Saturday

7th Dec 2019

Finnish PM faces backlash over Russia nuclear plant

  • Stubb: joked his MPs will face travel restrictions if the Greens go (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Finland’s new PM, Alexander Stubb, is facing a coalition split over plans for Russian firm Rosatom to build a nuclear reactor.

A contact in the Green League, a junior coalition party, on Thursday (18 September) confirmed to EUobserver that it will quit if Stubb’s cabinet approves the project at a meeting later the same day.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

“We joined the coalition on the understanding that there would be no new nuclear plants built during the current, four-year term. So we would see this as a broken promise,” the contact said.

The league’s head, environment minister Ville Niinisto, made his threat public on Monday when Stubb’s economy ministry said the project should go ahead.

If the Greens abandon him, it would leave Stubb with just a 101-strong majority in the 200-seat parliament.

It is also likely to trigger a vote of confidence and, if Stubb loses, snap elections ahead of a scheduled vote in April.

Stubb has joked that if the Greens quit, he will be forced to make sure all his remaining MPs turn up to vote whenever parliament meets. “Let’s put it this way - the rules on traveling will be tighter,” he said.

But joking aside, the political harm could spread: Three ministers from his centre-left SPD coalition partners, including foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja, have also said they are against the Rosatom plant.

Meanwhile, the reactor might not be built anyway due to investor fears over the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Rosatom currently holds 34 percent of the €4 billion-plus “Fennovoima” project, while a consortium of Finnish businesses, called Voimaosakeyhtio, owns the rest.

The plant must be at least 60 percent Finnish-owned. But Voimaosakeyhtio only has 54 percent worth of capital signed up, with the other 12 percent unassigned.

Stubb has emerged as a leading critic of EU economic sanctions on Russia.

The last round of restrictions, which entered into life on 8 September, included a carve-out on sales of dual-use goods and related services for civilian nuclear projects.

But Finnish media have spooked potential Voimaosakeyhtio investors by lambasting Stubb's position.

The Ilta-Sanomat tabloid on Wednesday published an interview with Andrei Illarionov, a former aide of Russian leader Vladimir Putin who now works for the Cato Institute, a think tank in Washington.

Illarionov called Stubb “weak” on Russia and on recent Russian violations of Finnish airspace.

He also compared a meeting in August between Finnish president Sauli Niinisto and Putin to a notorious meeting between British PM Neville Chamberlain and Hitler on the eve of World War II.

“This [Niinisto meeting] was certainly interpreted and seen within the Kremlin as a clear sign that Finland has a different approach than other Western countries”, Illarionov said.

Finland most vulnerable to Russian gas cut-off

Finland would experience gas shortages if Russia cuts off exports for one month, while other EU countries would last between three to nine months without Russian gas, according to a German study.

Russia threatens EU states with gas cut-offs

Russian energy minister Novak has warned that EU states which re-export gas to Ukraine will face cut-offs, with Hungary already stopping its reverse flow.

EU lets UK subsidise nuclear power plant

EU officials have said the UK can use state money to help build a nuclear power plant, despite objections from Austria and Green politicians.

Feature

Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion

The Arctic future conference kicked off with optimistic presentations by ministers and officials of the Russian government — but also a burst of scepticism from representatives of those actually living in Russia's Arctic and Far East regions.

News in Brief

  1. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says
  2. Report: Self-regulation of social media 'not working'
  3. Turkey: Greek expulsion of Libyan envoy 'outrageous'
  4. Merkel coalition may survive, says new SPD co-leader
  5. Von der Leyen Ethiopia visit a 'political statement'
  6. Over 5,500 scientists ask EU to protect freshwater life
  7. Iran defies EU and UN on ballistic missiles
  8. Committee of the Regions: bigger budget for Green Deal

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion
  2. UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK
  3. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  4. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  5. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  6. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  7. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  8. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us