Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition, smiled in the cafeteria of the Finnish Parliament on Tuesday, 18 April 2023. Orpo is expected to comment on other parties’ answers to his questions, designed to find the optimal coalition partners for the National Coalition, on Wednesday, 19 April. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


PARTIES in the Finnish Parliament on Tuesday shed light on their conditions for coalition co-operation in their answers to the questions presented last week by Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the election-winning National Coalition.

The Centre Party was the only party not to answer to the questions in detail, reiterating in its curt response that it is bound for the opposition after losing 8 of its 31 seats in the Parliament.

“The Centre will spend the next four years working uncompromisingly from the opposition for developing Finland and the well-being, success and security of Finns,” it stated, arguing that it made the decision out of “respect” for democracy.

With the Centre Party and its 23 seats apparently out of the picture, the National Coalition is essentially limited to two options to form a ruling majority in the Finnish Parliament: A 113-seat coalition with the Social Democrats, Green League and Swedish People’s Party. Or a 108-seat coalition with the Finns Party, Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats.

Finns Party hints at readiness for concessions on work-based immigration

The Finns Party stated in its response that it is prepared to join a ruling coalition on three conditions: immigration that is harmful for the economy and security must be restricted significantly, public finances must be consolidated, and new income transfers within the EU must be rejected.

“Work-based immigration must be understood as an element that supplements Finnish labour markets. Recruitment from outside the EU must focus on highly educated professionals who are needed by Finnish IT firms, for example. Workers for blue-collar jobs from outside Finnish borders must be recruited primarily from the EU’s 450-million-people internal market,” it outlined.

The populist right-wing party did not call for measures to support its long-term goal of leaving the EU. “Finland is an EU member state. The Finns Party accepts this,” it retorted.

It expressed its readiness to make fiscal adjustments as long as the measures take into account economic cycles are scaled and timed appropriately. “We are ready to balance the economy by saving on expenses that are of secondary importance to citizens, such as development aid, cumulative expenses linked to immigration, and expenses inflicted by oversized climate actions,” it stated.

Key for a right-wing ruling coalition, though, is the Swedish People’s Party.

Also it imposed three conditions on its participation in a ruling coalition. Finland must be an active and permanent member of the international community, respect and comply with international treaties, basic and human rights, and pursue policies that reflect such values.

The country should also reaffirm its status as a collaborative member of the EU and stand by its carbon-neutrality target for 2035.

“Accelerating sustainable economic growth and improving productivity are key,” the party wrote. “Improving labour availability is one key measure. We also need foreign labour, which is why we want to remove the labour availability consideration for foreign labour and streamline permit processes.”

The Christian Democrats and Movement Now both essentially voiced their readiness to join a ruling coalition led by the National Coalition.

“The Christian Democrats is ready to participate in various ruling coalitions as long as the government programme is compatible with the party’s values and objectives,” the conservative party stated.

“Movement Now’s objective is to participate in the ruling coalition,” the one-person group said. “Our threshold issues are adjusting central government finances, pursuing a pro-business growth policy, accelerating the sustainable transition and carrying out structural reforms that promote economic growth.”

Fiscal adjustment difficult for left-leaning parties

On the political left, the key question remains how to reconcile views on the scope and nature of fiscal adjustment and, more broadly, the public economy.

The Social Democratic Party declared in its response that it is prepared to join a ruling coalition that adopts a government programme that aligns sufficiently with its key goals of promoting economically, environmentally and socially sustainable policies. Such a coalition, it stressed, must not target spending cuts at the basic functions of welfare society – namely, education, social security and social and health care services.

The party also said it is imperative to hold on to the carbon-neutrality goal by 2035 and to promote work-based immigration by, for example, increasing the number of international students who come to and, after graduation, stay in Finland.

The Green League, one of the big losers of the recent parliamentary elections, laid down altogether six conditions for joining the ruling coalition.

The next government, it declared, must make the decisions to stop biodiversity loss by 2030 and agree on concrete measures that ensure carbon neutrality by 2035. Public spending on culture and education must not be slashed, access to social and health care services must be improved, and the public economy must be consolidated by attracting investments in the green transition, significantly accelerating work-based immigration and increasing public spending on research and development.

The government must also work actively to promote the realisation of international human rights obligations and continue collaborating actively on the global stage.

The Left Alliance questioned the scope of fiscal adjustment pursued by the National Coalition. The left-wing party said it is ready to make adjustments to the tune of three billion euros, relying on measures laid out in its election platform.

“We agree with the view of several experts, including economist Sixten Korkman, that an adjustment of six billion euros over a single electoral term is too harsh and would cause considerable economic harm and human suffering.”

The left-wing party also called for an incentive scheme that supports the transition toward more sustainable forms of consumption and production.

“Achieving the carbon-neutrality target requires increasingly ambitious collaboration between the state, regions and municipalities, as well as industries. Various incentives such as emission trading, taxes and subsidies will continue to have a crucial role in promoting sustainable consumption and production,” it said.

National Coalition tones down demand for adjustment

Orpo on Tuesday thanked the parties for their answers, saying he would offer his thoughts on the answers this afternoon.

Also the National Coalition submitted answers to its questions, apparently toning down its language on fiscal adjustment: instead of insisting on adjusting public finances to the tune of six billion euros, it stated that its goal is to guarantee the funding and future of the welfare society.

“That can only be achieved if we generate sustainable economic growth. We need societal changes that strengthen expertise and promote employment and entrepreneurship, along with investments in clean energy,” it said.

The right-wing party would resort to measures such as tearing down inactivity traps, increasing labour market flexibility, reducing the taxation of labour and devising tax policies that attract international talent to Finland.

“We would expedite and automate permit processes, move away from labour availability consideration to effective monitoring and concentrate duties related to international recruitment to a single authority. We would increase student intake in sectors afflicted by labour shortage and guarantee opportunities to individuals to supplement their expertise,” it listed.

The National Coalition also reaffirmed its commitment to the carbon-neutrality target by 2035, the omission of which in the questions caught the attention of many analysts.

“We support the climate act’s goal of a carbon-neutral Finland by 2035,” it stated.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT