“True Finns” Victory and the Power of Veto in Politics

Tuesday, 19. April 2011     1 comment(s)
Tiia Lehtonen
Researcher - The European Union research programme

With the victory of the True Finns in Finnish parliamentary elections last Sunday, the trend of anti-European, right-wing populism across Europe is further strengthened. For the first time in Finnish history, an EU-related issue (that of the rescue funding and bailout packages in general, and European Stability Mechanism in particular) dominated the election campaign. The anti-EU attitude of True Finns will have – if not major – at least some implications on Finnish EU-policies in the months ahead.

The True Finns will demand concessions, side-payments and trade-offs from other parties for their participation in the government. This is evident and likely to be seen especially in EU issues that they label as most crucial. To the same extent, they may steer the decision-making at the Union level to their preferred direction by affecting the very formulation of the Finnish EU policies.

In theoretical terms, the unanimity decision-making rule in budgetary issues predicts positive correlation between the actor interests and policy outcomes. Given that unanimity between the EU member states is required when e.g. ESM is negotiated, Finland could theoretically block the decision. In these terms, Finland plays a veto-role, as its agreement is necessary for the deal. To this end, the rule gives each member state a veto over the outcome, in protecting its vested interests and eliminating the possibility of involuntary distribution, even if it also makes the decision-making more difficult and time-consuming. As suggested by Andrew Moravcsik, an intergovernmentalist scholar, the simple but credible threat of non-agreement provides national governments with their most fundamental form of bargaining power.

In practice, one may distinguish between three types of threats an actor may employ in negotiations. A reluctant member state can either threaten to leave the organization (full exit threat) or a particular area of cooperation (partial exit threat). Thirdly, it may refer to the domestic difficulties followed by the subsequent decision, during which the national constituents can oppose the decision. For the time being, it is the stance of the True Finns that using of any of these strategies could come into question.

It remains to be seen, whether the cooperation of True Finns with two other major parties, the National Coalition Party and the Social Democrats, is constructive or not. It also remains to be seen what kind of a package-deal will be established among them and what will be eventually labelled as “Finnish” EU interests in the end. Nevertheless, the decision-making power of small member states in the EU derives to a large extent from their fundamental right to veto. It can reasonably be argued that the more stringent the decision-rule the more power the smaller members have. Strong national mandates may confer significant power. In the real world of EU politics, however, it is most likely that no bigger changes will take place and it is equally unlikely that Finland would ultimately block the financial assistance packages. Diplomatic pressure would limit the possibility of the unwanted outcomes and the True Finns would most probably need to tone down their anti-EU rhetoric to participate in the government.

Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors

Discussion (1 comments)

21.4.2011, Simo Salo

I think Your judgements over the effects of the policies of the True Finns are very speculative and premature.
The party has had no representatives in Finnish government so far. We cannot say what their impact will be.
Give them a change to give their input to Finnish EU-policies and give your judgement a bit later.

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