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Eva Biaudet: Soini more interested in populist talk than hard work

David Mac Dougall
Eva Biaudet: Soini more interested in populist talk than hard work
Eva Biaudet: Soini more interested in populist talk than hard work
Swedish People's Party MP Eva Biaudet says Russia should be living up to its international obligations when it comes to securing the border; and criticises Foreign Minister Timo Soini for not being fully engaged in helping solve the migrant crisis. The former presidential candidate and Ombudsman for Minorities also hits out at cuts to education, and Helsinki University's plans to charge €25,000 to some foreign students, in this week's Newsmakers with David Mac Dougall.

Swedish People's Party MP Eva Biaudet says Russia should be living up to its international obligations when it comes to securing the borders, as new figures reveal more than 500 migrants have crossed from Russia to Finland so far this year.

Speaking on HSTV's English-language current affairs show Newsmakers, former presidential candidate Biaudet emphasised that the migrants should be seen as individuals who need help, and not merely statistics.

"I think it's important to remind ourselves that whatever has happened, if the Russians have turned a blind eye, or there's just corrupt border guards or systems, we need to remember that the people involved might be victims of trafficking, they might be asylum seekers, or they might just be people in distress" she says.

In recent weeke the government has taken part in 'shuttle diplomacy' with Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä travelling to meet his Russian counterpart; and Interior Minister Petteri Orpo hosting talks with senior officials, to try and improve cooperation over the suddenly-porous border.

Biaudet wouldn't be drawn on whether she thought there was any official mischief-making Kremlin policy to send migrants to Finland, but she conceded that "many borders leak, not because the systems are very bad, but because people get bad salaries and it's easy to buy yourself through".

In the past, Russian authorities had actively prevented people without a visa from cross into Finland.

Foreign Minister Timo Soini has been somewhat invisible during the border diplomacy talks with Russia. Biaudet thinks this is due to his dual role as leader of the Finns Party. "Because he [Timo Soini] is heading a populist party, he is more interested in the populist symbolic moves, not perhaps in the real hard work. And I think this is the sadness of it all".

Biaudet says that Soini's Foreign Ministry would normally be engaged on a range of multilateral issues that can positively impact the migrant crisis, such as relations with Turkey or African countries; providing funding for bilateral aid to refugee camps; and supporting United Nations humanitarian initiatives. But "for some reason, the Foreign Minister has not taken this on board".

She also notes that cuts to aid budgets and UN programmes are "where the politics comes in". "Money talks" notes Biaudet. "I think it's not the only sector where you can see the politics of this government is very short-sighted"

Turning to education, Biaudet laments the decision of Helsinki University to charge some international students from outside the EU and EEA up to €25,000 to study in the capital.

She called recent lay-offs of almost a thousand Helsinki University staff a "catastrophe for all of Finland".

"The problem with the fees are, if we would be the country that has a big influx and we would be very attractive to the best minds in the world, and the best researchers and the students, one might see this as a reasonable thing to do" says Biaudet. "But I think it will be problematic because it will not achieve its goals" she adds.

Biaudet, who served a five-year tenure as Ombudsman for Minorities, says that while Finnish education is high quality, the country attracts too few international students, and that Finland could benefit from being more international.

And she identifies another problem facing foreign students who come here from outside the EU.

"When we have international students the biggest problems is that they leave because they cannot find a work place, and that we have a very short time after having being graduated that you can actually stay and apply for a job" she says.

"We should look at this issue instead, how we could actually be benefiting from these resources, from these people who have found themselves in this country, have enjoyed a good education, and then could also be a resource in our society overall".

Tämä aihe on kiinnostava.

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