Wednesday

25th Apr 2018

Focus

The populist Finns, Cameron's new political bedfellows

  • Party chair Timo Soini moving The Finns towards becoming a mainstream party (Photo: Mikael Brunila)

As UK prime minister David Cameron's Conservatives set about reforming the anti-federalist European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) group in the European Parliament, the spotlight has fallen on their new allies.

In a bid to obtain the required 25 MEPs from seven member states, the group is enlarging to take on two deputies from Finland's populist Finns party.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"The acceptance of the Finns, along with the Danish People's Party, into the ECR has been primarily seen as an important strategic move by the British Conservatives to isolate Ukip in the European Parliament," says Jemima Repo, political scientist at the university of Helsinki.

"It means a stronger eurosceptic agenda for the ECR and the Conservatives, and it groups the Finns with a more traditional and respectable right, distancing them from a more far-right and xenophobic profile," she adds.

Of the two Finns' deputies Sampo Terho and Jussi Halla-aho, it is the latter who is the more controversial.

The original political home of Halla-aho is Suomen Sisu, an organisation that has been instrumental in popularising anti-immigration themes in Finland and has throughout its history displayed strong connections to Finnish neo-fascist intelligentsia.

"While Suomen Sisu denies being racist, its goals have roots in fascist ideology – including the idea of defending the language, identity and social order of a given, 'organic' community," says Repo.

Halla-aho came to the attention of the wider Finnish public in 2008 when he was elected to Helsinki's municipal parliament.

Originally an independent candidate on the Finns party lists, Halla-aho has since become a party member and second only in popularity to party chair Timo Soini in almost every Finnish election since 2008.

Although his entrance into the public eye appeared sudden, Halla-aho had built up popular support for almost ten years.

Since 2003 he has a growing following with his blog scripta, decorated with the tagline 'writings from the sinking West'.

By 2008, the blog had become so popular that its guestbook was expanded into and replaced by the website 'homma', a forum for the self-titled movement of 'immigration critics' that had emerged around scripta and similar blogs.

"Halla-aho gained a wide following through his blog and became the personification and symbol of the movement of 'immigration critics'," says Erkka Railo, senior lecturer at the centre for parliamentary studies at the university of Turku.

Scripta also made Halla-aho famous abroad among writers with similar political views.

The iconic islamophobic and counterjihadist blog 'gates of Vienna' included Halla-aho for years among its extended circle of contributors and translators.

"It is a small victory for the Finns to be included in a respectable group like the ECR. For the ECR the whole scenario makes sense only if the Finns commit themselves to some kind of group discipline or a common programme in the European parliament," says Railo.

For his part, Halla-aho was unavailable for comment.

However his future colleague, Syed Kamall, chair of the ECR and himself a muslim, says the group is satisfied with Hallo-aho's views on Islam.

"I was satisfied by his explanation. Once again we are looking to parties that are looking to reform, we are looking for people … we don’t look at their past, we want to look at where we're moving forward. They want to be a mainstream party and we are happy to help with that," said Kamall, reports Finnish broadcaster YLE.

Much ado about Greece in Finnish EU elections

In Finland the European elections will be about Greece, at least if Timo Soini, chair of the radical right-wing populist party The Finns, previously known as the True Finns, gets his way.

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

EUobserved

Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday. It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

Cameron mends ties with Juncker

British PM Cameron has reached out to Juncker, after having failed to prevent his nomination as European Commission chief.

News in Brief

  1. Far-right attack migrants on Greek island
  2. Merkel defends accepting UN refugees
  3. EU commissioner plans Malta 'money laundering' inspection
  4. Survey: Half of high polluting farms receive CAP subsidies
  5. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  6. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  7. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  8. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  4. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  6. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  7. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  8. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Latest News

  1. EU in race to set global AI ethics standards
  2. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  3. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ
  4. How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?
  5. MEPs tell Chinese ambassador of concerns on trade
  6. Greenland votes with eye on independence
  7. EU court delivers blow to anti-abortion activists
  8. Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  3. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  6. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  7. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  8. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  9. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  10. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  11. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations