Cablegate: Finnish Fm Tuomioja Opines On the Evils Of

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/18/2014


1. (C) Finland's Foreign Minister, Erkki Tuomioja (SDP),
raised eyebrows by posting an essay to his personal website
alleging a "systematic campaign" by the Finnish mainstream
media to promote a "rightwing" social and foreign policy
agenda. Tuomioja's essay was directed against Finland's
leading newspaper, the Helsingin Sanomat (HS), and its Chief
Editor, Janne Virkkunen. Virkkunen penned an editorial that
appeared in the HS on November 14 in which he lamented the
conformity of Finland's "consensus" system of politics and
praised a new report by the Center for Finnish Business and
Policy Studies (EVA) entitled "Roadmap to Finland's Future
Success." The "Roadmap" report advocates labor market
reforms and calls for increasing productivity through longer
working hours in order to meet the challenges of
globalization as well as Finland's ticking demographic time
bomb. Tuomioja, in unusually strong language, accused
Virkkunen and his newspaper of "feeding porridge to a
reluctant nation" and telling workers to "work twice as hard
for half their wages in order for the elite to enjoy greater
incomes, preferably without the taxman interfering." The
website essay sparked the inevitable controversy in the
Finnish media. The essay, which originally appeared on the
site late on the 15th, disappeared the next day. However,
the essay reappeared again, apparently unedited, on the 17th.

A Trial Balloon?

2. (C) Tuomioja is known for shooting from the hip,
although the essay was somewhat shrill even by his standards.
If anything, the Helsingin Sanomat is more often left of
center on key issues, and the foreign minister's assertion to
the contrary is probably seen by most Finns as an
exaggeration bordering on the absurd. Moreover, Virkkunen's
offending editorial was relatively measured in tone, stating
that it was a "healthy sign" that differing opinions on
globalization and economic issues were being heard, and that
the Social Democrats should be more open to discussion of
dissenting views. The editorial also mentioned a report
submitted last week by a globalization task force appointed
by Prime Minister Vanhanen that offered suggestions similar
to those in the EVA "Roadmap."

3. (C) Tuomioja has held forth on his website on all manner
of social, cultural, and political issues in the past, and
his musings are no strangers to controversy. However, the
current piece could be more artifice and design than random
reaction. Tuomioja is considering whether to run for the SDP
chairmanship next summer. Although Finland's next general
election is not until 2007, the Foreign Minister may be
contemplating his chances to become prime minister (should
the SDP win) or to run for President (should Tarja Halonen
decline to run again). Tuomioja and Halonen are the leaders
of the SDP's left wing. A recent poll found that Tuomioja
was the least popular with SDP party members of the major
contenders for the SDP chair; however, the same poll found
that Tuomioja was the most popular contender with the public
at large. The odd essay might be a trial balloon of sorts,
or an attempt to gain yet more popular support so as to be
able to present himself to the SDP braintrust next summer as
"the man who can win back the prime ministership." Finland
is currently experiencing a major transportation workers
strike as a dispute over the hiring of part-time bus drivers
has spread, and Tuomioja's populist rhetoric could be
designed to tap into what he perceived to be public anger
over greedy employers exploiting average Finns. If so,
judging from the initial public reaction to the essay (and
the strike), he may have overreached.

© Scoop Media

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