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Finance Minister Stubb defends statements on Greece

Finance Minister Alexander Stubb has been forced to explain his statements on Finnish government policy towards Greece, after he appeared to contradict Finnish policy. He now says, and parliamentary documents show, that a temporary exit from the common currency was always considered as one option.

Alexander Stubb
Stubb responded curtly to a reporter’s inquiry on his apparent turn-around on the Greece question on Thursday. Image: Yle

Finland’s Finance Minister Alexander Stubb has been forced to defend his comments about Finland's policy during the Greek debt crisis. After he said last Thursday that Finland had not supported Greek exit from the euro, Finland's policy line was made public on Friday. that policy included the view that Greece could find a 'sustainable solution' by temporarily exiting the single currency.

"That Finland would have sought to drive Greece out of the eurozone is an exaggeration," Stubb wrote on his blog on Saturday.

"On the other hand, in the situation in which Greece’s own proposal was sorely inadequate for launching continued talks, it was justified to consider the temporary exit of Greece from the euro as one option. It was just that – an option, and one that Finland did not pursue alone. We were in close contact with the other eurozone countries at all times and I also shared the information on the eurozone’s stand with the members of the Grand Committee here in Finland," he says.

Stubb now says he would have endorsed a temporary Grexit if Greece had been unable to prepare a viable proposal for rectifying the problems with their economy. The government's policy as outlined to the Grand Committee was that Greece lacks the political will to implement reforms and its own proposals did not go far enough, and therefore temporary 'grexit' was the best option.

Policy vs Stubb’s words

On Thursday Stubb said that Finland had no such policy in which Greece would be expelled from the eurozone. After a meeting of parliament's Grand Committee, which scrutinises EU policy, Stubb was asked "Is Finland’s policy at this time that Greece should remain in the eurozone, when it was recently that Greece would exit?".

His answer appeared to leave little room for doubt.

"Finland has not pursued a policy like that. Our goal is the stability of the eurozone and the principle that Greece would remain a part of the common currency. What you read in the paper is rarely wrong, of course, but perhaps in this case we can say it is,” Stubb said, clearly annoyed.

That statement was apparently contradicted on Friday when the website of the Finnish Parliament published Finland’s policy during the talks, in which it stated that "a sustainable solution for Greece’s financial problems can be found in the option where Greece is temporarily outside the European monetary union".

"Our primary goal is to keep the euro stable and keep Greece in the monetary union. But we were also prepared to consider suspending Greece and temporarily detaching it from the eurozone," he later explained.

Stubb and other ministers have to explain their policies to MPs at the Grand Committee before heading to any EU summit. Legislators on the committee can reject the government's proposed lines, and there was a vote on Greece at each stage of the recent talks.

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