A NUMBER of coalition negotiators will take a few-day breather, reports Helsingin Sanomat.
The Finns Party demanded at the start of the week that the majority of theme-specific task forces suspend their work until significant progress has been made on climate and immigration policy – perhaps the most divisive issues in the coalition formation negotiations led by the National Coalition.
“These two issues are clearly lagging behind others,” Riikka Purra, the chairperson of the Finns Party, was quoted saying by Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday. “The problem has been that we haven’t been able to talk about these difficult issues but we’ve been beating around the bush.”
Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition, confirmed that the four parties will focus on establishing a broad-stroke agreement on the two issues but estimated that the other task forces would resume their work no later than on Friday.
“The other groups are far along, so they can take a breather now,” he said, denying that the twist is a sign of mistrust between the parties. “There maybe be a bit of impatience here rather than differences of opinion. Whatever the case, these [issues] would’ve been resolved this week. The Finns Party wanted to pick up the pace even more on issues that are important to it.”
News of the development was received with surprise by the two other parties involved in the negotiations, the Christian Democrats and Swedish People’s Party.
Chairperson Sari Essayah of the Christian Democrats said she did not hear about the decision until it was reported by Iltalehti, lamenting that some of the party’s had made a needless trip to the House of the Estates on Tuesday.
Purra on Tuesday said the Finns Party will insist on a substantial change in immigration policy, in the direction of Denmark and Sweden. The issue has created friction particularly between the Finns Party and Swedish People’s Party.
“It’s not that we’d stop complying with international treaties or EU law, but that we’d tighten immigration policy across the board within those frameworks,” she outlined.
“The Swedish People’s Party is participating in the coalition formation negotiations, and its conditions are basically the opposite of our conditions. Everyone has to understand that unless we talk about these issues and instead talk about other issues the situation will be unresolved for weeks on end.”
Also the Finns Party acknowledges that compromises must be made, according to Purra.
Anna-Maja Henriksson, the chairperson of the Swedish People’s Party, was asked yesterday whether the shift in focus signifies that this week could be decisive for the coalition formation negotiations.
“It may be, I don’t know. It’s important for the Swedish People’s Party that we reach an agreement that’s good for Finland. I’m sure all chairpersons realise that they won’t be getting everything they want,” she commented, estimating that the shift will likely protract the negotiations.
“We know that we have a great deal of work ahead of us especially for the working group on social and health care. This means that the process will drag on as far as the schedule goes. But we have no qualms about this approach.”
The shift was widely interpreted as a show of force by the Finns Party.
The populist right-wing party has increasingly frustrated with the approach taken by Orpo, who leads the negotiations as the chairperson of the largest party in the Finnish Parliament. Orpo has apparently sought to delay serious discussions on the challenging issues until the final stages of the talks in order to make backing out a more difficult proposition for the Finns Party and Swedish People’s Party.
“Purra got tired of Orpo’s attempts to commit parties [to the coalition] with exhaustion tactics,” interpreted Jyrki Hara, a political journalist at YLE.
“Purra showed that the Finns Party refuses to be a junior partner for the National Coalition,” wrote Teemu Muhonen from Helsingin Sanomat.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT