In Digest, Europe - East

The party of hawkish Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubbs, who called on his country to join NATO and deter Russia, suffered an election defeat in the national election of April 19.

Map FinlandAlexander Stubb, the incumbent pro-NATO Prime Minister of Finland, and his party lost the country’s latest Parliamentary elections to their Centre Party rivals led by the multimillionaire businessman Juha Sipila. While economic issues dominated the debate, Finland’s relations with Russia were also up for vote as well. Many observers are saying that Stubb’s defeat signals a turn in Finnish foreign polic, in that the Northern European country may become more pragmatic with Russia and less willing to move towards NATO. Just a week before the elections, Stubb’s government agreed to a joint declaration with other Northern European states, notably NATO members Denmark, Iceland, and Norway, that called Russia the greatest threat to European security. It remains to be seen whether the forthcoming administration will feel the same way.

Arkady Moshes, Director of Research Program of EU Eastern Neighborhood, Finnish Institute of International Affairs; Petri Krohn, Finnish political commentator, chairman of “Finland Without Nazism”; and Pekka Vilyakainen, Finnish businessman, adviser to the President of Skolkovo Foundation and  a friend of New Prime-Minister Sipila, comment on the issues.

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Arkady Moshes, Director of Research Program of EU Eastern Neighborhood, Finnish Institute of International Affairs:

Andrew Korybko: To what extent were economics motivating the results and to what extent did voters maybe vote just to say their disapproval with their government’s foreign policy?

Arkady Moshes: The main thing was dissatisfaction with the general activities of the government in the socio-economic sphere. The government consisted of parties whose ideological preferences turned out to be simply irreconcilable and therefor they were not able to go forward with the reforms, the structural reforms that the country needs. However, when it comes to foreign policy, cooperation with NATO was expected to play a major role in the elections but in my view it did not.

Petri Krohn, Finnish political commentator, chairman of “Finland without Nazism”:

Andrew Korybko: Can you tell us what were the hot spots and issues in this election, and how they may have affected the results? Was it more economics or was it more a protest against the foreign policy of Alexander Stubb?

Petri Krohn: It depends on who you ask. If you ask the politicians, it is mainly economy. Finland has seen very little or no-growth since 2009 and there is a demographic crisis blooming. There is a big group of people retiring and Finland still receives a constant flow of young immigrants from the Third World.

Sergei Strokan: What can we expect? Can we expect a softer line on the sanctions policy and a closer approach to Russia?

Petri Krohn: Stubb has been pushing for NATO membership, and the current government has been defeated. There will likely be no NATO membership and Finland’s policy will continue as before, for the last 25 years, with good relations with Russia…. The sanctions are hitting Finland extremely hard and Finnish farmers have fed Saint Petersburg for the last 300 years. The agriculture in Finland is suffering but I don’t think Finland will openly and publicly take a position against sanctions.

Pekka Vilyakainen, Finnish businessman, adviser to the President of Skolkovo:

Andrew Korybko: What do you think this election means now? Is it a very impactful election or is just a routine election?

Pekka Vilyakainen: As a Finn I was very pleased with the outcome of the elections as there is now a clearer view of what Finland will do, however I don’t think that there is any major change in the way politics is done in Finland because our society is quite stable in many ways and of course Finland is suffering like all the other European countries because of sanctions. And it is not only of finances, there’s also a human factor, as many Finns have a lot of relations with Russia and many people are wondering what these sanctions and these kinds of things are meaning. Most of the people will really like to stabilize the situation and to normalize it.

Read also:
Pro-EU coalition loses in Finland election as Centre party wins 49 seats, The Guardian, April 20, 2015


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