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Ex-Greens chair Ville Niinistö "available" for European Commission post

The Green Party is calling for more openness in how Finland's European Commission candidates are chosen.

Ville Niinistö spoke to reporters at Parliament House on 22 January Image: Mesut Turan / Lehtikuva

Former Greens chair and environment minister Ville Niinistö has thrown his hat into the ring for a possible seat on the European Commission.

Niinistö said on Tuesday that if he is elected to the European Parliament in this spring's election, he would then be available as the Finnish candidate for the Commission if the government so wishes.

"Competence and experience also matter"

Speaking at a press conference in Helsinki, Niinistö and current Greens chair Pekka Haavisto called for the next cabinet to name its European Commission candidate at the same time as its ministers. They both urged more transparency in the process of selecting Finland's next possible Commissioner.

Traditionally the Finnish commissioner has been chosen by the largest party in Parliament.

"We would like to challenge this previous custom and raise the issue that competence and experience also matter," Haavisto said.

Niinistö said that he is prepared to take part in the Greens' parliamentary election campaign and in government negotiations if asked to do so. He will not be a candidate in the domestic parliamentary election.

The European elections are in late May, about one month after Finnish parliamentary elections.

The 42-year-old Ville Niinistö – a nephew of President Sauli Niinistö but no immediate relation to Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö – led the Greens from 2011 to 2017 as it gained popularity to become one of the four or five largest parties.

Haavisto, a two-time cabinet minister who was also party chair in the 1990s, returned to that post last autumn after Niinistö's successor, Touko Aalto, stepped down for health reasons.