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Citizens' initiative on referendum to exit euro makes it to Parliament

A citizens' initiative calling for a national referendum on withdrawing from the euro single currency union has collected in excess of the 50,000 signatures required to take it to Parliament for consideration. The euro exit initiative was the brainchild of long-serving Finnish politician and current Centre Party Europarliamentarian Paavo Väyrynen.

Satasen euron seteleitä.
Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

According to the citizens' initiative website kansalaisaloite.fi, the motion to have a referendum on Finland’s eurozone membership had collected the support of more than 48,000 individuals directly via the website, while another 1,800 had endorsed the initiative by other means.

That brought the total number of petitioners to over 50,200 by Sunday morning. Since the online petition broke the 50,000-signature barrier, it must now be considered by MPs. The landmark was first reported by the tabloid daily Iltalehti.

"There was no referendum on membership"

The initiative was launched by long in the tooth Centre Party politico Paavo Väyrynen, and seeks to set up a national referendum on Finland’s membership in the eurozone.

Paavo Väyrynen Turun pääkirjaston edessä.
Paavo Väyrynen Image: Yrjö Hjelt / Yle
It argues that the currency union has had negative effects on the Finnish economy, which had not been sufficiently discussed before joining the grouping.

"There was no referendum on membership. The Parliament was not presented with draft legislation, only a statement by the government. The government communication presented membership almost entirely in a positive light, although there was adequate information available about the related risks and negative consequences," the initiative declared.

So far, just one citizens' initiative has been voted into law by Finnish MPs - an initiative on same-sex marriage made history when a majority of MPs gave the green light to re-write current marriage legislation in November 2014.

Sauli Niinistö a key player in eurozone membership

Finland joined the eurozone in 1999 under the supervision of then- Finance Minister Sauli Niinistö in the government of Paavo Lipponen, and formally adopted the common currency later on in 2002.

The concept of the single currency has come under increasing scrutiny as some member states  - such as Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal - struggle with nearly-unsustainable debt, prompting analysts to argue for closer fiscal integration to ensure that all member states follow the same drum beat. However closer integration is widely seen by opponents as an encroachment on national sovereignty.

The eurozone treaty currently has no provisions for members to leave the currency union.

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