Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) spoke to reporters outside the House of the Estates in Helsinki on Sunday, 25 April 2021. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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THE GOVERNMENT of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) will today resume its negotiations over the framework for central government spending in the coming years, after failing to find common ground on what was already the fourth day of what was supposed to be a two-day framework session on Sunday.

Marin confirmed yesterday evening that the parties failed to find an agreement during 10 hours of negotiations on Sunday.

“It’s positive that we’re still at the negotiation table and we’re able to talk about things together,” she commented when leaving the House of the Estates.

“I have plenty of patience.”

Marin on Friday suspended the negotiations for a day as differences of opinion between the five parties proved to be massive, thrusting the fate of the government into some question. Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko (Centre) on Saturday stated that a government that cannot make decisions about the management of its finances cannot “take care of its other duties, either”.

Minister of Finance Matti Vanhanen (Centre) told YLE that the framework session, which is typically a fairly straightforward process, has resembled the coalition formation talks.

The negotiations have hit a deadlock especially due to the millions of euros in spending cuts demanded by the Centre, according to Helsingin Sanomat. Also employment measures and the energy use of peat have created friction between the parties.

Peat production, the source of employment to slightly more than 2,000 people, has embodied the clash between the regional political interests of the Centre and the climate goals of the Green League. While peat is used to produce about six to seven per cent of energy, it makes up 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from energy production in Finland. Its emissions are 12 per cent higher per energy unit than coal, according to the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (SLL).

The question, essentially, is how peat producers should be supported as the phasing out of peat in energy production continues: by subsidies or tax cuts, as proposed by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

“I can’t stomach the thought of us phasing out domestic energy production abruptly all the while we continue to import fossil stuff for our boilers and look abroad for the white peat and peat bedding needed at greenhouses and livestock farms,” stated Saarikko.

The Green League has shot down the idea of slashing the tax on peat.

“We won’t compromise on jointly agreed goals even if they may be a bit painful. When you have a jointly agreed goal, you should focus on finding ways to reach that goal – not ways to not reach that goal,” Emma Kari, the chairperson of the Green Parliamentary Group, stated to Helsingin Sanomat on 17 April.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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