Following a heated public discussion about racism and antisemitism during the summer, the Finnish government put out a statement on August 31, to clarify its position on these matters. The introduction of the statement says following:
Finland promotes the implementation of democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental and human rights. A society built on trust and good relations between population groups arises from the fact that everyone in Finland can trust that their rights and the principles of gender equality, equality before the law and non-discrimination will be respected and that they will be able to improve their own lives.
The Government has pledged to promote equality and non-discrimination and to reduce racism. The Government wants to engage all of Finnish society to this task. Everyone can participate in building a Finland where we can all live in safety and be accepted for who we are.
The Government submitted this statement on promoting equality and non-discrimination to Parliament on 31.8.
About 100 representatives of civil society organisations, researchers and other parties were consulted as part of the process of drafting this statement. These consultations led to specifications being made to measures that were already agreed in the Government Programme.
The government statement also refers to the EU Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life 2021–2030, and the European Commission’s call to Member States to pursue their own national strategies.
Strong actions against Holocaust denial and antisemitism
One of the statement’s 23 listed tasks (paragraph 18) includes a strong reference to holocaust and antisemitism and reads the following:
Acts motivated by hate against Jews, Muslims, Christians and other religious groups will be prevented. Holocaust denial will be criminalised. International Holocaust Remembrance Day will be observed in accordance with international practices. The possibility of criminalising the use of at least Nazi and communist symbols to promote ideology will be investigated.
The reference to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day means, according to the public statement of Ms. Sari Essayah, Minister for Agriculture, and a strong supporter of Israel and the Jewish cause, that the official Finnish name of January 27 will be changed from its existing form Remembrance Day of the Victims of Persecutions to the internationally recognized form Holocaust Remembrance Day, which the government has used for years in its English-speaking communication.
The existing Finnish name, approved by the Finnish government in 2002, has created a lot of misunderstanding and confusion, and some Finnish cities have marked the day for other persecutions, even without a reference to the 6 million murdered Jews in the Holocaust.
Especially the criminalization of the Holocaust denial and the ban of the Nazi flag and other memorabilia has been lobbied for years by the Jewish communities in Finland and the Finnish Holocaust Remembrance Association with support of several MPs from the Israel Friendship Group in the Parliament and the Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.
Finland’s new government was sworn in on June 20, 2023 and consists of the Coalition Party, the Finns Party, the Swedish Folk Party, and the Christian Democratic Party, representing 109 out of Parliament’s 200 members. The government is led by Prime Minister Petteri Orpo of the Coalition Party.