Mrs. Tuula Väätäinen is a third-term Member of Parliament for the Social Democratic Party from the region of Savo-Karjala in Eastern Finland. She is a member of the Defence Committee, Subcommittee for Security and Adminstration and Subcoimmittee for Municipal and Health Affairs. She also acts as the deputy chair of the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters. By training, Väätäinen is a nurse, which gives its own perspective to her parliamentary work.
HS International Edition 19.3.2012
Defence Minister under increasing fire over decisions on Swedish-language garrison
Language policy considerations said to sway Wallin on Dragsvik issue
Minister of Defence Stefan Wallin (Swed. People’s Party) has come under fire from opposition politicians over military spending cutbacks – specifically the future of the Dragsvik garrison, which houses the Uusimaa Brigade, the only Swedish-language military unit in Finland.
Swedish is Finland’s second official language, and under Finnish language legislation, at least one military unit in Finland must operate in Swedish. Dragsvik had been under consideration for closure in connection with ongoing cutbacks in spending. If this had happened, the Swedish language unit would have been moved to Upinniemi.
When Dragsvik was spared the chopping block in early February, suspicions were voiced within the opposition Finns Party and Centre Party, that the move was prompted primarily by language policy considerations, rather than the interests of national defence.
Defence Minister Wallin and Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen (Nat. Coalition Party) have both denied the accusations, insisting that the decisions were made with the help of experts of the Defence Staff, and were based on the needs of national defence.
On Thursday the Chancellor of Justice issued a ruling based on a complaint by Finns Party MP Pentti Oinonen, who suggested that Wallin might have had a conflict of interest in the matter because of his connection with an organisation supporting the Uusimaa Brigade.
The Chancellor of Justice found no conflict of interest. However, in that connection a statement sent to the Chancellor of Justice by Chief of Defence Ari Puheloinen came to light, in which Puheloinen reveals that Wallin steered the Defence Forces in the direction of preserving Dragsvik.
This was seen by some as an indication that the decision to preserve Dragsvik was not guided exclusively by defence considerations.
Centre Party chairwoman Mari Kiviniemi said on Saturday that the decisions on cutting defence costs have been made in secret. She noted that the not even the government’s foreign and defence policy committee seems to have been aware of the language policy steering that was taking place.
Timo Soini, chairman of the Finns Party, said that Wallin had lost his credibility. In an interview with the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) on Saturday Soini said that his party plans “at the very minimum” to put forward a parliamentary motion of no confidence in Wallin.
Soini also suggested that the matter might be investigated by Parliament’s constitutional law committee. Pentti Oinonen went a step further, calling for the convening of a court of impeachment.
On Sunday opposition critics of Wallin were joined by figures in the Social Democratic Party, which is one of the main government parties.
Party secretary Mikael Jungner told Helsingin Sanomat that a mistake had clearly been made in decision-making, and that it needs to be fixed. In an interview with the newspaper Ilkka on Sunday, Jungner accused Wallin of misleading Members of Parliament.
Social Democratic MP Tuula Väätäinen, who deals with issues related to the Parliamentary Defence Committee in the SDP’s parliamentary group, feels that it would be in Wallin’s own interest to examine the decision again.
“All the time it was said that the Defence Forces have made their cost-cutting decisions on the basis of national defence. Not even in connection with committee hearings was it said that the minister would have interfered with the decisions”, Väätäinen says.
“I wouldn’t speak of deception, but I would say that not everything was told”, Tuula Väätäinen commented.
HS International Edition 16.12.2011
Parliament raises doubts over cuts to police and military budgets
In spite of small increases seen in appropriations, the budget funding allocated to the Finnish police is inadequate.
This was the opinion of representatives of the government parties and the opposition alike in a Parliamentary debate on Thursday over the administrative budget of the Ministry of the Interior.
As a small addition, the Finance Committee slipped an extra EUR 2.6 million into the police’s budget for next year.
“That money was much needed. It will allow us to hire around 50 more officers”, said Minister of the Interior Päivi Räsänen (Christ. Dem.).
Next year, the police budget will increase by EUR three million, but during the following framework period from 2012-2015, spending on the police force will be reduced by EUR 28 million.
Consequently, MPs Tuula Väätäinen (SDP) and Anne Holmlund (Nat. Coalition) wondered aloud in the chamber why there is always an inadequate amount of money budgeted for the basic operations of the police.
“It's always the same thing, regardless of who is in the government”, Väätäinen commented.
In its programme, the government has committed to keeping the police budget unchanged.
MP Pertti Hemmilä (Nat. Coalition Party) drew the conclusion that the government cannot possibly stick to this goal because of the cuts to the appropriations across the board in the 2012-2015 period.
“That will be a challenge”, Räsänen admitted.
The MPs paid special attention to the police presence and internal security issues in remote areas.
Räsänen did her best to reassure the MPs that safety and security will not be compromised.
“And of course this applies to Lapland as well”, was Räsänen’s answer to pointed queries by the Lapland MPs.
The Finns Party (formerly the True Finns) representatives proposed that the Police budget be increased by EUR 20 million.
The Centre Party, also in opposition, demanded that the funding issue be rectified in the first instance from next year’s supplementary budget.
From the Defence Ministry’s administrative sector budget, the government plans to cut EUR 46 million.
Both of the opposition parties suggested that the money be returned to the budget, but this will not happen.
Centre Party MP Eero Reijonen described the cuts as historic. “We are heading into the unknown”, he said.
MP Tapani Tölli (Centre Party) was among several MPs who questioned whether the entire principle of regional defence is going to crumble when refresher courses for those who have completed their compulsory military service are also downsized.
Minister of Defence Stefan Wallin (Swedish People’s Party) responded that the regional defence principle is fundamental to Finland’s defence strategy, and it that will be retained.
According to Wallin, in an ideal situation around 20,000 reservists would take part in refresher courses each year. During this electoral term, however, the number will remain at only around 2,000 per year.
“After the year 2015 we have to get back to the normal level.”
Eero Reijonen as well as Jussi Niinistö (Finns Party) saw selective military service lurking already in the horizon, in which not all of a given age-cohort would be trained.
“The general national defence duty will be maintained”, Wallin insisted in reply.
HS International Edition 8.12.2011
Parliament passes law on readiness for emergency situations
True Finns have misgivings over decreased presidential authority
Parliament gave its final approval on Wednesday to legislation on readiness for crisis situations. The measure shifts power in times of crisis from the President to the government.
Under new legislation, the implementation of the emergency measures is to take effect by a decree issued by the government. Under the old law, the President of the Republic issues the decree
Opposing the changes were MPs of the True Finns party.
“Maintaining a certain amount of power with the President, who is directly elected by the people, is better for democracy and healthier, than concentrating power in the hands of one person – in practice, the Prime Minister, who is not directly elected by the people”, said True Finns MP Jussi Niinistö.
A number of MPs felt that the concerns are exaggerated.
“The President will continue to have a very significant role. If this kind of readiness law situation comes sometime, it will be Parliament that ultimately decides if the authority can be taken into use”, Green League MP Tuija Brax pointed out.
The aim of the new legislation is to keep the population secure in the event of a severe crisis, such as an armed attack against Finland, a major disaster, or an outbreak of a communicable disease.
In the previous parliamentary term the Social Democrats were opposed to the wording of the bill, proposing instead that the implementation of the law should be decided by “The President of the Republic in cooperation with the government”.
Now SDP MP Tuula Väätäinen said on Wednesday that authority to issue a decree for implementing the law should be given to the government, but that ”the president, who is elected by the people, should not be bypassed when the people face a serious crisis”.
Government Communications Unit 11.11.2011
Parliamentary Contact Group appointed
On 7 October, the President of the Republic and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy decided to initiate preparatory work on a report on Finnish security and defence policy and structural reform of the Defence Forces. At the same, it was agreed that a parliamentary contact group will be set up to monitor the work.
The Prime Minister’s Office has now appointed the group. The contact group is to provide the parties in Parliament with timely information and promote informed and extensive discussion on the issues. The mandate of the group will end when the Government submits its next security and defence policy report to Parliament at the latest. The report is to be submitted to Parliament before the end of 2012.
The group will be chaired by Ilkka Kanerva, MP, National Coalition Party.
Members are: Pertti Salolainen, MP (National Coalition Party), Johannes Koskinen, MP (Social Democratic Party), Tuula Väätäinen, MP (Social Democratic Party), Hanna Mäntylä, MP (The Finns Party), Jussi Niinistö, MP (The Finns Party), Mari Kiviniemi, MP (Centre Party), Seppo Kääriäinen, MP (Centre Party), Annikka Lapintie, MP (Left Alliance), Thomas Blomqvist, MP (Swedish People's Party), Anne Sinnemäki, MP (Green League), and Sari Palm, MP (Christian Democrats).
Inquiries: Antti Vänskä, Special Adviser, International Affairs, Prime Minister’s Office, tel. +358 9 1602 2068 or +358 40 513 1458
Embassy of Finland News 6.3.2009
A Hectic Week for Finnish Parliamentarians in Japan
Subcommittee for Municipal and Health Affairs of the Parliament of Finland conducted an inspection tour to Japan to learn about local thinking on issues such as health and elderly care, local government reforms and prison management. As Finland and Japan grapple with a number of similar problems, the visit provided food for thought on how to address challenges at home.
In the Parliament the Subcommittee for Municipal and Health Affairs deals mainly with budgetary matters relating to Social and Health Affairs and to municipal economies falling under the competence of the Ministry of Finance. Consequently, the program in Japan consisted of discussions with relevant authorities and organizations such as the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Ministry of Justice, Japan Governors' Association and Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training.
To complement discussions, the Embassy had arranged visits to a correctional facility in Komae as well as to Panasonic Center in Ariake, and with the help of Dr. Merja Karppinen to the Finnish Welbeing Center and Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai. A practitioners' view to Japanese working culture and economy provided by Mr. Timo Varhama of the UPM Japan at the Embassy was also considered as a highlight of the visit.
In the course of the program it became evident that there are areas where Finland lags behind Japan and the other way around. Regardless of the case the conclusion was that it is vital to compare notes as both countries are entering uncharted waters in their societal development. The chair of the Subcommittee Mrs. Tuula Väätäinen was happy with the harvest of the visit, and as first-timer to Japan much impressed by the Japanese culture and the politeness of the people. She concluded that there is a lot Japan and Finland can learn from one another, and that the common challenges combined with good relations between the two countries form a solid basis for further cooperation.
Embassy of Finland, Tokyo
New SDP Chair Stresses Social Responsibility
The new leader of Finland's Social Democratic Party, Jutta Urpilainen, held her first public address Saturday focussing on climate change, education and the welfare state. Speaking to a gathering in the open-air marketplace in Hämeenlinna, Urpilainen said that her election to the top SDP post was an indication of the party's capacity for self-renewal. She continued with a call to the nation's other political parties to meet the challenges faced by the welfare state in a globalizing world. As a concrete example, Urpilainen proposed that public transport be made free of charge for all under-16 year olds. As a long term goal, she noted the provision of free child daycare.
The new SDP chair also called for a reduction in social gaps and more fair taxation. She directed the challenge at Prime Minister Vanhanen, saying that there is a need for more dialogue, the means to dampen inflation, and social policies that see to the care of the weakest. Urpilainen stated that the SDP goal in the autumn local elections is to take the position as nation's largest party.
SDP party council elected
Also on Saturday, Social Democratic Party congress in Hämeenlinna unanimously elected a new party council. Members of the body are Maarit Feldt-Ranta, Hilkka Halonen, Harri Helminen, Susanna Huovinen, Juha Hämäläinen, Tarja Kantola, Mika Kari, Sirpa Paatero, Tuula Petäkoski-Hult, Raimo Piirainen, Timo Vallittu, Tuula Väätäinen and Esa J. Wahlman.
The SDP's annual party congress wraps up on Saturday. Jutta Urpilainen was elected as the party's new chair on Friday.