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New Finnish Economics Minister Sorry Over Extremist Remarks

Finland’s new economy minister has apologised for extremist remarks after it emerged he addressed a far-right group four years ago.

Vilhelm Junnila spoke at an event organised by the Nationalist Alliance in Turku to commemorate the victims of a stabbing attack in the city in 2017.

In a Facebook post on Thursday Mr Junnila apologised for the remarks which he called “stupid and childish”

Mr Junnila said he completely condemns the Holocaust and all anti-Semitism.

The nationalist Finns Party member remarked in 2019 at the Turku event that the local party chairman’s election number was 88, the same number Mr Junnila himself had in elections the same year.

The number 88 is seen among neo-Nazis as a symbol for the greeting “Heil Hitler” due to H being the eighth letter in the alphabet, making 88 signify “HH.”

Then, in March, Mr Junnila congratulated another candidate who received the same number at a Finns campaign event, according to Finnish public broadcaster Yle.

“First of all, congratulations on an excellent election number. I know it is a winning card. This 88 refers, of course, to the two ‘H’s, but let’s not dwell on that,” the 41-year-old is said to have joked.

Writing on social media on Thursday Mr Junnila said: “I have done something wrong and I am sorry for my actions.”

Mr Junnila acknowledged the video of him speaking in Turku in 2019 is still online, adding had he been invited to a similar event today he would not participate.

He added in a separate Facebook post: “I hope everyone is clear that I condemn the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and all anti-Semitic acts strongly and definitely.”

He added he condemned them “completely”.

On Tuesday, Mr Junnila’s party was sworn in officially as the new government after striking a coalition deal with the National Coalition Party and two other groups earlier this month.

Finns Party, which secured second place in April’s election with 46 seats, had sought drastic cuts to immigration during talks.

The National Coalition Party came first in the election, winning 48 seats while outgoing Prime Minister Sana Marin’s Social Democratic Party finished third with 43.

The Finnish Parliament voted on Tuesday to elect Petteri Orpo as Ms Marin’s successor.

Mr Orpo said his main priority now would be to get Finland’s economy back on track.

Source : BBC