Chairperson Petteri Orpo of the National Coalition briefed the press on the coalition formation negotiations at the House of the Estates in Helsinki on Monday, 5 June 2023. Orpo admitted that the negotiators are faced with a number of challenging issues but voiced his confidence in wrapping up the negotiations shortly, possibly as soon as next week. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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PETTERI ORPO, the chairperson of the National Coalition, believes the sixth week of the ongoing coalition formation negotiations is about major decisions.

“I’m still not understating even a bit how big and difficult questions we still have to resolve, but this is coming together now. The finish line is looming,” he was quoted saying at the House of the Estates in Helsinki on Monday by YLE.

“The international co-operation table has the elements of a deal in place. At the education table, we’re waiting only for the final gavel to fall.”

Orpo added that he expects the negotiations to drag on at least into next week but reiterated that he is confident that a new government programme has been drawn up by Midsummer. The negotiations are already almost the longest in the history of Finland.

Helsingin Sanomat on Monday reported that the National Coalition, Finns Party, Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats are closed to an agreement on staggering earnings-based unemployment security benefits.

“My understanding is that an agreement is close, if not done by now,” said Riikka Purra, the chairperson of the Finns Party.

Each of the four parties involved in the negotiations has voiced its support for staggering earnings-based unemployment benefits at least to some extent in a bid to encourage benefit recipients to find a new job quicker. Unemployed job seekers can presently qualify for the benefit for 300, 400 or 500 days depending on their age and career history.

Staggering would mean lowering the benefit once or many times as the period of unemployment continues and, possibly, raising it at the start of the unemployment period.

Orpo on Monday refrained from commenting on the details, including whether the parties are considering cutting the amount or duration of the benefit. “I can’t comment on it in more detail,” he was quoted saying by Helsingin Sanomat.

Also Purra estimated that the coalition formation negotiations could be completed next week even though they are continuing on social and health care issues, international co-operation and other economic issues.

“If these couple of contentious issues can be cleared out of the way, we could well be ready [next week],” she said to reporters.

Helsingin Sanomat wrote that one of the cumbersome issues facing the negotiators is how to compensate consumers for the rise in fuel prices caused by the distribution obligation for renewable transport fuels, which dictates the minimum annual share of renewable fuels supplied by fuel distributors.

The newspaper wrote last week that the four parties have agreed to raise the obligation from 13.5 to 22.5 per cent by 2027, a raise that is not as steep as decided by previous governments. The Finns Party, in particular, has been adamant that climate actions must not increase the everyday costs of citizens, succeeding in committing the other parties to compensate consumers for the consequent price increases.

The annual price tag of the compensation scheme is at least hundreds of millions of euros, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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