earlier than planned.
Prices and interest rates going up at the same time will put a squeeze on consumers' wallets. Means to compensate consumers for rising energy prices have been considered in many countries as one a way to safeguard purchasing power and curb wage demands. Another way, says Kauppalehti, would be to reduce income tax.
Kauppalehti argues that the European Central Bank should now raise interest rates in small increments so that the higher rates do not contribute to the economic downturn. The market expects interest rates to rise to 2 percent by 2024. That, the paper says, would still be a tolerable level for people paying off home loans.
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