Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition, spoke at a press conference held in Helsinki on Tuesday, 2 May 2023, following a seminar that formally kicked off the coalition formation negotiations between the National Coalition, Finns Party, Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats. Orpo said the goal of day one of what should be a weeks-long process was to establish a shared understanding of various key issues facing Finland. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)


REPRESENTATIVES of the National Coalition, Finns Party, Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats began the coalition formation talks yesterday with a seminar where experts and government officials provided an overview of their area of expertise.

“We didn’t solve any intricate questions today, but we established a shared understanding of where the country is and what must be done so that Finns have it better tomorrow,” summarised Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition.

“The talks have been had in good spirits with a focus on solutions, we’ve rolled up our sleeves and will get to work.”

Orpo, who is in charge of the coalition formation process as the head of the largest party in the Finnish Parliament, reminded that the public economy is not on a sustainable footing, reiterating the need to make fiscal adjustments in order to prevent the debt burden from growing and the welfare state from crumbling.

The coalition formation negotiations will begin in earnest today as representatives of the four parties are divided into issue-specific working groups in order to find common ground on the main themes of the next government programme. YLE on Tuesday reminded that the group assignments usually provide no indication of the distribution of ministerial portfolios between the ruling parties.

“We’ll look to put together a solid programme. It won’t be until the next phase that we divide the portfolios to the parties and then to people within the parties,” confirmed Orpo.

He reiterated that he intends to complete the process by early June.

The experts and officials who spoke at the opening seminar were Juha Majanen, the permanent state secretary at the Ministry of Finance, Olli Rehn, the governor of the Bank of Finland, Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Anita Lehikoinen, the permanent state secretary at the Ministry of Education and Culture, Timo Kivinen, the commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, Markku Keinänen, the permanent representative of Finland to the EU, Ombudsman for Older People Päivi Topo, Ombudsman for Children Elina Pekkarinen, and Risto Siilasmaa, the chairperson of the Technology Advisory Board.

A shift on carbon sinks?

Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday wrote that the expert selections could provide an indication of how the government intends to approach and emphasise different challenges.

Taalas replacing Markku Ollikainen, the chairperson of the Finnish Climate Chanel, as the expert providing an overview of the climate crisis could forebode a different approach to carbon sinks and land use, for example.

While both Taalas and Ollikainen take climate change extremely seriously and call for further action, they do not see eye to eye on carbon sinks, the role of Finland and EU obligations. Taalas has questioned the national debate on carbon sinks, viewing that it would be more important to cut fossil emissions and prevent deforestation outside Europe.

He described the discussion on carbon sinks as a national trait in an interview with YLE on 25 March.

He stated to the public broadcaster that carbon sinks have collapsed as a result of slowing tree growth and the age structure of forests, omitting rising felling volumes – the first cause highlighted in a study by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

“We’ve maybe started with wrong assumptions and thought that with carbon sinks we can take care much of the problem that should be taken care of by reducing fossil energy,” he said to YLE.

The Finnish economy, he also declared, revolves around the forest cluster. Forestry accounts for roughly four per cent of the gross domestic product of Finland, Helsingin Sanomat reminded on Tuesday.

Taalas yesterday warned lawmakers that the climate crisis raises the likelihood of heatwaves, stationary weather fronts and winter precipitation, according to documents published relating to his presentation. He also continued to refer to the national goal of making sure carbon sinks at least offset all emissions by 2035 as a national speciality, even though carbon-sink targets have been imposed also on other members of the EU.

“The significance of forests for the economy, employment and funding of the welfare state has not been taken sufficiently into consideration,” reads one of the presentation documents.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT