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Citizens’ initiative demanding referendum on EU stimulus gains enough signatures to proceed to Parliament

The petition, launched by the Finns Party’s youth wing, has collected over 50,000 names.

Sanna Marin Euroopan neuvostossa, oikealta Charles Michel, Angela Merkel, Sanna Marin ja Emmanuel Macron 17. heinäkuuta.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) elbow-bumps with President of the European Council Charles Michel, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron look on at a European Council meeting on the Covid-19 recovery package in Brussels on 17 July. Image: Chine Nouvelle / AOP

A citizens’ initiative calling for a referendum on last summer’s EU stimulus package has garnered enough signatures to send it to Parliament.

The petition, launched by the youth group of the opposition Finns Party, reached 50,000 signatories late on Saturday evening.

Since 2012, any citizens’ initiative that collects at least 50,000 certified signatures from Finnish citizens must be considered by the legislature.

The Finns Party has been sharply critical of the government’s approval of the EU stimulus package in July. The deal is aimed at helping member states’ economies recover from the corona crisis.

The initiative gathered the necessary names in just five days, as it was launched on Tuesday. It remains open for signatures for six months, until late March.

While the petition acknowledges that the recovery fund is justified due to the economic collapse, it argues that its “effects reach significantly further and more broadly than warranted by the corona crisis,” adding that the package is a “highly significant entity from a national standpoint, whose economic and societal impacts require broad approval from the people.”

Parliament to consider €750bn package this autumn

The 750-billion-euro package will be financed by the European Commission taking out loans on the financial market. The package consists of 390 billion euros in outright grants and 360 billion in loans, to be made available early next year. The Finnish government had argued that a larger share should be loans rather than grants to the countries worst hit by the pandemic.

Finland, whose economy has so far weathered the storm better than most in the EU, is responsible for 6.6 billion euros of the grants. Meanwhile the country is expected to receive some billion euros in support. Altogether Finland’s total liabilities for the package total about 13 billion euros, including loan guarantees.

The package must still be approved by all EU countries' parliaments.

The Finnish government is expected to present the package to Parliament this autumn. The Finns Party, the second largest group in the legislature, says it will try to block approval of the plan.

Only two initiatives approved so far

So far 36 citizens' initiatives have gained enough certified signatures to move to Parliament, but so far only two have led to new laws: legal recognition of same-sex marriage, which took effect in 2017 after gathering a record 166,851 names, and the Maternity Act, which became law a year later, ensuring that both women in a same-sex couple are legally recognised as mothers from the moment of a child's birth.

Fifty thousand people is equivalent to about 1.2 percent of eligible voters.

Eleven initiatives are still under consideration by the legislature.

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