The Ministry of Education and Culture has decided to withdraw its support for the Young Finns, the youth association of the right-wing Finns Party. The reason is a Twitter post published earlier this year which was deemed to offend the dignity of dark-skinned people.
Ahead of the European election, the Young Finns tweeted a screenshot from a European parliament ad featuring a happy dark-skinned couple and their child, and a call to vote Fins “so that Finland's future doesn't look like this”.
The Ministry of Education and Culture explained that such views contradict the Youth Act, which has the stated goal of promoting equality, human rights, solidarity, cultural diversity and internationalism. It also warned that the subsidies already paid out this year will be recovered as well.
“If you do not want to follow the law, the organisation should obtain its funding elsewhere”, Esko Ranto, the director of the Ministry's youth and sports policy department, told national broadcaster Yle.
The subsidy granted to the Young Finns for 2019 amounts to €115,000 ($128,000), of which €57,500 ($64,000) has already been paid out. According to the Ministry, this is the first time that a grant will be recovered from a youth organisation for violating the objectives of the Youth Act.
Earlier in June, Finland's Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, Kirsi Pimiä, stated that the youth wing was suspected of “unlawful ethnic harassment”, whereas the Helsinki police launched a preliminary investigation into the matter of the tweet, which has been deleted.
While the Young Finns later called the tweet “ill-advised” and “thoughtless”, they still intend to appeal the decision.
“The organisation will make a request that the ministry rectifies this decision, and if they do not rectify it, then the only option is to take the matter to court”, Young Finns secretary Toni Saarinen told Yle.
Finns MP Ville Tavio called the decision discriminatory, equating the handling of the Young Finns to “communist oppression”. He argued that the decision to withdraw support was largely political and was the result of a red-green left-of-the-centre government.
“Such oppression against Finland's largest opposition party is utterly reprehensible and goes against democracy and the rule of law”, Tavio stressed.
While Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho did not explicitly comment on the since-deleted tweet and the scandal it had caused, he wrote in a Facebook post that the party's goals neither included scrutinising the genetic heritage of humans nor defining and limiting “Finnishness”.
The Eurosceptic, anti-immigration Finns are Finland's largest opposition party. In 2019 they sensationally finished second with 17.5 percent of the vote. In Finnish and Swedish, the party is known as the True Finns, a name that they've stopped using in English.
This is not the first time the Finns have gone to court over matters of ethnicity. In 2009, present-day party leader Halla-aho was put on trial and fined for ethnic agitation over calling Prophet Muhammad a paedophile, making a reference to his relation with his child-wife Aisha. In another post, Halla-aho wondered whether robbing passers-by and living on tax-payers' expense possibly were genetic characteristics of Somalis.
In 2017, Young Finns former leader Sebastian Tynkkynen, was fined for his Facebook post saying “The fewer Muslims in Finland, the better. <...> The less we see of Muslims, it is safer. We have to get rid of Islam before it is too late.”