Finnish economy minister resigns after “climate abortions” speech

Vilhelm Junnila said he was stepping down to protect the country’s image after six scandals broke in just one week.

Vilhelm Junnila, the Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs, quit on Friday after a speech he gave as a new member of Parliament came back to light. In the speech, he said the country should help African women have “climate abortions” to save the world.

In 2019, a politician from the Finns Party joked, “Climate abortion would be a small step for a person but a big step for humanity, so Finland would be doing the right thing by promoting them.” The party is known for being against the idea that Finns should have to make big changes to their lives to fight climate change. They say that Finns already waste much less than their European neighbours.

Christian Democrat MP Paivi Rasanen, who seems to have taken the words at face value, said that Junnila was promoting an “eco-fascist” idea even “without the racist connection.” She warned her partner in the government coalition that eco-fascism is “also an extremist movement.”

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto called the situation “very embarrassing,” Anna-Maja Henriksson, head of the Swedish People’s Party, praised Junnila’s “wise decision” to step down.

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Junnila said that he quit protecting Finland’s good name and insisted that he still had “the trust of the party and my parliamentary group” even though the charges kept coming. Earlier on Friday, public broadcaster Yle said that he had never taken any political science classes in college, even though he said he had. There also didn’t seem to be any truth to claims on his website and in campaign materials that he had started and sold a Polish tech startup before getting into politics.

As soon as Junnila was sworn in last Tuesday, Euronews revealed that he would attend a far-right event in Finland in 2019. One researcher called the event a “who’s-who of neo-Nazis in Finland.” Since then, the problems haven’t stopped piling up. On Wednesday, he barely won a vote of confidence, 95-86, even though Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told him he had to change his behaviour if he wanted to stay in the cabinet.

Junnila apologised to the public for attending the event and for a series of “stupid and childish” Hitler jokes and other comments that his critics had found. A meme of a snowman wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and holding a noose in a Facebook message to his parliamentary assistant also made the news.

People have said that the government Finland chose this year is the most strict one the country has had in recent years. The coalition is led by the right-wing National Coalition Party, which won the most seats in Parliament, and Junnila’s far-right Finns Party. It has cut international aid, put restrictions on immigration, and cut benefits, which is a big change from the centre-left government of former PM Sanna Marin.

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