Chairpersons Riikka Purra of the Finns Party (foreground) and Anna-Maja Henriksson of the Swedish People’s Party were photographed arriving for a presser at the House of the Estates in Helsinki on Friday, 26 May 2023. The two party leaders have offered somewhat distinct interpretations of the compromise reached on immigration policy outlines in the coalition formation talks led by the National Coalition. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE CHAIRPERSONS of the Finns Party and Swedish People’s Party have both sought to frame their compromise on immigration policy outlines as a win for their respective supporters.

“We go the kind of amendments and additions that were considered important by the Swedish People’s Parliamentary Group. Most of our proposals were approved in the chairpersons’ table,” Anna-Maja Henriksson, the chairperson of the Swedish People’s Party, commented to YLE on Saturday.

“We didn’t get everything we wanted, but we got enough at this point.”

Riikka Purra, the chairperson of the Finns Party, estimated that the chairpersons made no legislative amendments to either the outlines of immigration policy, or the guidelines for the work of the minister of the interior. Helsingin Sanomat wrote that Purra described the amendments approved by the chairpersons as relatively cosmetic when speaking to reporters at the House of the Estates on Saturday.

“That’s her interpretation of the situation,” Henriksson retorted after she was asked about the disconnect by YLE. “I forwarded the changes that are important to us, and we succeeded pretty well in that regard.”

The National Coalition, Finns Party, Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats will be able to continue their negotiations over the next government programme thanks to the compromise.

The future of the talks seemed to be hanging in the balance at the end of last week.

Purra had declared that the talks would come to an end unless the agreements drawn up by the climate and immigration working groups are accepted as such by all parties. The Swedish People’s Parliamentary Group, though, decided to demand that the agreement on immigration be amended, prompting her to withdraw the ultimatum and accept some of the demands.

All four parties have been reticent about the contents of the agreements they have made thus far.

Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday reported, citing two sources familiar with the negotiations, that the amendments to the immigration policy outlines can be described mostly as specifications. The amendments state that the tightening of immigration policy must be carried out with regard for children’s rights, constitutional boundaries and the ban on removing asylum seekers.

YLE similarly reported that the latest amendments will neither require constitutional amendments, nor infringe on national commitments to international treaties.

Henriksson declined to explicitly confirm the reports in an interview with the public broadcaster, reminding that all agreements on specific issues are conditional on the four parties reaching an agreement on the entire policy agenda.

“The constitution and international treaties both must be taken into account and respected in all circumstances, and that includes children’s rights and the deportation ban,” she commented. “I won’t comment further on the deal. In the coalition formation talks, nothing has been agreed until everything has been agreed. We still have work to do on social and health care affairs, and education.”

The talks, she added, can only move forward through discussion.

“We won’t adopt a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. The best way to do your job in the government is to try to find solutions together, and that’s what we did,” she said, expressing her frustration with the approach of the Finns Party.

“[Take it or leave it] was the attitude towards us on Friday evening,” she said. “The Finns Party viewed that everything is ready when it comes to immigration policy outlines, and I declared that it isn’t.”

YLE has also reported that the parties have agreed to set gross income of 1,600 euros a month as a minimum requirement for work-based residence permits. The requirement will apply to to all employees from outside the EU, including those whose pay aligns with the minimum-wage provisions in the applicable collective bargaining agreement.

The requirement is presently roughly 1,300 euros, but it does not apply to employees who are paid in accordance with the minimum pay requirements of the applicable collective bargaining agreement.

Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition, has estimated that the government programme can be completed by Midsummer.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT