In a blog post on Friday, veteran politician Paavo Väyrynen said he had informed Speaker of Parliament Eero Heinäluoma of his plans to return to the Finnish Parliament.
Väyrynen noted that under Finnish law his membership of the European Parliament will end when his return to the national legislature is ascertained. He has served intermittently in the European Parliament since 1995, and in the Finnish Parliament since 1970, serving as Centre chair throughout the ‘80s and as a minister several times.
Taking Väyrynen’s seat in Strasbourg will be Mirja Vehkaperä, a 42-year-old from Oulu who has been an MP since 2007. She in turn will be replaced in the Finnish Parliament by Eija Nivala, a Lutheran pastor from Kalajoki.
Väyrynen meanwhile will take over from Mikko Kärnä, former mayor of Enontekiö, Lapland. He had expected to hold the seat until Väyrynen’s planned return next autumn, but the MEP suddenly changed his mind in late April, deciding to return early.
He also announced he would come back as an independent, forsaking the Centre Party which he has represented since the late ’60s. He has also relinquished his status as honorary party chair, and dropped plans to challenge PM Juha Sipilä for the party leadership.
"A day of joy and glee"
Väyrynen said he will oppose the Centre-led government’s overhaul of social and health care, which is expected to come up for a vote in June or July.
"June 12 will be a day of joy and glee," Väyrynen writes on his website. "I will once again be able to influence domestic politics as well as the direction of both Finland’s foreign, security and European policy as well that of our country’s domestic policies," he adds.
Väyrynen was elected to the national Parliament in the spring of 2015, but announced soon afterwards that he would remain in the European Parliament instead of taking a seat in Helsinki.
2 one-man "groups"
Väyrynen now says he will form his own parliamentary group. Likewise, a high-profile MP from the conservative National Coalition Party, business mogul Harry "Hjallis" Harkimo, also announced in April that he too will form a one-man parliamentary group.
Väyrynen says he will seek to work across party lines with other MPs who are “ready to defend Finland’s independence and neutrality, bring about a managed immigration policy, work to root out poverty and to strengthen the vitality of the countryside and provinces.”
The longtime eurosceptic says that his work as an MEP has been productive, but that it has also had unpleasant aspects – as a majority of MEPs, he says, are "pushing for a federal EU against the will of the people".