Stubb vehemently opposed to planned ban on begging
Foreign Minister would earmark funds for Roma from EU budget
Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb reported on Saturday that he is opposed to the planned ban on public begging that has been spearheaded by members of his own National Coalition Party.
The ban, referred to in recent articles linked below, has been argued for actively by the Minister of the Interior Anne Holmlund (Nat. Coalition Party), and has found support from the party's Parliamentary Group chairman Pekka Ravi and from the influential NCP MP Ben Zyskowicz.
In Stubb's view the outlawing of begging does not remove the fundamental problem, which is one of poverty.
He sees the panhandling issue as a matter to be handled at EU level, and one that must be resolved with financial means, in other words by assisting the Roma minorities in the countries from which they are leaving to beg on the streets of capital cities in other EU member-states.
"I take a very dim view of the ban - it does not compute in my own cause and effect logic one way or another. Poverty is not a crime, but naturally if you add to the equation organised crime in some shape or form, then it should be tackled using the normal legal means available", said Stubb on Saturday morning, as the week's guest in a regular interview programme on YLE's TV1.
Stubb proposed that the next round of EU budget negotiations should earmark money for improving the position of Roma in member-countries, for example by providing education.
The proposed ban on begging is also opposed by a number of legal experts, who question the effectiveness of the idea and warn that it will be discriminatory, and by the Swedish People's Party and the Greens, both junior members in the current coalition government.
The NCP's main coalition partner the Centre Party is also taking a less than enthusiastic stand on the issue.
Stubb's suggestion of earmarking EU funds found immediate support from the Greens.
Speaking in Tallinn, the Minister of Labour and Green chairperson Anni Sinnemäki commented that the pursuit of such an idea would be a concrete human rights initiative on Finland's behalf.
She also noted that Finland ought to demand that Romania and Bulgaria should direct EU Structural Funds heading their way to improving the lot of Roma in their countries.
The proposal for a complete ban on begging was presented to Interior Minister Holmlund on Wednesday by a working group set up to look into the matter.
Violations of the planned byelaws could result in day-fines.
The plans also call for the prohibition of illegal camping and of the organisation of begging.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Legal experts criticise proposed ban on begging (7.10.2010)
Working party in favour of a ban on public begging (6.10.2010)
Minister Holmlund: Ban on begging perhaps to be introduced even during present legislative period (20.9.2010)