True Finns’ policies would set back integration, Finland’s achievements

Written by Thomas Huddleston, MIPEX Research Coordinator, Co-author and Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Group

If Finnish politicians let the True Finns have their way on integration, Finland would drop more than any other country has on MIPEX. Its policies would no longer be “slightly favourable” for integration and become “below average” for established immigration countries in Europe.

True Finns: the choice facing mainstream parties and integration policy

Yesterday, we all read about how the right-wing populist “True Finns” party upset the apple-cart in the Finnish national elections, capturing an unexpected 19% of the Vote. It is not clear whether the right-wing populist party will come to power as either:

A) Member of a new government coalition (as in Austria, Italy, and Switzerland); OR
B) King-maker supporting a minority government (as in Denmark and The Netherlands)

In both cases, mainstream parties have let these far-right parties dictate immigration & integration policy. This shock could also hit Finland, ranking 4th out of 31 on MIPEX, unless Finnish parties adopt a “cordon sanitaire” as in Belgium or reach a historic cross-party pro-migration agreement as recently in Sweden. Just weeks before, Finland’s Minister of Migration and European Affairs–Astrid Thors from the Swedish People’s Party–pledged to make MIPEX a benchmark and raise her country’s policies from #4 to #1 by the next edition. However it is also not clear whether other mainstream parties disagree with many True Finn proposals.

MIPEX prospective impact assessment

The True Finns’ party manifesto on immigration demonstrate the prospective impact the party could have on Finnish integration policies. I informally applied the so-called “Nuiva Manifest” to the country’s MIPEX scores, using our “Play with the Data” function. These proposals include:

– Restrict access to social security for immigrants
– Impose new housing requirements
– Deny family reunion for immigrants who needed income support in last two years
– Add several grounds to withdraw residence permits without exceptions
– End support for intercultural education and teaching immigrant languages
– Promote learning Finnish
– Cut funding for immigrant self-organisations
– Add new naturalisation conditions and “conditional period” of 10 years
– Remove any equality duties or positive actions for the public sector

According to my “True Finns” prospective impact assessment, Finland’s integration policy would no longer set “slightly favourable” conditions for integrating society. Its overall MIPEX score would drop from 70 to 59. Finland therefore would fall 11 points–more than any other country has on MIPEX–and nearly fall out of the Top 10:

This prospective impact assessment finds that cuts to immigrant civil society would seriously undermine Finland’s Nordic approach to democracy. Immigrant families and children would no longer have favourable conditions for integration because of cuts to immigrant languages, intercultural education, and greater obstacles and insecurity for reuniting families. The conditions for naturalisation would be the second most exclusionary in Europe, after only Romania and Switzerland:**

Surprisingly, True Finns’ proposals on the Finnish language would have no effect on promoting Finnish because MIPEX had already found that Finland’s current language-learning model was one of the best in Europe and North America. This approach combines high quality language courses for children starting from pre-school and up and needs-based programmes for adults.

Proposals “below average” for European immigration countries

The True Finns’ proposals aim to re-orient the integration climate in Finland from one Nordic ‘model’ that resists the far-right to another that mainstreams it. This unofficial MIPEX assessment shows that these proposals would distance Finland from top-scoring Sweden, all of whose policies the “Nuiva Manifest” repudiates as multiculturalist. Instead, Finland would follow Denmark where integration policy seriously shifted away from the Swedish approach after the 2002 agreement with the Danish People’s Party. The Manifest speaks explicitly of a “Danish model” and transfers many of the practices proposed by the Danish People’s Party:

If Finnish politicians look beyond the Baltic, they would see that these proposals would take their country not only away from Sweden, but also away from the policies in most established immigration countries in Europe. Here I compare the proposals to the average policy in the EU15 (EU Members before 2004 and all countries of immigration):

A majority grant equal access to social security,  set only basic requirements for family reunion and naturalisation, limit grounds for withdrawing permits, support immigrant civil society, and teach immigrant languages and intercultural education. Though equality policies remain weak across Europe, all countries have either maintained or improved their anti-discrimination laws and equality commitments. These common strengths on integration explain why a policy led by the True Finns may lead Finland intoa  less favourable climate for integration and away from European norms.


**The “Nuiva Manifest” proposals are labelled 2010. These can only be compared with 2007 on our data function. Though Finland’s scores changed little, the 2007 score on anti-discrimination was 1-point-below the score in 2010. Access to Nationality was 3-points-below. The data function cannot show the 2010 score on education. For all these, see the Finland country profile.