On Wednesday, ministers approved the package to Spanish banks, which involves a Finnish loan of just under 2 billion euros.
Sparks flew, predictably, between government and opposition parties in Thursday’s plenary session, as MPs recalled from their summer holidays debated the newly-agreed bailout. This was the first time the Finnish parliament has sat during the summer break since 1962.
The exceptional session was opened by Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen and Minister of Finance Jutta Urpilainen.
In his introduction, Prime Minister Katainen admitted that many Finns were fed up with the whole debt crisis. Katainen also regretted that documentation on the deal with Spain was made available to MPs in such a hurry.
However, the Prime Minister stood adamant in defending the deal, demanding an answer from the opposition on what would happen if Spain was not bailed out.
"It is important that we are able to make decisions at a time when decisions need to be made," Katainen stressed.
Katainen was also dismissive of suggestions of leaving the euro, saying such a move would bring about significant negative consequences. The Prime Minister pressed opposition Finns Party Chair Timo Soini on whether his party would push for Finland to leave the euro. Soini answered that the matter could indeed be investigated.
Urpilainen proud of Spanish deal
For her part, Minister of Finance Jutta Urpilainen told the Parliament that Finland had managed a much tougher stance than other eurozone countries.
Urpilainen was proud of the outcome of negotiations with Spain over collateral, and an arrangement whereby Finland will receive collateral covering some 40 percent of its contribution. The Minister of Finance ridiculed those who had demanded collateral on the full loan. According to Urpilainen, Finland would not in fact be participating in the Spanish bailout at all in such a scenario.
Urpilainen added that it was not possible for Finland to refuse to contribute to the Spanish bailout package while continuing to stay in the euro and enjoying its benefits.
The opposition was extremely critical of supporting Spanish banks. Finns Party Chair Timo Soini said that Finland was now supporting Spanish banks instead of the Spanish state, and that this would open the door to supporting other countries’ banks also.
Soini also protested the tight schedule of the collateral deal. The full document, with over 100 pages, had only reached the Finns Party on Thursday morning – the same day as the parliamentary debate was being held.
The opposition Centre Party Chair Juha Sipilä said that Finland was now on course to grant more loans, and asked whether there was any limit to Finland’s lending. Sipilä and Soini predicted that more countries in need of bailout would emerge in the future.
Both party leaders proposed a vote of no-confidence against the Government.
The parliament is due to vote on the matter on Friday.