On Saturday 6th of February, there was a debate in Jarvenpää, organised by the students of the gymnasium. Six candidates from the main parties, all with a link to education, were participating and were asked a set of questions prepared by the students on various topics. Finland Politics was there to follow Pekka Sinisalo, President and one of the main candidates of the Finns Party in the Uusimaa region. The debate went very well for him when compared to other candidates, as he was very clear, honest and knowledgeable on the different topics, and very professional when it came to speaking in public.
He has been positive when it came to abortion, marriage of persons of same sex and their right for adoption, indicating however that these are not majority opinions in his party. When all the candidates for other parties were in favour of the legalisation of euthanasia, however without any obligation for doctors to perform it, he has indicated that he agrees with the idea under the condition of being very careful when drafting the law, as it is a difficult matter. And he reminded his young public that Hitler has also imposed a law on euthanasia with very devious objectives…
What is your personal history?
My family comes from Carelia, from Carelian Isthmus, a town called Svetogorsk (in Finnish: Enso), it is now a part of Russia. But personally I have lived in Uusimaa, and my family home is in Veikkola, near Kirkkonummi. I went to university and got a master in philosophy, with a major in Finnish and Scandinavian history.
What did you do after your studies?
I was teaching history during some years, and then I went to Luxemburg as a professor at the European school. At some moment, I was selected to work at the European Court of Justice. So I have been employed there and I was writing articles.
What is the link between your work in a European institution and the fact that you joined the Finns’ Party?
I joined the Finns Party at its beginning, when we had 0,54 % of the population voting for us, so we were a very little party at the time, over 10 years ago.
And why did you join?
The main reason was that Jussi Niinistö, now Member of Parliament, was my friend. He asked me if I would be interested.
What made you interested in politics?
The historical vision, and political science that I studied at the University.
Being an EU civil servant, how are you comfortable with the positions of the party with the EU?
That is a good question… It would take me a couple of days to answer that (he laughs). It is not so simple to express it in a short way.
What is your opinion about the EU?
There are some things that are good in the EU, but there are a lot of problems inside the EU as well. In addition, nowadays we just pay them, and they do not give us much back. Last year we gave them 1.2 billion euros and we got back around 400 million euros… It seems more or less ridiculous to be a member of the EU. And the bureaucracy inside of the EU, it is terrible. I work there, so I know about this.
We use to say in France that the EU bureaucracy is inspired by the French bureaucracy of the 50s…
Yes, it might be that!
And now that we speak about the EU, what about the situation with Greece?
There are a lot of difficulties in Greece. My opinion is that they are going to leave the Euro zone, it is the only way for them to get anywhere. And then in Finland we will not get any money back, and that is the way it is going to be!
Concerning Finland, what do you think are the main challenges for the next 4-5 years?
Economy, economy, and then … economy! The main problem is that nobody is getting any resources to make things work. It is always less money, less taxes, less everything. And it has a big influence all over this country. For example the army, the police, the custom services, they do not have enough money. So there is a lack of protection.
How did it come to that in Finland?
Because of the Euro! It is a too strong currency for Finland. It is good for Germany, but it is bad for Finland. If you compare with Sweden, they still have the crown and it works. So now we are stuck inside that Euro prison. And then we should leave the Euro. Maybe we should have a common currency between Sweden and Finland, and perhaps Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, a kind of Northern Euro. Euro is really a problem for us, it is too strong.
What are the main themes you would like to defend when you are elected in the Parliament?
There are a lot of things I would like to change! For example the situation of the school system: it does not work. Teachers are obliged to scale down every year, because the schools do not get enough money to function, so they have to cut their costs. It is going to be a very bad situation after 10 years, if it continues like that. Another problem is the lack of money to protect the population, army and police and so on. And one thing that I am not very proud of, the situation of the old people on pension, they are getting poorer and poorer. It is a shame for our country, and I would like to change that too. And these old people pay more taxes than us when we are working, it is a ridiculous situation to have to pay more on a pension than what you pay on a salary. This cannot be fair!
What is your opinion about the situation with Russia now?
As I told in the debate, we have 1 300 km of border with Russia, and that is a big issue. Russia is not a democracy, it has never been a democracy, and now there is a new tsar and he is called Putin. And the Russians still think that they are a great power, that they are like the USA. They are not, but they want to be. That is why the nationalism in Russia is developing more and more, it is growing. It is a bad thing, a very bad thing, for Finland for example, as we are so close to them. In history, they have been used to come here, for hundreds and hundreds of years, so there is a risk for us…
Yesterday, President Niinistöö has announced that the Finnish and Swedish military aviations are going to have a joint exercise with the US forces. What do you think of it?
It is not a problem. We have to give a sign to Russia indicating that “it is not against you, it is just an exercise”. But the Russians are not thinking like that. They think: “Now, they are going to NATO”.
So you mean that the exercise is a signal to Russia saying: if things go wrong, we may join NATO?
Yes. But the Russians see also that we are cooperating with them, and that we are not going to NATO.
What is your impression of the Finnish democracy, the way people get elected?
Our way to elect candidates is very democratic, we vote for people and not for imposed lists like in France or Sweden for example. So everybody can go into the Parliament, not only those at the top of the list. It is good that people vote for people.
I have remarked in the debate that you differentiated yourself from Timo Soini on certain topics. Are there in your party a number of accepted divergences on certain topics?
Not really, but there is this couple of topics where we have different opinions. For example, for homosexuality and so on, it is not a party’s opinion, it is a personal opinion.But the main line is the same, in the Finns Party the main line is totally clear for us.
Is there on immigration a party opinion?
Yes, more or less so, it is not too strict. The party line is clear: if you come here to work, it is OK. If you come here to try to get our social benefits, then it is not OK.
Recently EVA, a think-tank which is linked to the employers’ organisations, has suggested to double immigration to allow Finland to face the economic challenges.
I was a bit surprised about that, because we have 300 000 people unemployed in this country. Perhaps you could give them work first, and then take people from outside.
Is it that these 300 000 people cannot take the jobs? Are they not sufficiently qualified?
They may be also too qualified. There is also something that nobody speaks about in Finland: age racism. You are considered as too old at 45 or 55, so you are out of the market. That is totally ridiculous. And it is something that I worry about.
More about Pekka Sinisalo and his ideas on his campaign blog here.