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Confusion in Parliament as Finns Party filibuster continues

The EU stimulus fund faces stiff opposition from the Finns Party.

Perussuomalaisten kansanedustajia eduskunnassa.
Finns Party MPs have sought to prevent or delay the vote on the EU's Covid recovery plan. Image: Jouni Immonen / Yle

Finland's parliament held a fourth day of debate on the EU budget and stimulus package on Friday, as a Finns Party filibuster continued and parliamentary authorities scrambled to deal with procedural obstructions.

The start of the day's session was delayed twice as the parliament's speaker and deputy speakers convened to decide what to vote on: a Finns Party motion to adjourn the debate until June, or a Finns Party motion to have the constitutional law committee rule on the speaker's actions.

In the end the motion to adjourn until June was defeated by 68 votes to 38. At the same time, the constitutional law committee's chair Antti Rinne (SDP) said his committee would consider the question of whether the speaker had acted appropriately in ending Thursday’s debate.

That followed extensive back and forth about the speaker's actions in allowing a change to parliamentary rules to allow the bill to be adjourned only once.

Finns Party gambits have included filibustering the debate to avoid a vote, while the second deputy speaker Juho Eerola (Finns) has been relieved of his duties in leading the debate after he said he opposed the package and would work to prevent it being approved.

That break with the traditionally neutral deputy speaker role left speaker Anu Vehviläinen (Cen) and Deputy Speaker Tarja Filatov (SDP) leading the hours-long debate as Finns Party MPs queued up to read their speeches.

"She [Anu Vehviläinen] knows that I’m against the package, and she apparently supports it and wants to see that it passes," Eerola said.

Referring to Eerola’s decision to side with the Finns Party's obstruction tactics, Seppo Tiitinen, a former secretary-general of Parliament, said it was unprecedented for a parliamentary speaker to take sides in a debate.

"This is the first time that a speaker has moved his role into the opposition," he told Yle.

The Finns Party has since Tuesday tried to delay or prevent a vote on the 750-billion-euro EU stimulus package during several marathon plenary sessions that have on occasion included the reading of church hymns and excerpts from a fairy tale.

The debate continued over the ascension holiday and into the long weekend, forcing government MPs and parliamentary staff to remain on-site in case a vote is called.

All member states must ratify the recovery plan, a mix of EU grants and loans, for the investment plan to move forward.

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