A process of local government restructuring is underway in Finland. Responsibilities are being passed horizontally from small municipalities to major municipalities as Finland works to reduce the number of local authorities in the country. The process began in 2005 with the introduction of the Project to Restructure Local Government and Services (PARAS).
In the last seven years the number of municipalities in Finland has fallen by one quarter.
The largest merger by the turn of the year happened in the northern town of Oulu, where four neighboring municipalities became part of Oulu, making the city’s population swell from 144,000 to more than 185,000.
On New Year’s Eve Some 10,000 spectators gathered in the Raksila stadium to celebrate Oulu’s re-birth as Finland’s fifth largest city, YLE reports.
Oulu is also the fifth largest city in the Barents region, surpassed by the Russian towns of Arkhangelsk (356,000), Murmansk (307,000), Petrozavodsk (263,000) and Syktyvkar (235,000).
Oulu is known as a major high-tech center with one of Finland’s largest universities.
Oulu is also known as the home town of the Air Guitar World Championship and the men’ choir Mieskuoro Huutajat (Screaming Men).
MURMANSK: Ecological groups gathered on Kola Peninsula fear that Barents nature will be the looser after Oslo decided to call off the environmental minister’s Moscow meeting in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
TROMSØ: Since the first five specimens of snow crab were found in the Barents Sea in 1996, the population has exploded. There is now ten times as much snow crab than king crab in the area, and scientists are just starting to find out how this new species has adopted to life in the Barents Sea.
The current situation in Ukraine makes cross-border cooperation with the neighboring countries even more important, Barents Secretariat leader Rune Rafaelsen says. At the same time, Norway has joined NATO’s condemnation of Russia’s military escalation on the Crimea peninsula.
Board member Amund Trellevik in the press network fears entry-denial of Kremlin’s controversial propaganda-journalist Dmitry Kiselyov could be retaliated by refusing Norwegian journalists access to Russia.