Sampo Terho, the Minister of European Affairs, Culture and Sports, faced a number of questions about the apparent turnabout in his position on the European Union on Thursday, as the Parliament convened for its first question time session following the split of the Finns Party.
Terho repeatedly expressed his willingness to hold a referendum to decide whether or not Finland should remain in the European Union while campaigning for the leadership of the Finns Party.
“I took part in drawing up the government programme, and I’m very satisfied with it,” he affirmed on Thursday. “The government will abide by the same government programme it did last week and the week before that. There has been no change in policy.”
Terho is one of a total of 20 legislators who left the Finns Party and formed the New Alternative Parliamentary Group on Tuesday following the election of Jussi Halla-aho (PS), a Member of the European Parliament known for his opposition to immigration and the integration of the European Union, as the chairperson of the Finns Party.
The Finns Party Parliamentary Group, he pointed out, was demanding that its members commit to the government programme as recently as on Monday. “What has happened here is that my position has not changed, while your position has. I’m committed to the government programme,” reiterated Terho.
His interpretation of the situation was rejected by Leena Meri, the new chairperson of the Finns Party Parliamentary Group. “We aren’t committed to anything any more, as we’re no longer part of the government,” she reminded.
Speaker of the Parliament Maria Lohela, another member of the newly-formed New Alternative Parliamentary Group, put an end to the debate about the composition of the government by reminding that legislators will have the opportunity to comment on government policies on Monday.
Several Members of Parliament also expressed their bafflement with the fact that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre), Minister of Finance Petteri Orpo (NCP) and Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini were all absent from the question time session.
“The first question time session after the coalition crisis: Juha Sipilä, Petteri Orpo and Timo Soini are absent; Sampo Terho refuses to answer to [questions about] changes in government policy,” Krista Mikkonen, the chairperson of the Green Parliamentary Group, summarised on Twitter.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi