Presidentti Tarja Halonen osallistui 12. elokuuta Paiden Arvamusfestivaaleille Eurooppa- alueen keskusteluun "Miten pärjätä populismia ja ääriliikkeitä vastaan?" Halosen mukaan tärkeintä on olla luovuttamatta populistisia näkökulmia vastaan taistellessa, hän suhtautuu EU:n yhteisen demokratian tulevaisuuteen optimistisesti.
Ohessa Halosen puhe englanniksi.
Keskustelu ”Populismi ja ääriliikkeet Euroopassa”
Presidentti Tarja Halosen alkusanat paneeliin
Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank you very much for the invitation to come to Paide this year, especially as this year is the 100th anniversary of Finland. I have heard a lot of good about your festival. Last month I took part again in several discussions at the Suomi Areena in Pori, which is a very similar event to this Paide Arvamus festival.
Warm musical greetings also from Käsmu, where I opened the Viru Folk yesterday.
Populism was also a theme discussed at the Suomi Areena in Pori. The title of one of the panels was “Do people still have trust in experts and institutions, or has populism replaced expertise and facts?” Populism has many faces. It is important to hear the voices of common people. Civil society movements have turned into political parties many times in history, and if the more extreme views are channelled that way, it is better than if they would turn into for example street violence or other more uncontrolled action.
But populism has its own dangers: typically it simplifies issues. In today’s very complex world the simplification of social issues diverts attention away from facts and basic good judgment. Easy solutions may actually cause even more difficulties. Reasons to one’s own problems are often sought from the outside. It is necessary to critically assess for example migration, but criticism should not automatically lead to closing borders or making immigrants responsible for internally caused national economic problems. The issues are just not comparable, there is not cause and effect relationship.
A lot of color has been brought into political debates and into social discussion in general. But checking facts is always necessary. Half-truths sell for some time, but they cannot be the basis for long lasting policy, and no policy making works without cooperation and the ability to compromise. Populists are most successful in the opposition. Political compromises do not fit easily into their world of absolute truths.
Many in Finland think populism got a face through the (True) Finns party – the Perussuomalaiset. Some thought that taking them into the government after their good results in parliamentary elections was a wrong decision. However, it was according to the rules of our democracy. Popularity brings responsibility. And the responsibilities of governing ended up sinking their popularity. That is normal. Since then, the party has split. What happens next, we will see in the future.
The evolution of the (True) Finns party is a typical example of how new things fade when the basic structures of democracy and the rule of law are strong. New things are interesting for a time, but will not last without true broad political base and political substance. I think it is good to discuss not only about populists, but also people and other parties that collaborate with them. Populists do not get into power alone, at least not in the beginning.
The Finnish system has managed this phase rather well, the French system also. We are still waiting for the German elections with relative ease in Europe. The situation in Hungary and Poland however worry many of us, and I can confess, also me, a little bit. Let’s remember that rapid change caused by elections is not necessarily only about populism. Today’s world has experienced many unexpected turns that are part of our time and phase of social development in a more complex way.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me still mention again the very import role of the media. Politics is discussed by and through the media everywhere. Media has power and power brings responsibility. It has been said that the difference between fake news and bad journalism is very small. Focusing efforts on the quality and reliability of journalism is the best defense against extremism. The sense of right and respect for democratic principles is reinforced by political debate in society – even critical debate.
Social media might feed extremism. Everyone is his/her own news anchor in social media. Facebook classifies postings so that people with similar views see each-others postings. This creates a notion that one’s own views are broadly shared. It leaves differing views in the margin. It hinders real broader discussion and creates bubbles where like-minded people interact. This trend is difficult to manage or restrain.
The concept of hate speech is also connected to populism.. How do we handle it? How does it affect the willingness of people to engage politically? Criminalizing hate speech has been a topic in the discussion in Finland.
Correct, decent discussion and debate is the right way to influence. You might not be able to defuse strong emotions, or to make colourful pictures. Surely among the very vocal ones there are also those who are very smart.
One key message of populists and extremists is that the “elite” does not listen to or care about the ordinary people. Politicians should always have time for the people and measure the pulse of time. The people should never be underestimated. We should listen very carefully. But responsible policy making should also guide, and through information sharing, seek the trust of the people.
We are lucky that in Estonia and Finland the basic trust of people in political and social structures is pretty good.
Thank you very much. I hope the discussion will be good and lively here today.