As Finland plans to open two of its eight border crossing points Thursday, Interior Minister Mari Rantanen was busy on A-studio spreading her usual bravado and get-tough-on-migrant soundbites earmarked principally for the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party’s supporters.
Rantanen has a funny habit of smiling after a difficult comment. According to her, some 900 asylum seekers were a threat to national security and therefore Finland had to close the border with Russia.
It’s pretty clear that after breaking its campaign, like promising lower fuel prices at the pumps and food prices, coupled with massive cutbacks in social welfare spending, the PS is in deep trouble with its supporters.
After the European Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, rebuked Rantanen for the closure of the border, Poland’s new Prime Minister Donald Tusk gave a strong speech at the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, that gave hope against the toxic tide of anti-immigration rhetoric, which runs also high in Finland. as well.
“The criticism [by EU Commissioner Miatovic] doesn’t have any bearing on our decision [to open up two border crossings] since the government has been guided by national security, which has been the main factor for closing the [Finnish-Russian] border,” said Rantanen.
Interior Minister Mari Rantanen (left) and Prime Minister Donald Tusk are two very different politicians. Sources: Yle and Wikipedia
In many respects, Tusk’s speech was not only directed at the outgoing ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), but against xenophobic politicians like Rantanen and other ones in other European countries.
Speaking out against xenophobia and outlining the principles of his new government, Tusk vowed:
“I protest against the marginalization of Poland’s role in the international arena.”
I protest against the xenophobia introduced by the authorities into public debate.
I protest against the hostile attitude of the authorities towards immigrants.”
It is tragic that a country like Finland, which survived the Cold War and became a modern EU state, is backpedaling on its commitments to human rights and minority rights.
Hopefully, Finland and other EU countries will see more leadership from politicians like Tusk to awaken the region from its far-right slumber.