Can EU be shaken by the Finland’s new Government?
Vatan Emrooz
Anna Kotaviita

Can EU be shaken by the Finland’s new Government?

Greece, Ireland and then Portugal – Financial crisis support for collapsing EU member states became one of the election themes during the Parliamentary elections on Finland held on 17th April. Suddenly, the whole Europe seems to be interested in Finland, from the small Nordic country with a bit more than 5, 3 million inhabitants.

”This is JYTKY (a big bang)”, shouted a party leader of the True Finns Timo Soini, when he kept already a historical speech to his supporters at the election evening after the result was clear.

To remember few years back, Timo Soini was a raising name in the political field and the only who has been elected to the European parliament with anti-EU perspective. Soini run a party known from its patriotic populism, Euro-skeptic and anti-immigration attitudes. He was in opposition, heard by others, ignored by others.

Today, it is not exaggerated to say that the elections were true party for the True Finns. After all, they increased the number of the Parliamentarians from 5 to 39, from overall 200 seats. Since then, it has been speculated how is the election result impacting Finland and EU – will Finland resist the planned Portugal 80 billion bailout or the stabilization mechanism that is planned to secure the Euro-zone from the financial crisis from the year 2013?

The historical shift – from central to right wing

After the elections, Finnish political field changed radically – The Prime Minister´s Party, the Centre Party, suffered significant loose of Parliamentarians and are now in opposition for the next four years, at least.

Today, the National Coalition Party (20, 40 %) is the biggest party for the first time. The Social Democratic Party (19, 1 %) holds the second place with a slight difference to third biggest party, the True Finns (19%).

The defeat of the Central Party can be seen correlating to the “election funding scandal” that shook Finland last year. Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi´s predecessor Matti Vanhanen was in the heart of it, since he was accused for abusing illegally the election money for boosting his back.

However, this year, the turn out rate increased up to 70.4%, which is highest result since years.

The popularity of the True Finns -like parties has been witnessed also in many other European Union member states during the resent years, e.g. in France, Italy, Hungary, Sweden and Denmark. When trying to analyse this tendency, sayings like “the old good times”, ”independency from EU”, ”nationalism”, ”financial crisis” and ”growing inequality” and are often used.

The right wing movement’s popularity is not warmly welcome by all. If have to think its positive side, according to Dr. Tiia Lehtonen, from the Finnish institute of International Affairs of Finland, the situation have forced to take into discussion some political issues that have been traditionally kept in silence or being a result of a consensus policies.

Besides the memorable election result, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) sent their delegation to observe the Finnish elections first time during its existence. However, their mandate was to observe criticized election maney system and the media accession for small parties, not the voting procedure itself.

EU issues to start the Government negotiations

The Portugal bailout is one of the first issues to be tackled in the new Government. The biggest three parties’ represents different perspectives – the National Coalition Party supports, the Social Democratic Party questionise and the True Finns oppose the financial packet.

European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said an interview with Finnish Public Broadcasting Company YLE this week that the rescue for Portugal is only possible with Finland’s support that no other options are in sight.

“If we want to prevent Portugal’s bankruptcy, we need a unanimous decision that the European bailout fund can be used to rescue Portugal. Unanimity means also Finland’s participation”, he stressed

Finland already promised to support Portugal during the meeting of the Ministers of Finance in Hungary in early April. Consequently, other member states are not showing any solidarity for Finland’s possible attempt to avoid paying the bailouts.

Refusing from the Portugal package was Soini´s major election promise. Now the True Finns are facing real challenge, how to find a common solution that will satisfy its voters and its partners in the new Government if they will be one of the parties in it?

Battle of interests

A speculation about Finland’s new possible path is a hot potato all over Europe. At the same time Finnish politicians are calming the discussion by referring Finland’s role as a Nordic welfare state with the ability to negotiate satisfactory solutions between different interests.

Nevertheless, according to Dr. Lehtonen some level change can be seen in Finland´s line, although Governments majority is still for EU. She reminds that decisions in EU are made in consensus, but single countries have veto-right, meaning that single members can overthrow decision approved by others.

”In the question of EU´s enlargement, Finland could go more critical direction, because the True Finns are opposing EU´s enlargement, especially to Turkey. Veto would also make it more difficult to agree about the common dept issues”.

Dr. Lehtonen says that democracy is one of EU´s essential philosophy, but on the other hand, Finland might loose some of its position around the negotiation tables if it just disagrees with others.

“At least rhetorically, the lines will be modified for more suitable for the True Finns. However, several compromises what comes to the EU issues have to be made during the Government negotiations. The final Government programme is going to remind a package solution”.

The Ministerial Portfolios and the parties in the Government will be announced during the next weeks. Before that, it is impossible to say does the election result have European level effects, and what these effects could be.

The harmony, in Finland as well as among the member states, can be found only through long, difficult negotiations with compromises – and if not, the both are to be facing serious lack of credibility.

Anna Kotaviita, 29.4.2011 Helsinki