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finland Politics

Finland’s super popular President Sauli Niinistö meeting with Donald Trump

What is the Niinistö – Trump Meeting About?

Finland’s super popular President Sauli Niinistö is meeting with US President Donald Trump on 2 October at the White House. The 100th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Finland and the United States is the reason for the meeting, according to a statement from the Finnish Presidency. European and Arctic security (code words for Russia) will also be discussed.

In our view the key points of concern here are:

  • A possible new arms race in Europe
  • European energy security
  • Two recent nuclear-related accidents in Russia

Don’t expect much public clarity about any of these points following the meeting or afterwards. Follow Niinistö though if you’re interested in US – Russia relations. Or US – Finland relations for that matter. Also follow him if you’re enough of a politics junkie to enjoy press conferences with ultra-awkward body language.

August 2017 Niinistö – Trump press conference

Niinistö vs Trump Popularity Contest

At the least, Niinistö meeting with Trump is an occasion to comment on their differences.

Niinistö’s approval ratings have consistently been high. Nearly all respondents of a recent poll thought he was doing a good job. During a speech this week to the UN General Assembly, Niinistö focused on the need to address climate change, which is already occurring ‘from the Arctic to the Amazon,’ he said.

On the other hand, the opposition Democrats have just launched a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump. Polls show the US president’s approval rating to be about 43%. His speech to the UN General Assembly focused on threats aimed at other countries and championing nationalism.

Upon arriving at the UN he got dirty looks from Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who later bested him on social media taunts.

Who is Sauli Niinistö?

Niinistö has been president of Finland since 2012 (Finland’s presidency has 6-year terms). He was reelected in 2018, notably becoming the first Finnish president to be elected in the first round of voting. During his time in office, Niinistö’s seen four different prime ministers, giving him plenty of perspective on how governments in Finland, or in the United States, can come and go. Finland’s current Prime Minister Antti Rinne has his hands full with some controversial economic reforms and the longevity of his government is under question.

On 24 September, Niinistö tweeted about meeting UK economist Nicholas Stern (someone who is very concerned about climate change), emphasising how important this issue is for Finland and Niinistö personally.

Niinistö is also not shy about meeting some of the more difficult leaders in global politics. For example:

Personality Matters in Politics

Of course personality is what really matters in politics. Niinistö is pretty likable in the eyes of most Finns. He’s not done much that would make him controversial in Finland. He comes across as trustworthy and honest. He also shares photos of hockey games, along with images of his baby son and Boston Terrier dog.

Niinistö Walks the Line

We’re not expecting much to come out of Niinistö’s meeting with Trump. We do think that the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry will ultimately help Trump gain votes in 2020 and probably aid his reelection. That means Finland will need leaders who, like Niinistö, can have positive relationships with other politicians with whom they don’t see eye to eye on all issues.

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finland

Crime in Finland, just how safe is the happiest country in the world?

True story. In 2011, a newspaper in Finland reported on an alleged shoplifter, who was accused of eating part of a pickle without paying for it. He had put the rest of the pickle back. Needless to say the store was forced to dispose of the contaminated pickles.

Another true story. Around 2010, a man sprinted across a snowy Hakaniemi Square carrying a jacket that he’d shoplifted from a nearby store. A security guard pursued. He grabbed the man’s leg and brought him down on the icy sidewalk at the corner of Hakaniemen ranta and John Stenbergin ranta.“Stop or I’ll use spray,” he said in halting English as they wrestled. Threatened by the pepper spray, the shoplifter gave up and was compliantly escorted back to the store.

Finland crime

Crime in Finland is rare and low scale. The past few weeks offer a slight variation on this story though. On 9 September, police raided an apartment in the Jätkäsaari neighborhood, searching for a man who had robbed a nearby convenience store the day before, apparently with a gun. Police thanked citizens for helping to identify the man, who was arrested.

Police prepare to detain a criminal in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki.

Meanwhile, on 5 September, police shot a man in the city of Tampere who was threatening residents with two handguns. On 25 August, two police officers were shot and injured in Porvoo. Two suspects were apprehended following a high speed chase and have appeared in court. On 23 July, a shooting occurred at the intersection of Hietalahdenkatu and Porkkalankatu in central Helsinki.

All of the above are exceptional events. Crime in Finland is low. Some concern exists that in the coming years (and, yes, years, not next year or the year after), a significant increase in violent crime will occur, similar to what has been experienced in some areas of Sweden.

It’s too soon to know, though it’s highly possible that this occurs. In terms of public perceptions, many citizens will probably believe that crime is increasing amid a greater level of reporting and information dissemination. If you live in Finland and read the police Twitter account and Iltalehti instead of Helsingin Sanomat, you’ll probably feel nervous about the direction of society.

Now that we’ve mildly disparaged Iltalehti readers (among which SuloNorth is counted) let’s look at some data, namely Q1 and Q2 criminal offenses from 2015 to 2019

Crime in numbers

In terms of overall numbers, Finland appears to be even safer so far in 2019 (based on preliminary data), with a fall in total recorded offenses.

  • 398,630 (2015)
  • 396,331 (2016)
  • 427,594 (2017)
  • 424,219 (2018)
  • 326,543 (2019)

Of course, our question is what caused the rise in total offenses in 2017 and 2018? Will adjusted data for 2019 be dramatically different from what’s been published now?

We would like to be hitting refresh on the official statistics page and download the finalized data. But we’re not. Even for a country of only 5.5 million people, crime in Finland is remarkably low. Less than 2,000 residences were broken into during January to June 2019. Numbers of robberies have stayed about the same between January to June 2015 to 2019 at approximately 800.  

Narcotics offenses are up though, with 14,250 in 2019 compared to 11,749 in 2015. Sexual crimes have also increased include the sexual abuse of a child (from 629 in 2015 to 813 in 2019) and rape (from 481 in 2015 to 715 in 2019). Part of this increase is due to more reporting of these types of incidents, which is positive, but the overall rise is concerning. 

January to June 2019 also saw a notable rise in murders, rising to 41 from 34 in 2018. In 2015, the number was 46.

Keep it all in perspective. Finland’s Interior Ministry says that bicycles are the most common stolen object in Finland.