EU stimulus faces new obstacle in Finland with super majority required

Finnish MPs will now vote on the package, which is intended to stimulate EU economies after the Covid pandemic. 

Finnish MPs in parliament. Two thirds of them will need to approve the EU's Covid stimulus fund after a key committee ruled it had constitutional implications. Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle

The EU's Covid recovery plan will need the support of two-thirds of Finnish MPs to pass a vote in parliament, after a key committee ruled the constitutional implications demanded the enhanced majority.

Finland's political parties have been split on the measure, with some criticising the increased joint responsibilities for providing the stimulus package.

Iltalehti reported that in the committee meeting on Tuesday, lawmakers from the Centre Party tipped the balance and voted to require an increased majority for the package to pass.

The party is under pressure from the Eurosceptic Finns Party ahead of local elections in June. The other four government parties (SDP, Left Alliance, Greens and Swedish People's Party) are expected to back the package.

The largely pro-European National Coalition Party has criticised the EU stimulus fund and now holds the deciding votes on whether or not it passes parliament.

Abstaining in protest

On Tuesday evening the party's parliamentary group leadership announced it would abstain on the package.

Group chair Kai Mykkänen said this move meant they would not vote for the package, which they regard as problematic as it moves the EU towards fiscal transfers, but would allow the government to get a two-thirds majority anyway, if all government party MPs vote for the stimulus.

If all NCP MPs abstained, there would be 161 active votes available and a two-thirds majority would be 108 votes — well within the grasp of the five government parties, which between them have 117 seats in parliament.

The Centre Party's parliamentary group leader Antti Kurvinen had said earlier that his MPs would vote for the package, but the finely-poised arithmetic was disrupted when at least two NCP MPs announced they would vote against the package anyway.

Wille Rydman (NCP) and Janne Heikkinen (NCP) both said they would vote against the package on principle, as they wanted to stop it going through.

Pros and cons

The Recovery and Resilience facility will provide some 672.5 billion euros in loans and grants to help member states recover from the pandemic-induced recession.Combined with other aspects of the package, the total funds disbursed by the EU will be 750 billion euros.

Under the package Finland would receive some 2.9 billion euros in the near future, and pay back around 6.6 billion euros by 2058. The package needs to be approved by all EU member states before it can take effect.

Yle reported on Monday evening that the government had asked senior officials in Finland, and the EU's legal service, what would the consequences be if a member state rejected the package.

The consensus was that any state rejecting the fund would be at risk of severely diminished influence in the EU for years afterwards.

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