Emergency gov't sit-down, prof questions security threat, "activation" spikes disability pensions

Dramatic headlines dominate dailies this Tuesday as the Centre Party sits down for crisis talks, a military professor downplays the threat of foreign land ownership and disability pension applications are on the rise.

The country is astir this Tuesday with news of a rift between two of Finland's government parties, caused by last Friday's fraught decision to allow Timo Soini to continue as Foreign Minister and by claims of voting pressure within Parliament .

Tabloid Iltalehti is first to report that Centre Party Parliamentary group chair Antti Kaikkonen has called an emergency meeting of MPs at Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's residence Kesäranta. The meeting at 5 pm on Tuesday is set to tackle the strife between the Centre Party and government partner National Coalition Party, while low popularity and the messy schedule of the country-wide health care reform bring clouds to the talks.

IL details the brief history of the discord, including the reported incident of the NCP's Parliamentary group chair Kalle Jokinen called PM Sipilä out for "belittling [the NCP's] values" and the premier replying with a similar qualm.

"We were being dragged into a value corner where we don't belong. This is a part of politics I will never understand. It is disgusting, transparent manipulation," Sipilä is quoted as speaking on Saturday.

IL writes that the Centre Party's worry is that their long-term game plan of running through the nationwide "sote" reform faces renewed risks with the intra-governmental spat. If the Constitutional Law Committee becomes tied up in new intelligence legislation being pushed in Parliament , there will be no time to fix the "sote" reform, long promised by the government coalition.

National security threats "overstated"

Another news story dominating the papers is the aftermath of last weekend's sizeable police operation in the Turku archipelago . With Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö promising to curtail foreign ownership of Finnish real estate and the National Bureau of Investigation knee-deep in the Airiston Helmi case, one specialist urges cooler heads when it comes to assessing national security threats.

Military professor Jyri Raitasalo from the National Defence University says in Helsingin Sanomat that it would be best to avoid overstating the national security risk, and to not confuse security scenarios with political policies.

"This discussion currently involves too much speculation and nameless sources," Raitasalo says in HS. "There isn't reason enough yet to change our societal threat assessments."

In a nutshell, the professor says, it is good that the real estate legislation is going through for the sake of flexibility and government's right of first refusal in land ownership cases – but that the NBI operation in Turku is irrelevant to the development of the law change.

Flood of disability applications after "activation" model

Turning finally to the repercussions of an earlier legal maneuver, local paper Turun Sanomat reports that as a result of government's so-called activation model – an attempt to lower unemployment by making jobless people seek and accept work on a mandatory minimum basis, or risk losing benefits – has caused a sharp rise in the amount of applications for disability pensions. The numbers at national health care organisation Kela have risen by 10 percent above the normal rate.

TS writes that the scenario was foreseen before the law change, as the activation requisites were not designed to affect job seekers who have applied for disability. Senior physician Jukka Kivekäs from the pension insurance firm Varma (with 14 percent more applications than usual) says in the paper that people apply for disability benefits for many reasons.

"About half of these [600 extra applications] are due to the activation model," Kivekäs says. "When someone who has been listed as long-term unemployed applies for disability, that is a typical reaction to the effects of the model."

Kivekäs also says that during periods of growth many long-term jobless people may find themselves working again, only to realise their health will no longer allow it.

"In some cases the disability pension is a better bet," says Kela's disability assessment chief Matti Hynninen.

Read more news of Helsinki on our site.

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