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Yle: Finland breaks with fiscally conservative EU group

Yle sources indicate that the government isn’t fully united on its revised position on the Hansa group.

EU:n jäsenvaltioiden liput liehuivat parlamentin edustalla Strasburgissa Ranskassa 2. heinäkuuta.
EU member state flags in Brussels. Image: Patrick Seeger / EPA

Finland is looking for new cooperation partners within the EU according to Yle sources. During the centre-right administration led by former Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, Finland became a member of the fiscally conservative Hansa group, also known as the New Hanseatic League, a loose alliance of eight countries led by the Netherlands.

Apart from Finland and the Netherlands, the alliance includes Baltic countries as well as Sweden, Denmark and Ireland.

According to information obtained by Yle, the new government wants to distance itself from the Hansa group following a shift in the power balance in the EU. As the UK prepares to leave the union, France and other large countries will become increasingly powerful.

The new government led by Social Democratic Party chair Antti Rinne wants to reconsider how closely it wants to hitch its fortunes to those of other EU states.

Last week European affairs minister Tytti Tuppurainen raised the matter of Hansa during comments at a Europe Forum in Turku last week.

"Nordic EU members are unanimous on the issue of free trade. However in terms of European policy, Finland is not tied exclusively to the [New] Hanseatic League or any other bloc," she remarked.

"We cooperate with everyone and we treasure EU solidarity," she added.

Internal government divisions?

However Yle’s sources also indicate that the government isn’t united on the matter. Sources from the Centre Party, a government coalition party, have said that "nothing has changed."

During the Sipilä administration, the Hansa group was an important touchstone on the issue of the development of the economic and monetary union. The grouping was cool on the idea of deeper cooperation and shared responsibility among EU member states.

It was especially critical of France, which saw the Hansa group as a challenge to the unity of the monetary union. Other countries in southern Europe also chafed against the formation of an alliance of countries that were net contributors to the EU. No candidates from Hansa countries were elected to top EU positions during the summer.

In future, the Rinne government said that it intends to seek a broad range of partners and is said to be more critical about the kinds of alliances it should form.

Former Finnish EU Commissioner Erkki Liikanen recently criticised Hansa and said that a small country should be wary of joining blocs.

Although Finland is distancing itself from the fiscally conservative group, its position on the development of the monetary unions is not known to have changed.

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