Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

28 June 2013

As you know, due to rather unforeseen circumstances, Edward Snowden has moved his home from the US to Hong Kong and most recently Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport’s transit area.

Everyone is expecting that Snowden will eventually try to get to Ecuador, a country that came to international attention over a year ago when it granted asylum to Julian Assange, another fugitive. This all has been a massive publicity coup for the small South American country. Before Assange there weren’t many stories about Ecuador in the media; after Assange got to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, things changed. At least we now know where Ecuador is.

At the beginning of the Snowden tale there was another small country that got its 15 minutes of fame: there were rumours that Snowden would try to get to Iceland. And I bet Icelanders were thrilled to be the centre of the world’s attention – and this time for a reason other than one of their volcanoes ruining the rest of the world’s holiday plans.

Being from another small country I’d suggest that Edward Snowden has a rethink, because not far from Russia there is a country where he would fit in better than he realises: Edward, go to Finland.

There are plenty of reasons why this makes sense. According to recent news, Finland’s border control has not been instructed to do anything should you try to cross from Russia. With a bit of luck you could probably sneak in.

Once you were in there would be no end of great things to greet you. There are hardly any people in Finland; you can easily find yourself a cottage somewhere in the countryside within 10 miles of the closest shop and 15 miles from the closest neighbour. And if you decided to stay in a tent? Well, this is considered completely normal behaviour.

Even if Finns find out about a lonely American in a cottage in the middle of a forest somewhere in Suonenjoki or Kemi, they won’t bother to try and find out more. The Finnish habit of respecting others’ privacy means you won’t find anyone knocking on your door.

And Edward, I know you like the internet. Well, you’ll be delighted to hear that Finland’s been working hard and you can actually get an internet connection pretty much wherever you are as long as you are willing to pay a bit more for it. Same with mobile phone connections – and there are plenty of mobile-phone games to while away your lonely evenings.

Also, I know you are originally from Wilmington in North Carolina, where they now keep Second World War battleship the USS North Carolina. You will definitely feel at home in Finland – believe me, there are plenty of memorials dedicated to what happened 70 years ago.

Plus, if the worst was to happen and you were discovered, it wouldn’t be the end. Finland, after all those years of doing pretty much what the Soviet Union wanted it to – followed by those years when it did what the US wanted it to – is now so allergic to any foreign demands that it will not send you back to the US easily.

Of course, I am thinking of the benefits to my home country here too. Headlines about Finland appearing around the world would do a lot of good: tourism entrepreneurs would definitely manage to sell a few more northern lights tours to the Arctic and there would be a couple more cruise ships heading to Helsinki during the summer months. Any publicity is good publicity, after all.

Markus Hippi is a presenter and producer for Monocle 24.

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