It seems that Juha Sipilä’s government talks are heading towards a similar impasse as the one encountered by Jyrki Katainen (Cons.) in 2011: EU-policy.
I have already commented on this blog on Sipilä’s and his Centre Party’s views as they have been presented to the other parties in the parliament. If they reflect the future government program, a sea change will take place in Finland’s EU-policy.
Goodbye constructive pragmatism, welcome obstinate EU-scepticism.
According to Sipilä, Finland will seek changes of such magnitude in the EU’s institutional structures as well as in the eurozone, getting rid of the European Stability Mechanism et cetera, that David Cameron’s current UK government’s awkwardness will pale in comparison.
The Perussuomalaiset appears to be asking for even more. And as it seems, Sipilä might not be willing to go all the way. The Perussuomalaiset demands for a similar EU-budget rebate as the UK has. It would also be willing to give rather explicit support to a future UK government in its attempts to negotiate more opt-outs and a roll-back of EU powers.
What do the other big parties have to say?
Both the Social Democrats (SDP) and the Conservatives have explained their views on Finland’s future EU policy. Let’s have a closer look at the SDP.
During the height of the eurocrisis the SDP profiled itself as one of the strictest pro-austerity hardliners in all Europe towards the crisis torn countries. Not only that, but they also seemed to take certain pride of their uncompromising attitude, as was often exclaimed by Jutta Urpilainen, the then leader of the party and Finland’s finance minister until 2014.
Due to the SDP insisting it, Finland received cash collateral for its contribution in the second Greek bail-out package.
Yes, cash collateral.
Their message was not missed. The EU is not and is never meant to be a transfer union, where the well off will look after the less well off. Especially if they are rule breaking cheats.
Subsequently they have toned down their views, probably reflecting the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Southern Europe. This has, however, been a day late, euro short.
What do the Finnish social democrats now have to say about Finland’s future EU-policy?
In their answers to Sipilä, they stress policies that will lead the EU into faster growth and increasing employment. This is, of course, what everybody wants.
They are also strongly in favour of developing and deepening the internal markets, but true to their ideological heritage, side by side with developing social Europe.
The EU’s ambitions in climate and energy policies are on their shopping list as well. But what about the eurocrisis?
There they are in agreement with Sipilä to the extent, that Finland should not assume more liabilities in the crisis management. But this is as far as they are willing to commit themselves to a specific policy line.
Otherwise they will want to maintain Finland’s room of maneuvre in possibly changing circumstances. As opposed to Sipilä, they do not want to dismantle existing crisis management mechanisms, or the ESM, and they want to have the banking union in place as planned. In economic policy coordination they prefer simple, clear principles and a final say for the member states.
What this means is that they are not willing to tie their hands in advance in a way that Sipilä seems willing to do. There is an even more glaring difference between the SDP and the Perussuomalaiset on Europe. With their current views it is hard to see them sitting collegially all together in Sipilä’s circle of trust.
But they are vague enough so as to allow them to enter it.
An optimistic reading of all this would be that the SDP is returning back to its traditional, pro-EU attitudes. This is also a direction, where the Conservatives seem to be heading.
Will Sipilä then stick to his post-election EU-scepticism? Who will he allow into his circle of trust?
This will determine what kind of a coalition he will build, and what role Finland will play in the future in the EU.