Katainen’s support for Wallin wavers

Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen has distanced himself from the actions of Defence Minister Stefan Wallin, who is facing increasingly strident criticism of his role in the preservation of a Swedish-speaking army garrison from defence spending cuts.

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Stefan Wallin
Stefan Wallin vieraili TV 1:n A-studiossa maanantaina.Yle

Wallin, chair of the Swedish Peoples Party, recently admitted that he blocked the closure of the Tammisaari-based Dragsvik garrison on political grounds, while six other army bases were to be shut down as part of a cost-cutting programme. However he denied charges that he had deliberately misled the Parliament on the reasons for the garrison’s closure.

On Monday, Katainen reiterated his support for the embattled Minister; however on Tuesday Katainen said he was unaware of Wallin’s political motivation in the execution of the defence force reform programme.

“We did not go through this at any point in the foreign and security committee,” Katainen told reporters. However he did not interpret Wallin’s actions as going behind his back.

“Of course it’s clear that we should retain Swedish-speaking conscript training,” the premier said.

During a previous Parliamentary discussion, Katainen had himself assured MPs that it was an “absolute fact” that experts had made their decisions concerning the closure of army bases on the grounds of national defence policy. At the time, he had not known of the political basis for Wallin’s decision.

“Naturally it would have been good to have this discussion in the government. It would hardly have affected the outcome,” Katainen noted.

The PM declared that the current confusion could have been avoided by providing information openly. He added that Wallin will host a news conference on Wednesday, when he will clarify the situation.

On Monday MPs from the both the Social Democrats and opposition Centre Party joined the chorus for Wallin to resign over the issue, accusing him of misleading Parliament.

Katainen's chief government partner, Finance Minister and SDP chair Jutta Urpilainen, also criticised Wallin for keeping the rest of the government in the dark about the closure decision process.

Meanwhile the opposition Centre and Finns parties announced Tuesday that they had agreed to join forces to bring Wallin to account.

The groups will decide this week whether to file a no-confidence motion against the Defence Minister.

Lähteet: YLE