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Helsinki mayor-in-waiting Vapaavuori to donate EIB transition perk to charity

Helsinki mayor-to-be and National Coalition Party ex-minister Jan Vapaavuori has apparently bowed to pressure to donate a hefty transitional fee from his current post as a vice president of the European Investment Bank to charity. Vapaavuori came under intense scrutiny over the perk last weekend.

Jan Vapaavuori
Helsinki's incoming mayor Jan Vapaavuori says he'll donate a generous transitional fee due from the European Investment Bank. Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

The National Coalition Party’s vote-getter in chief Jan Vapaavuori has announced plans to resign from his post as a deputy director-general of the European Central Bank in June, when he is installed as Helsinki mayor -- and to donate a plum transitional fee to charity.

Vapaavuori alone netted around 30,000 votes during the municipal election in April. Parties on the Helsinki city council have agreed that the group with the highest number of votes will have their candidate installed as mayor.

Writing in his blog on Monday, Vapaavuori said that he would donate to charity the controversial transition allowance to which he is entitled upon leaving the EIB. However, the NCP politician did not mention which charity would benefit from his generosity.

Vapaavuori came under heavy criticism from Finns on social media last weekend, following a column by tabloid daily Iltalehti, pointing out that as an ex-employee, the frontline politician would receive a three-month transitional allowance amounting to 40 percent of his former salary of 24,000 euros a month.

Altogether, he would receive nearly 10,000 euros for three months on top of his monthly mayoral pay of 14,000 euros. The article, written by IL columnist Tomi Parkkonen, was widely distributed on social media.

Vapaavuori pointed out that the transitional allowance was an automatic perk paid out by the EIB and that he had not applied for it separately. He said that he had no knowledge of the size of the benefit and he noted that had had a right to it.

"I have no precise information about the size of the payment, in the same way that no one else can because it will depend on matters that are still unclear. Still, it’s clear that we are talking about major sums. I have a legal right to a transitional allowance. However we can question the moral fairness and appropriateness of the arrangement with good reason," he wrote.

Following in Sauli Niinistö's footsteps

The mayor-to-be said that he was already working full days on behalf of the city.

"I took time off from the bank at the end of February. From then until the beginning of June is unpaid transition time for me and the allowance is therefore justified. This is a short stage however," Vapaavuori added.

The political frontliner pointed out that as Helsinki mayor, he would be taking a pay cut.

"However I don’t think it would be right or reasonable for me to be compensated for the losses caused by my lower level of earnings, because I have myself volunteered for a new assignment in the middle of my EIB posting. I will therefore donate part of my upcoming transitional allowance to charity."

Vapaavuori said he borrowed from the example of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.

"It would be pointless to leave euros in Europe if they can be used for a good purpose in Finland."

When Vapaavuori becomes mayor in June, he will have two years and three months left of service to the European Investment Bank. Former NCP chair and Prime Minister Alexander Stubb has been tipped to take over the high-ranking position for the remainder of the term, after which it will be Sweden’s turn to fill the position.

8:58: Headline corrected to EIB

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