Friday

22nd Oct 2021

Finnish government collapses ahead of EU presidency

  • Finnish voters are facing national elections on 14 April as well as EU elections on 26 May while the country is preparing to hold the EU's rotating six-month presidency from 1 July. (Photo: stopherjones)

Finnish prime minister Juha Sipila's centre-right government's surprise resignation on Friday (8 March) kicks off a political hot season in the otherwise cool Nordic country.

Voters are facing national elections on 14 April as well as EU elections on 26 May, while the country is also preparing to hold the EU's rotating six-month presidency from 1 July.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Finnish prime minister Juha Sipila, now in a caretaker role, would still be in charge of the planning for Finland's EU presidency. (Photo: Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org)

The resignation was a personal decision of the prime minister and came after the governing coalition failed to agree on a major social and health reform, 'Sote', which has been discussed for years.

Some speculate that the resignation was a political gamble by Sipila.

Sipila told Finnish public broadcaster Yle on Saturday that he will not seek re-election as chair of the Centre Party, if support for the party does not increase at the April elections.

The latest Yle poll published on 8 March found support for Sipila's Centre Party had dropped to 14.1 percent, leaving it the third largest, behind the Social Democrat party at 21.3 percent and Sipila's governing alliance partner, the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) at 16.2 percent.

The result for the conservatives is also bad. It is the party's weakest performance in four years and the lowest during conservative leader Petteri Orpo's chairmanship.

The populist Finns Party is gaining support, and stand at 13.3 percent, while the Greens drop to 13.7 percent, but still hold the position as the fourth largest party in Finland, according to the Yle poll.

Finland organises health and social care through 295 municipalities, which is seen as inefficient.

It is estimated that by 2030 some 26 percent of the population will be aged over 65, up from just under 20 percent now.

The previous three Finnish prime ministers have all attempted to push the Sote reform through, without succeeding.

Sipila's government aimed to centralise the responsibility in 18 elected regional authorities and to give patients "freedom of choice" in choosing from a range of public and private health care providers.

Opponents fear that private providers will be able to cherrypick patients and are worried over the level of service provided for people living in the outskirts of the northern European country.

The opposition Social Democratic party leader Antti Rinne, who may become the next premier, returned to duties less than two weeks ago after after a long period of sick leave. The 56-year old politician fell ill with an infection while on a New Year holiday in Spain.

Sipila, now in a caretaker role, will still be in charge of the planning for Finland's time in charge of the EU presidency.

"We have a jointly drafted program for the EU presidency and we'll continue to work on that together," Sipila told YLE TV, adding that he would oversee the start of the EU presidency even if still in in a caretaker role by 1 July.

In neighbouring Sweden it took over four months to form a new government, which would not depend on support from the populist Sweden democrats.

Finland spearheads EU plan for digital revolution

The EU should strive to be a world leader in digital services, Finland and 16 other member states have said, following French and German proposals on industrial "champions".

Opinion

Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?

There can be no more excuses for business. They will be held for responsible for their failure to take action to prevent the risk of human and labour rights through their supply chains.

Magazine

Bioeconomy is a win-win strategy for Finland

"The big problem in the world today is a lack of resources and a lack of bio-diversity," says Finnish environment minister Kimmo Tiilikainen. His country plans to produce what the world needs the most.

Gas price spike exposes rift at EU summit

The first topic leaders discussed at the EU summit were the continent's soaring gas prices, which have lead to a spike in household energy bills - amid widespread disagreement on how to solve the issue.

News in Brief

  1. Russia's anti-vax campaign backfired, EU says
  2. China angered as MEPs call for Taiwan talks
  3. Emissions from La Palma volcano reach Brussels
  4. Body of eighth victim of Belarus border-crisis found in river
  5. Report: Syrian bank fiddling currency to evade EU sanctions
  6. Nato adopts plan to counter new Russian threats
  7. Alleged killer of British MP 'felt affiliated' to IS
  8. Coronavirus: Belgium returns to 'red' zone

Opinion

Europe can't ignore Chinese encroachment in Ukraine

China's growing economic footprint in Ukraine may already be producing geopolitical consequences that put the country at odds with core European priorities. Volodymyr Zelensky decided earlier this year to withdraw Ukraine's condemnation of Chinese government crimes against the Uighurs.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Gas price spike exposes rift at EU summit
  2. Poland vows not to give into EU 'blackmail' at summit
  3. EU vows to uphold Paris climate ambition amid scientists' fears
  4. Commissions's new migration pact still seeking 'landing zone'
  5. Europe can't ignore Chinese encroachment in Ukraine
  6. Lithuania - where 'biodiversity funding' is cutting down trees
  7. Dutch lawyers take Frontex to EU court over pushbacks
  8. Polish rule-of-law debate boils over to EU summit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us