On Friday, newly sworn-in Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of the SDP announced during his inaugural address to Parliament that Sweden will recognize "the state of Palestine". On Monday the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned Sweden’s ambassador to Israel to protest the statement. If Sweden goes through with the plan, it will be the only Western European country to do so – besides fellow Nordic state Iceland.
On Monday Finnish President Sauli Niinistö was travelling to Frankfurt while Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja was in Moscow. Neither could be reached for comment on developments in neighbouring Sweden. The SDP’s Tuomioja – who has in the past raised Israeli ire over his pro-Palestinian comments – returns to work in Helsinki later this week.
The chair of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, opposition Finns Party leader Timo Soini, was also abroad on Monday. In a text message to Yle’s Swedish-language news, he said that "Finland does not recognise administrations, only states", adding that "I do not believe that Finland will recognise Palestine".
As the committee has not discussed the question, this is Soini’s personal view.
Salolainen "open to change"
The committee’s deputy chair, Pertti Salolainen of the prime minister’s conservative National Coalition Party (NCP), signalled that he is open to discussing the matter.
"We must thoroughly consider the issue," Salolainen told Yle. “I have not taken a stand, but I am open to change."
Noting that both Washington and Berlin have said no to recognising Palestine for now, Salolainen predicted "it will be very difficult for the US and Germany to share a common policy line with Sweden" on the issue. Salolainen is a former minister of foreign trade, ambassador to Britain, NCP chair and Yle correspondent.
According to former foreign minister Pär Stenbäck of the Swedish People’s Party (SFP), "we should not expect that our current government will follow the Swedish cabinet’s example. On one hand, there is only half a year left before parliamentary elections, and on the other hand it would not look good to immediately follow the Swedish example,” Stenbäck told Yle.
Päivi Räsänen, chair of another minor government party, the Christian Democrats, has in the past condemned moves to recognise Palestine as a state.