Finland’s government agrees on anti-racism plan after series of scandals

The policy is the right-wing coalition government answer to discrimination scandals that emerged since coming into power in June.

Finland's Prime Minister Petteri Orpo says his government agreed to tackle racism and discrimination [File: Markus Schreiber/AP Photo]

Finland’s government has agreed on a policy to fight racism after months of accusations against the right-wing coalition government.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, whose conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) narrowly won the April election, said on Thursday that his government agreed to tackle racism and discrimination.

“Every minister in the government will renounce racism and commit to active work against racism in Finland and internationally,” he said during a joint news conference with the three other party leaders.

After winning the election in June, the government was racked by scandals after reports of ministers from the Finns Party, part of the four-party coalition, posting articles that were deemed racist and bigoted.

Economy Minister Vilhelm Junnila was forced to resign over repeated references to Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler and the Nazis he had made on social media and in campaign adverts, which he said was a joke.

Finance Minister and Finns party leader Riikka Purra apologised in July for comments she acknowledged she had posted anonymously online about 15 years ago, but she argued they were taken out of context.

People participate in anti-racism protest
People participate in a demonstration against racism and the Finnish government in Helsinki [File: Anne Kauranen/Reuters]

In an old blog post, Purra wrote, “If I was given a gun, there’d be corpses.” She made the remark after a child from a migrant background had mimicked shooting her with fingers.

On Thursday, Purra said, “I would like to emphasise that I and the Finns party and everyone else will stand behind this [Orpo’s] statement as a whole.”

Several officials have apologised for comments made since the coalition government came to power.

Finland’s Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen had to apologise to Turkey for a blog post in 2008 where she referred to a man as a “Turkish monkey” under a pseudonym.

Valtonen said the comments were “not representative of our values and will never be”.

The string of scandals from the newly elected government sparked tensions with the centrist Swedish People’s Party (SPP), which is a member of the coalition.

But the SPP leader Anna-Maja Henriksson said her party supported the new policy, making it unlikely that the government would face enough support for a no-confidence vote.

“For SPP, it has been a question of whether we can participate in the government or not going forward. The announcement is a clear indication that the government does not accept racism of any kind,” Henriksson said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies