"We must ensure that fundamental and human rights and legal protection are implemented equitably"

3.3.1 Strengthening the rule of law

Current situation

To make sure that Finland can continue to be a safe and secure state governed by the rule of law, we must ensure that fundamental and human rights and legal protection are implemented equitably. Furthermore, we must strengthen good relations between population groups, social inclusion, and participatory rights. This way we can maintain civil peace and retain the trust of citizens. Special attention must be paid to the rights of people in the most vulnerable position. There are still serious shortcomings in the position of certain groups of people, such as victims of intimate partner violence, elderly people, people with a disability, gender minorities, ethnic minorities, and asylum seekers. Shortcomings also exist in the recognition of human rights problems and in human rights reporting.

To improve the current situation, we must enhance everyday safety, reduce inequalities, and ensure a well-functioning civil society where social exclusion and hate speech are duly addressed. Furthermore, we must take determined and systematic measures to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to participate in society and access education and employment.

An increasing number of people take a passive approach to societal issues, of which one indication is the low voter turnout in comparison with the other Nordic countries. Too many people feel they have no power to influence matters and decisions concerning them or the way in which society develops. The degree of participation and inclusion in society differs considerably from one socio-economic group and region to another.

Objective 1

Well-functioning democracy and high-quality legislation that promotes the realisation of fundamental and human rights

Measures

The competence of law drafters in fundamental and human rights issues will be systematically improved. Inter-ministerial support will be increased to ensure that the impacts of legislation on people’s income security, the environment, equality, human rights, and operating conditions for businesses can be thoroughly assessed. The status of the Constitution and its independent interpretation will be respected and strengthened, while the assessment of the constitutionality and impacts of legislative proposals will be enhanced and the scope of the assessment expanded.

The Government will prepare a third National Action Plan on Fundamental and Human Rights. Shortcomings related to the recognition of human rights problems and to human rights reporting will be systematically addressed by securing the activities of ombudspersons and other relevant authorities and by guaranteeing a favourable operating environment for civil society organisations and international actors. The Non-Discrimination Act will be partially reformed.

The role of the Finnish Council of Regulatory Impact Analysis will be strengthened, and a government-level system for ex post regulatory impact analysis will be introduced in Finland. The Government will start preparing this as soon as possible. The Government will also draw up a comprehensive action plan for better regulation.

Finland will promote the realisation of the EU’s fundamental values by demanding that the payment of subsidies to Member States, such as structural fund payments, be tied to compliance with the fundamental values. Nordic cooperation will be emphasised and enhanced in the field of law drafting, especially in the implementation of EU directives, to ensure that new legislative barriers will not be created within Europe. Finland will take the initiative to establish a Nordic digital statute book.

The Government will launch a cross-administrative democracy programme extending until 2025. One of the key priorities and objectives of the democracy programme will be to develop school teaching and other school practices. The programme will also aim to support children’s and young people’s ability to have a say in their local environment and society, to improve the social inclusion of those who feel they are outsiders, to secure the autonomy and operating conditions of civil society organisations, and to strengthen local democracy.

The Government will actively promote versatile opportunities for participation and effective means of direct democracy. These include user democracy, citizens’ juries, resident interviews, youth councils, online councils, and participatory budgeting. Furthermore, the Government will seek ways to make participation in politics and political debate lighter and easier, for instance through pop-up events.

The Government will intensify anti-corruption measures by enacting provisions on the protection of persons reporting suspected cases of corruption (the ‘Whistleblower Directive’) and by increasing transparency in all decision-making.

An act on a transparency register will be enacted based on parliamentary preparation and consultation of the civil society. The purpose of the act is to improve the transparency of decision-making and, through this, to prevent inappropriate influence and to reinforce public confidence.

The Government will examine the need to update the Act on the Openness of Government Activities so that it would apply not only to documents but also to data and information in a more general sense. The Government will assess whether the scope of application of the Act should be broadened to cover legal entities owned or controlled by the public sector.

Compliance with the Act on the Openness of Government Activities will be strengthened by setting a stricter obligation for authorities to comply with the Act and the related legal practice and case law in a manner that promotes transparency and by clarifying the sanctions that can be imposed for violations of the Act.

The Government will draw up a revised Strategy for the National Languages of Finland to ensure that everyone has the right to receive services in the national languages and to improve the language climate. The Strategy will address the concern expressed by the Institute for the Languages of Finland about the status of the national languages in the changing language environment.

All government-level guidelines and provisions will also be issued in Swedish in so far as they concern Åland. Furthermore, the Government will draw up a language policy programme that takes account of the other languages spoken in Finland, especially the Saami languages, the Romani language, the Karelian language and sign languages.

The provisions of the Tort Liability Act governing the liability of public corporations will be reformed.

The protection of personal data will be systematically developed. Finland will promote the Nordic Council’s project on Nordic e-IDs.

The autonomy of Åland will be developed and fostered in cooperation with Åland. The reform of the autonomy of Åland will be continued. Reconciliation of Åland-related questions will be pursued. The Government will ensure that the communications in Swedish between the central government and the autonomy authorities in Åland continue to work well. Åland will retain its opportunities to influence EU affairs.

The Government will draw up a strategy for Åland issues during this government term. The strategy will contain concrete proposals for strengthening and developing competence in Åland-related matters within the central government and for ensuring sufficient resources.

During the centenary year of the autonomy of Åland, the success of Åland’s self-government will be highlighted in international connections as an example of how such autonomy works in practice.

Objective 2

Well-functioning judicial proceedings and legal protection (including access to justice irrespective of socio-economic status, length of judicial proceedings)

Measures

The Government will ensure sufficient resources for the administration of justice and will take measures to shorten the total length of judicial proceedings. The costs of judicial proceedings will be reduced and the proceedings will be made smoother, for example by utilising digitalisation and by enhancing the special expertise of judges in the different branches of law. Criminal proceedings will be expedited by ensuring better cooperation between prosecutors and the police. Education, prevention of social exclusion, and improvements in the detection rate will be the most important measures for preventing crime.

We will examine the criteria for determining legal costs, for example with a view to reducing the risk that a party may incur excessive expenses during judicial proceedings. We will look into the possibility to raise income limits in legal aid and to provide legal aid to medium-income people and examine the regulation related to legal expenses insurance.

The taking of evidence in judicial proceedings will be centralised into district courts so that testimonies given in district courts will be recorded and used in proceedings in courts of appeal.

The Government will launch a project to assess trends in the administration of justice by courts and the appropriateness of the current court structure and to reform court practices.

The court network and the network of enforcement offices will be preserved in their present form. The prison network will be developed, while the prisons currently operating will be maintained.

The system of lay judges will be preserved, and the Government will examine possibilities for reforming the procedure for appointing lay judges in a manner that would strengthen the independence and impartiality of the courts.

The Government will examine possibilities for reforming the legislation concerning payment times and insolvency, especially with the aim of reinforcing the operating conditions for small and medium-sized enterprises.

The Government will explore the need to enact legislation to secure the position of small enterprises in the market. Unfair competitive practices will be addressed by allocating more resources to the Competition and Consumer Authority and the Market Court.

Consumer protection will be updated especially in respect of services. Furthermore, compliance with consumer protection legislation will be improved by reforming the provisions governing the powers of consumer authorities.

To better protect consumers, the Government will introduce new restrictions and other provisions governing telephone and door-to-door sales.

The Government will promote the use of mediation in order to reduce the number of trials. Mediation will not be used in situations where it could compromise the legal protection of the victim. The possibility to continue mediation in cases of intimate partner violence will be assessed. Furthermore, the possibility to introduce mediation-like procedures in certain administrative judicial procedures and the possibility to resolve minor disputes between private individuals and companies under less formal procedures, such as by a board, will be examined. We will also look into the possibility of balancing out the caseload between courts more flexibly.

The Government will reinforce the legal protection of asylum seekers by enabling the use of a counsel at asylum interviews. In addition, hourly rates for the counsels will be introduced and the general appeal periods applicable in the administrative courts will be taken into use in the asylum procedure. The provision of general legal advice to asylum seekers will be improved, the quality of the asylum procedure and the pursuit of the best interests of the child will be assessed, and the competence and diligence of lawyers assisting asylum seekers will be ensured.

The Government will work harder to tackle the grey economy and economic crime by continuing to allocate additional financing to the enforcement service and to the Office of the Bankruptcy Ombudsman.

The Government will examine new means, such as administrative sanctions, to intervene in intentional or grossly negligent underpayment.

Objective 3

Strengthening the integrity of society (social inclusion, good ethnic relations, prevention of discrimination, breaking the cycle of cumulative social exclusion and inequality)

Measures

The Government will take measures to support equal opportunities for alternating parenting and we will make it possible for children to have two official addresses.

An act on the legal recognition of gender that respects people’s right to self-determination will be enacted. The requirement of infertility will be removed from the act, and medical treatments will be separated from the change of legal gender.

Gender can be changed, upon application, by an adult who presents a reasoned account of his or her permanent experience of representing the other gender. A period of reflection for those who wish to change their gender will be introduced.

As part of the reform of personal identity codes, to be carried out based on a study by the Ministry of Finance, gender will no longer be specified in the personal identity code.

Intersex children’s right to self-determination will be strengthened, and cosmetic, non-medical surgeries on young children’s genitals will no longer be performed.

We will enact a new act on parenthood to replace the Maternity Act and the Paternity Act.

The Government will examine the possibility for non-commercial surrogacy in certain cases, which will be separately defined in the legislation.

The Government will respect and promote the realisation of the linguistic and cultural rights of all Saami people and Saami groups in a way that takes the relevant international conventions into account. As part of this work, the Government will examine the possible ratification of the ILO Convention No. 169. The work on reforming the Act on the Saami Parliament will be continued. The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be continued. The Government will resolve as swiftly as possible the question of the point in time for the elections to the Saami Parliament.

The Government will draw up a broad-based action plan for promoting good relations between population groups during the government term to supplement the Government Integration Programme. We will assess the need to address the most serious forms of organised racism through legislation.

The Government will launch a reconciliation process concerning the violations of the rights of the deaf throughout Finland’s history.

Objective 4

Safe and secure Finland built on the rule of law (reliable criminal sanctions system, criminal law, and improvements in the position of crime victims)

Criminal policy aims to reduce the total crime rate and recidivism, strengthen effective rehabilitative activities, and increase cooperation between the authorities responsible for criminal sanctions and other sectors. Work to prevent violence will be targeted especially at people of all genders who recognise violent tendencies in themselves.

Measures

Crime victims and persons close to homicide victims will be provided with better support and better opportunities to receive compensation from the State Treasury. Low-threshold channels for reporting crime and the related practices of the public authorities will be strengthened. The legislation concerning a restraining order will be reformed to better protect the rights of the victim. Gender will be added among the motives that constitute grounds for increasing the punishment as specified in chapter 6, section 5 of the Criminal Code.

The Government will draw up an action plan for combating violence against women. The action plan will bring the support services for victims, the number of places in shelters, and the resources allocated to shelters into line with the level required by the Council of Europe. The Government will establish a post for an independent rapporteur on violence against women and ensure the implementation of the Istanbul Treaty. Violence against men will also be prevented in all its forms.

The Government will ensure sufficient resources for the work against female genital mutilation. Annulment of forced marriages will be enabled and the possibility to criminalise forced marriage will be examined.

We will enact an act on assistance to victims of human trafficking so that local authorities can assist the victims. A reference to victims of human trafficking will be added to the acts that concern healthcare and social welfare. The Act on the Reception of Persons Applying for International Protection and on Identifying and Assisting Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings will be updated so that it will no longer be so closely connected to the criminal procedure, as required by international obligations.

Provisions on safe and supported housing services for victims of human trafficking will  be enacted and the services will be provided in the manner required by EU law. The responsibility for supervising and overseeing the services will be assigned to the National Institute for Health and Welfare.

We will carry out a comprehensive reform of legislation governing sexual offences based on the principle of physical integrity and the right to sexual self-determination. The definition of rape in the Criminal Code will be amended so that it will be based on the absence of consent while simultaneously ensuring appropriate legal safeguards. The range of services offered at support centres for victims of sexual violence will be extended and their availability across Finland will be improved. To prevent sexual violence against children, the Government will draw up a plan for the national implementation of the Lanzarote Convention in Finland in cooperation with the relevant organisations. We will ensure all necessary services for victims of such offences.

The Government will assess the punishments for the most aggravated violent and sexual offences in order to ensure that they are proportional both to the degree of harmfulness of the offence and to the punishments imposed for other offences. The minimum punishments for aggravated sexual offences against children will be increased. The prerequisites for releasing the most dangerous offenders sentenced for violent crime will be thoroughly assessed.

During the government term, we will take horizonal measures to more effectively address systematic harassment, threats and targeting that pose a threat to the freedom of expression, official activities, research, and media freedom. The Government will ensure sufficient resources and competence for the prevention and detection of the offences mentioned above. Systematic monitoring of the situation in relation to discrimination and hate crime will be promoted both at national and international level.

We will examine the applicability of the provisions concerning invasion of domestic and public premises to harassment directed against business activities, entrepreneurs and production facilities and, if necessary, specify the provisions.

The Government will examine possibilities for strengthening the prevention of environmental crime and making the sanction system for such crime more effective.

A comprehensive reform of the Act on the Redemption of Immovable Property and Special Rights will be carried out to improve the legal protection of landowners and to secure the land use policy of municipalities.