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1 Jul, 2023 16:47

Finnish economic minister resigns over ‘climate abortions’ speech

Vilhelm Junnila said he was stepping down to spare the country’s reputation after half a dozen scandals surfaced in just one week
Finnish economic minister resigns over ‘climate abortions’ speech

Finnish Economic Affairs Minister Vilhelm Junnila resigned on Friday after a speech he had given as a freshman MP resurfaced. In the address, he recommended the country sponsors “climate abortions” for African women in order to save the planet.

“It would be justified for Finland to shoulder its responsibility by promoting climate abortions,” the Finns Party politician declared in 2019, quipping “Climate abortion would be a small step for a person, but a giant leap for humanity.” The party is known for its opposition to the idea that Finns should have to dramatically alter their lifestyles to fight climate change and argues they already pollute markedly less than their European peers. 

Apparently taking the comments at face value, Christian Democrat MP Paivi Rasanen accused Junnila of promoting an “eco-fascist” concept even “without the racist connection.” Eco-fascism, she reminded her governing coalition partner, is “also an extremist movement.” 

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto described the situation as “very embarrassing,” while Anna-Maja Henriksson, head of the Swedish People’s Party, another partner in the coalition, praised Junnila’s “wise decision” to step down.

Junnila explained he resigned to save Finland’s reputation, insisting he retained “the trust of the party and my parliamentary group” even as accusations continued to mount. Earlier on Friday, public broadcaster Yle reported he had never taken any political science courses at university despite claiming to have studied the subject – nor did there appear to be any factual basis to claims on his website and in election materials that he had founded and sold a Polish tech startup before entering politics. 

No sooner had Junnila been sworn in to his position last Tuesday, than Euronews reported his appearance at a 2019 event organized by far-right groups which one researcher described as a “who’s-who of neo-Nazis in Finland.” The scandals have not stopped piling up since then, culminating in a vote of confidence on Wednesday which he narrowly won, 95-86, even as Prime Minster Petteri Orpo warned him he had to change his behavior to keep serving in the cabinet. 

Junnila publicly apologized for attending the event, as well as for a series of “stupid and childish” Hitler and Nazi jokes and other comments his critics had unearthed. Several Facebook messages to his parliamentary assistant also made headlines, including a meme of a snowman dressed in a Ku Klux Klan hood holding a noose.

The government Finland elected this year has been called the most conservative the country has seen in modern times. Run by a coalition dominated by the right-wing National Coalition Party, which won the most seats in Parliament, and Junnila’s far-right Finns Party, it has de-emphasized climate commitments while slashing international aid, placing restrictions on immigration, and cutting benefits, representing an abrupt shift away from the center-left government of former PM Sanna Marin.

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