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Ex-PM Katainen appointed president of Finland’s state innovation fund

The former premier and sitting EU commissioner narrowly beat his rival by one vote.

Jyrki Katainen
Jyrki Katainen is Sitra's new president-designate. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The supervisory board of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra announced Friday afternoon that former prime minister Jyrki Katainen has been named the organisation’s new president.

Sitra said in a release that Katainen was elected by a narrow margin in which he beat future researcher Markku Wilenius by five votes to four.

"I would like to extend my gratitude to Sitra’s Board of Directors and supervisory board for their trust in appointing me as President. Facilitating Finland’s pioneer position amidst societal changes and finding solutions for sustainable well-being are dear to my heart. I have the Sitra spirit in me," Katainen was quoted as saying in the statement.

In June last year, Katainen indicated that he was preparing to leave Brussels to take on other professional challenges. At the same time, his wife Mervi said she would vie for a seat in this year's parliamentary elections.

EU Commission approval required

Sitra said that Katainen will continue in his role as a European Commission vice president until the term of the current Commission ends. The newly-appointed president is expected to take up his duties from 1 January 2020.

"I will immediately submit a formal notification of being appointed as President of Sitra in accordance with the code of conduct for members of the European Commission, after which the Commission will make a decision concerning accepting the position with Sitra. Unfortunately, I am not able to comment on the matter publicly before the Commission’s process is complete," Katainen added in the statement.

Katainen is a former National Coalition Party chair and between 2011 and 2014 served as prime minister of a six-party coalition government that included the NCP, the Social Democratic Party, the Left Alliance, Greens, Swedish Peoples Party and the Christian Democrats. Prior to that, he served as finance minister and deputy prime minister in an administration led by Matti Vanhanen and briefy, Mari Kiviniemi.

After stepping down as party chair in June 2014, Katainen nabbed the post of EU commissioner for monetary affairs and the euro. Later that year he became commissioner for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, a portfolio he still holds.

Candidate interviews on Friday

On Friday Sitra’s supervisory board unanimously agreed to set the president’s monthly salary at 18,553 euros and also decided to terminate a bonus plan and supplementary pension scheme for the position.

Although the board proposed Katainen as a successor to sitting president Mikko Kosonen whose term wraps up at the end of the year, the supervisory board opted to interview the EU commissioner and Wilenius on Friday before making a final choice.

Sitra’s advisory board comprises members appointed by Parliament. The current chair is Social Democratic Party MP Antti Lindtman, while the vice-chair is Finns Party lawmaker Jani Mäkelä.

Other members are the Greens’ Mari Holopainen, the National Coalition Party’s Kalle Jokinen and Petteri Orpo, Markus Lohi of the Centre Party, Hanna Sarkkinen of the Left Alliance, Pia Viitanen of the SDP and Ville Vähämäki of the Finns Party.

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