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Finland says yes to Greek bailout talks

A meeting of parliament's Grand Committee on Thursday agreed to back negotiations on a 90 billion euro bailout loan for Greece, and to also support a bridging loan for the beleaguered economy. The decision marks a U-turn for Finns Party leader Timo Soini, who had previously vowed to oppose a third bailout, branding it an "immoral policy".

Timo Soini
Soini told reporters he had accepted talks on a third Greek bailout because "There are no good alternatives". Image: Yle

Finland has decided in favour of negotiating a third bailout loan for Greece, in a meeting of parliament’s Grand Committee on Thursday.

The committee heard from the leaders of all three governing parties, who expressed their backing for proposed talks over a 90 billion euro support package from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

Late on Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras won a hard-fought vote in parliament in favour of accepting the EU and IMF’s terms, which means the two sides can now begin talks on a third bailout deal, providing the proposal is also accepted by all EU countries.

Finland had been seen as having one of the toughest stances against a third bailout loan for Greece, with a number of ministers having previously expressed the view that Greece should instead exit from the eurozone.

Soini U-turn

Foreign Minister Timo Soini had previously maintained he would oppose any further bailouts to Greece, having been a long-standing opponent of EU funds being used to rescue struggling eurozone economies. The position won his populist Finns Party widespread support at the previous two general elections in Finland.

In the run-up to last April’s election, Soini told Yle: “Finns party MPs will not vote for a third Greek bailout,” adding, “We will not continue these kinds of immoral policies,”

However on Thursday Soini told a press conference that he was accepting further talks on the bailout proposal because “there are no good alternatives”. In what appeared to be a rowing back from his previous uncompromising stance, he also said his party would not exit the government over the issue.

Bridging loan agreed

Meanwhile Finance Minister Alexander Stubb told reporters on Thursday Afternoon that parliament’s Grand Committee has also agreed to a 7 billion euro bridging loan for Greece, to provide liquidity until a bailout deal is reached, which will come from EU members. Finnish ministers had previously been vocal opponents of such a loan, with Trade Minister Olli Rehn suggesting on Wednesday that the government may turn the proposal down.

"Bridge financing usually lessens motivation to implement reforms. And that’s why the option of bridge financing has been turned down in previous negotiations with Greece. I don’t believe that the Finnish government will greet this with enthusiasm either," Rehn said.

Speaking on Thursday, Stubb said the Finnish parliament’s decision to back the negotiations was “an important step” for Greece. “It doesn’t, however, mean that we are supporting a new bailout package. The Troika institutions will begin negotiations based on the tough measures agreed on during this week’s Eurogroup summit,” he said.

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