After an exciting work weekend in Istanbul I spent my flight back to Amsterdam going through the programme of the new Finnish government. (Just as a clarification: the country got a new centre-right/liberal government only last week). I know, most people would find other things to do on a Sunday evening after partying until two o'clock on the previous night but hey, I have never really hidden the fact that I am a political junkie.
I have been in somewhat opposition with my friends as I have been rather happy with the result of the elections and also with the government coalition. I think a liberal breath is only good for Finland. Maybe exactly for this reason I found myself being actually rather content with the direction that the cabinet has chosen. My only main disappointment is the part on culture which really does not say a thing. The great paradox is that the half page on creativity and culture is the least creative part of the 71-page pamphlet. But to express the reasons for my overall optimism, the followings are quotes from the programme with some comments of mine:
"When building the Finnish welfare state, the government wants to clarify the relationship between individual responsibility, shared responsibility and the responsibility of the society."
(Leftish people usually freak out with these wordings but I think this is exactly the major challenge for the Nordic welfare states, maybe adding corporate responsibility on the list.)
"Cross-generational and cross-border thinking is the leading principle of the blue-green government."
(As both of these themes are in the core of my own work and pose in my mind the biggest challenges to Western European nation states, my view is rather optimistic. This is exactly as the person I voted for stated things: the interest of Finland is the interest of the world.)
"Finland's foreign and security policy is based on good bilateral relations, strong influence in the EU's foreign and security policy and efficient multilateral collaboration and credible defense."
(The revolutionary move for Finland is abandoning the notions of neutrality and stressing relations. This for me is a sign of understanding the essence of international politics far better. The new directions shows wonderfully in the programme in the way climate change is addressed and how Russia is raised to a significant role. The government is now talking of a concept of wider security which also creates room for notions of soft power.)
Astonishing in the programme to me is also how fresh the environmental approach is. I believe for the first time there is a clear distinction between climate change and environmental policy. Climate change is now linked to energy, economics and employment - the cores of the programme rather than staying in the nature protection ghetto. I guess in the Finnish discourse culture still needs some advocacy in this sense.
I know a lot of people who would say that this is merely words and it is the actions that count. I tend to disagree with that simplification. As a political scientist for me the way things are addressed also creates the windows of opportunities and this fresher approach builds less on fear and more on empowerment. As an example, this government's programme explicitly states why we need an information society - a task that it's predecessor failed to do even if they even had a special cross-sectoral programme and a secretariat for that. Same goes both for diversity and climate change - they are addressed not as ideological good causes, but as issues crucial to GDP, security, welfare and happiness. This brings them to the forefront, stops the discussion on their necessity and gets us going.
I am optimistic but we shall see.
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