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Erkki Tuomioja: Sweden has done more than anyone, but freedom is being eroded

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Helsingin Sanomat
Erkki Tuomioja: Sweden has done more than anyone, but freedom is being eroded
Erkki Tuomioja: Sweden has done more than anyone, but freedom is being eroded
Former Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja (SDP) praises Sweden for its role in helping with the current migrant crisis, but argues against imposing new border restrictions to stop the flow of asylum seekers. HSTV’s Newsmakers programme is hosted by David Mac Dougall.

Former Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja (SDP) has praised Sweden for its role in dealing with the migrant crisis, but says he is "very concerned" about new border controls.

Speaking on HSTV's English-language current affairs show Newsmakers, the Social Democrat Party grandee says that "one of the best achievements of European integration, free movement of people, is being eroded".

"We are seeing a domino effect, one country after another re-introducing border controls because we do not control the outer borders of the European union"

Tuomioja's comments come as Sweden implements new passport checks on the border bridge with Denmark, a move designed to curtail the flow of migrants.

"I'm very concerned about the situation" says Tuomioja, who was twice Foreign Minister of Finland, for more than a decade in total, under five different Prime Ministers. "Everybody has been forced into a situation where they are resorting to national measures which will only incur costs for everyone, not least of course those who are in real need of security and refuge".

The veteran politician, who first entered parliament in 1970, says that asylum applications must be processed immediately upon arrival in the EU, "but that does not mean they should stay in that country because it would impose unfair burdens on some countries. So we have to share the responsibility with all countries".

Tuomioja supports a refugee quota system, where all EU countries are compelled to take their fair share. He praises Sweden for its leading role in the current crisis, saying that Finland's Nordic neighbour have "done more than anyone in Europe".

But he also says Finland should be praised for its work in coping with the unprecedented humanitarian situation. "When a crisis like this occurs, we do get our act together in a few days... better than any other country in Europe has done. We do not leave people outside without shelter, we feed them, we shelter them".

Drawing on his experience with foreign relations, Tuomioja says that the migrant crisis will only be solved when the root cause of the problem - conflict in the Middle East - is solved first. "I think that we are hopefully making some success against ISIS" he says.

Turning to domestic politics, Tuomioja says his party is "recovering very slowly" from more than a decade of declining support. In the 2015 general election, the Social Democrats suffered their worst ever result, losing 8 seats and slumping to 4th at the ballot box. However, recent opinion polls have but SDP back on top in a closely-fought battle, with just a few percentage points separating the main parties.

Tuomioja cites the government's unpopular policies, and some defections from the Finns Party, for SDPs relatively healthy poll numbers.

People voted for the Finns Party at the last election "because they were dissatisfied with the growing income inequalities in the country, and the running down of the social services, education, etc, and obviously these people are the ones who are most disappointed with the policies the True Finns are now implementing in the government".

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