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Government weighs response to EU asylum quota plan

The Finnish cabinet is gearing up to oppose mandatory refugee quotas. "We've taken a very negative view of fixed mechanisms for sharing the responsibility," says PM Juha Sipilä.

Juha Sipilä. Image: Yle

The Finnish government will weigh the European Commission's proposal for reforms to asylum application procedures on Friday.

The EU executive wants to revise the 1990 Dublin Regulation, which sets out procedures for asylum applications. Under the new wording, in crisis situations EU countries would be obliged to take in refugees from overwhelmed frontline countries where they first seek asylum.

The three-party Finnish coalition will seek to come up with a coherent stance on the European Commission's proposal. The cabinet has opposed such quotas, citing its own government platform, which specifies that asylum seekers must be taken in voluntarily.

Soini: No to quotas

On Friday, the government's ministerial committee on EU affairs will meet to discuss Helsinki's response. Foreign Minister Timo Soini, chair of the Finns Party – which wants to sharply limit immigration – indicated to Yle on Tuesday that he will not accept the Commission's quota proposal.

"The statement [on the issue] in the government programme is completely clear. The only way this can advance is on a voluntary basis. That which we have shaken hands on and written into the government programme, will be realised," Soini said on Tuesday at Parliament House.

Orpo: Wait and see

Interior Minister Petteri Orpo of the conservative National Coalition Party has suggested that this plank in the government platform may have to be reconsidered. Now Orpo is awaiting further clarification of the Commission's plan.

"We're now keeping an eye on what form the Commission's plan will have on its list of proposals for the European Council next week," he said.

On Friday Orpo expects ministers from the three ruling parties to come up with at least a preliminary view of Finland's position.

Sipilä: No freeloaders

"We're aiming to form a common stance and we certainly will do so," said Prime Minister Juha Sipilä of the Centre Party, adding that he sees both positive and negative in the Commission's reform blueprint.

"The good thing is that it aims to get everyone involved [in taking in asylum seekers] so that there are no freeloaders. On the other hand we have taken a very negative view of fixed mechanisms for sharing the responsibility," says the PM.