The Finnish government has announced a new anti-racism policy after a series of scandals involving racist and bigoted remarks by some of its ministers. The policy outlines measures to promote equality and fight discrimination in various aspects of Finnish life.
The right-wing coalition government, led by Prime Minister Petteri Orpo of the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP), has faced criticism and protests since it came to power in June. The government includes the populist Finns Party, whose leader Riikka Purra and several other ministers have been accused of making racist comments online and offline.
The most recent scandal involved Economy Minister Vilhelm Junnila, who resigned in August after making repeated references to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and attending a far-right event in 2019 that had links to neo-Nazis. Junnila said his remarks were jokes and apologized for any offense caused.
Other ministers who have apologized for their past comments include Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen, who called a man a “Turkish monkey” in a blog post in 2008, and Finance Minister Purra, who wrote “If I was given a gun, there’d be corpses” after a child from a migrant background mimicked shooting her with fingers.
The scandals have sparked tensions within the coalition and with the opposition parties, who have questioned the government’s commitment to fighting racism and discrimination. The former Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who leads the Social Democratic Party (SDP), said the Finns Party’s racism scandals were “no surprise” and accused them of spreading hate and fear.
On Thursday, Orpo said every minister in the government will renounce racism and commit to active work against racism in Finland and internationally. He said the government agreed on a policy that covers areas such as education, employment, health, security, culture and sports.
The policy aims to prevent and combat racism and hate speech, improve the integration of immigrants and minorities, enhance the diversity and inclusion of public administration and services, and support civil society organizations that work for equality and human rights.
Orpo said the policy is based on the values of democracy, rule of law, human dignity and equality. He said the government will monitor the implementation of the policy and report on its progress annually.
The announcement was welcomed by the centrist Swedish People’s Party (SPP), which is also part of the coalition. The SPP leader Anna-Maja Henriksson said her party supported the new policy and that it was a condition for their participation in the government.
The policy was also praised by some civil society groups and activists, who said it was a positive step towards addressing the problem of racism in Finland. However, they also urged the government to take concrete actions and allocate sufficient resources to ensure the policy’s effectiveness.