Sofia Virta, the chairperson of the Green League, was photographed arriving for a meeting of the Parliament’s Administration Committee in Helsinki on 27 June 2024. Virta on Saturday argued to Helsingin Sanomat that a serious discussion about the state of constitutional review is needed in Finland. (Seppo Samuli – Lehtikuva)

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THE PARLIAMENT should have a serious discussion about the state of constitutional review in Finland, views Sofia Virta, the chairperson of the Green League.

Virta on Saturday stated to Helsingin Sanomat that the discussion is necessary due to the concerns and criticism expressed to the newspaper by Kaarlo Tuori, one of the internationally most distinguished legal scholars in Finland.

An honorary president of the Venice Commission, Tuori in a rare interview expressed his concern about the politicisation of the body responsible for constitutional review in Finland, the Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee.

The development, he argued, has been evident since the start of the electoral term, with the committee constantly placing less and less emphasis on human rights in order to green-light government bills. It culminated in the statement the committee issued on a border security bill that effectively ignored the concerns and opposition of all of the 18 legal experts it heard before drafting the statement.

The committee approved the statement by a vote of 15 for and 2 against on 18 June.

The process broke a number of conventional rules and marked the first time the committee has so brazenly dismissed the almost unanimous views of experts, estimated Tuori.

The criticism is so direct and severe that alarm bells should be ringing, according to Virta.

“We should be able to have the discussion on a general level, without it becoming a shouting match between parties,” she said to Helsingin Sanomat.

She estimated that the onus is on the National Coalition, which holds the presidency of the Constitutional Law Committee. The ruling right-wing party, though, appears to be reluctant to acknowledge the direction the country is sliding in.

Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance, on Saturday similarly estimated that the politicisation of the committee has occurred over a relatively long period of time, starting before the statement on what she and many other critics refer to as the refoulement act.

“With its statement on the refoulement act, the constitutional law committee has clearly become politicised.”

Also she called for a discussion about means to strengthen rule of law in Finland. Anders Adlercreutz, the chairperson of the Swedish People’s Party, on Saturday floated the idea of establishing a constitutional court in Finland.

Andersson declined to comment on his proposal, adding that she would listen to the views of legal experts in preparing the requisite reforms.

Representatives of the Centre in the Constitutional Law Committee have not signalled that the committee has become politicised, Antti Kurvinen, the chairperson of the Centre Parliamentary Group, said to Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday.

“I share Tuori’s concern that we in Finland have to be vigilant when it comes to rule of law because this [erosion of rule of law] is a certain kind of disease that’s spreading around the world,” he remarked.

Kurvinen added that although the committee bases its statements on expert views, interpreting the constitution is not mathematics.

“The Constitutional Law Committee has many times drawn up its statement based on the statements of one or two experts,” he said.

The suggestion that the committee has become politicised was also dismissed by Chancellor of Justice Tuomas Pöysti.

Pöysti on Saturday told Helsingin Sanomat that it would “naturally” be helpful to have a critical discussion about the statement procedures. He also acknowledged that the issues weighed up this electoral term have exposed differences of view on whether to emphasise economic and security-related realities or confines arising from human rights obligations.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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