The leader of negotiations on forming Finland's next government, Petteri Orpo (NCP), said on Friday afternoon that the talks "could be completed by the end of next week".
The NCP aims to form a right-leaning coalition government with the nationalist Finns Party, the second-largest party in the new Parliament, along with the smaller Swedish People's Party and Christian Democrats. The four disparate parties would have 109 seats in the 200-seat legislature, providing a solid majority to govern for the next four years – providing Orpo can keep them all in line.
Orpo told reporters that although some issues remain open, solutions are close at hand.
"Hard work is being done and [policy] papers are being prepared. There are certain things still to be resolved. I'm absolutely sure that they can all be resolved," Orpo told journalists at Helsinki's House of Estates. He spoke on Friday afternoon as the sixth week of government formation talks drew to a close – marking a record length in modern Finnish history.
Biofuel remains a sticking point
The NCP chair said that some matters were still pending, for example, the financing of social and healthcare services – where he aims to cut costs – and the percentage of biofuel that must be included in standard petrol and diesel at the pump.
"It is quite realistic to expect that it will all be ready by the end of next week," Orpo said.
Orpo dismissed suggestions that there was "any special trouble" in the team negotiating economic issues.
"It's just simply a difficult issue. I have spoken to negotiators from all parties. There is a desire to find a solution. They are discussing various models and it's essential to resolve that," said Orpo.
That followed reports that MP Jani Mäkelä, the Finns Party's chief negotiator on economic issues, had walked out of the talks in protest against a proposal to increase the amount of biofuel required in normal gasoline and diesel.
The party opposes the move, citing the rising cost to motorists with combustion-engine cars. Its strongest areas of support are in rural areas and small towns where public transport is less available.
Divided SPP meets this weekend
On the other hand, the Swedish People's Party has stressed that raising the share of biofuel is essential in order to limit Finland's greenhouse gas emissions and to meet its EU commitments. Under EU law, member states must raise the renewable energy share of transport energy consumption to at least 14 percent by 2030.
Coalition-forming talks will be on hiatus over the weekend as the Swedish People's Party – the only holdover from the outgoing SDP-led government in these talks – holds its annual party conference in Tampere. That meeting could bring differences of opinion between the small party's liberal and conservative factions to a head.
Meanwhile the Greens, another junior party in the outgoing government, meet this weekend in Seinäjoki to elect a new chair. The two candidates are Saara Hyrkkö and Sofia Virta, both second-term MPs in their 30s.