Finland: could the True Finns break up the EU?

Not at this time.  But later, very possibly.

The populist True Finns, led by Timo Soini, increased their vote-share from four to nineteen percent in the recent general election.  A result which shocked the political establishment in Helsinki.  The party is flagrantly anti-immigration, euro-sceptic and against bail-outs.  Brussels is worried, and the Portuguese must be biting their fingernails.  Bail-outs require unanimity and the Finnish parliament has to agree to concur.  Yet a full eighty percent of Finns opted for pro-EU parties; protracted coalition talks will now take place.  Can the True Finns thwart the bail-outs?  And will this result in a Euro collapse?

The Finns are renouned for their pragmatism, so this is unlikely.  Most probably a coalition will be formed which excludes the populist party.  But the rise in nationalism in Finland, which mirrors xenophobia elsewhere in Europe, will be unlikely to wane.

Should the True Finns refuse to compromise, and remain outside government, they are likely to attract support as the rate that rapidly rising costs of EU membership impact on Finnish pockets.  The prospect of Timo Soini's party gaining even more seats in four years' time is very real.  Now, the True Finns hold 39 of the 200 parliamentary seats.  It could be a very different story in 2015.

By then the outcome of financial difficulties in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and even France will be all too apparent.  The surge in populist sentiment in Sweden, France, Holland, Belgium, Austria and elsewhere in Europe will have gathered pace.  The cost of EU membership will have ballooned.

Being an anti-immigration party, the True Finns will inevitably be seeking Finland's withdrawal from the Schengen Agreement, a convention signed by the Finns in 1995.  Berlin-based left-of-centre newspaper, Berliner Zeitung says "France and Italy have called for reform of the Convention on freedom of movement — they will not have trouble getting what they want, but that does not solve the problem of accommodating immigrants."  Reform would only frustrate the True Finns and it is, anyway, intended to be shortlived.  The French and Italians, supported by the Germans, want a temporary halt to floods of Tunisians, Ethiopians, Somalis, Libyans and others pouring into Europe.

Elsewhere, Greece is inundated, failing to withstand a stream of migrants from Afghanistan and points East, across its land border with Turkey.   A temporary halt to the Schengen Agreement might well be made permanent, and passport-controls reinstated forever at borders between EU-signatory states.  Any attempt to stem the free-flow of people will simultaneously slow inter-EU trade.  Lorries will stall at border crossings as they're searched for stow-aways.  And the EU's demise will be hastened. 

After 2015 the True Finns could scupper a raft of EU ambitions and measures.  If the Euro is still the common currency by then, a collapse thereafter looks a real possibility.  Could an upswing in economic activity and an increase in growth come to the EU's rescue?  Only time will tell.

No comments:

Post a Comment