8th Dec 2021

Finns surprised by Austrian plans to revive constitution

  • Finnish president Tarja Halonen thinks the constitution recess is valid (Photo: European Commission)

Finnish president Tarja Halonen is surprised by Austria’s plans to revive the Constitution, saying her Austrian colleagues failed to mention their intentions despite Helsinki taking over the presidency from Vienna in the second half of 2006.

Ms Halonen’s statement comes just after the Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schussel on Monday (9 January) said that his country, currently at the helm of the EU, is aiming to resuscitate the debate on the EU constitution under its presidency.

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Mr Schussel stated on Monday "The constitution is not dead. It is in the middle of a ratification process."

"We have planned to revive the discussion on the constitution," he indicated on Sunday.

In an interview with Spanish daily El Pais, on Tuesday (10 January), president Halonen said that despite having worked closely with Austria on the EU agenda for 2006 - Finland will take over the presidency in July - the statement came as a surprise.

"To us, the recess declared after the referendums in France and Holland is still valid," she said, adding that the two countries had planned for the 2006 EU agenda "shoulder to shoulder."

In June 2005, EU leaders agreed upon a so-called "reflection period" on the constitution, following the negative outcome of referendums on the charter in France and the Netherlands.

Finns like Halonen but not the EU

Meanwhile, the Finnish presidential election campaign is entering its last phase ahead of the vote on Sunday (15 January).

An opinion poll commissioned by daily Helsingin Sanomat in 2005, gives the sitting president, Halonen, 54 percent support, mostly due to the fact that she has the support of 63% of Finnish women.

Though pleased with their own leadership, recent polls show that Finns are not as pleased with Brussels however, with 49 percent of Finns saying they would oppose joining the EU were a referendum to be held today.

President Tarja Halonen said in a Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) radio programme last Tuesday that Finns were disappointed with the European Union, because the union had not proved to be the provider of everyday security and employment that people had expected it to be.

Several recent surveys in Finland indicate that of EU citizens Finns, together with the Austrians, are the most critical of the EU, Finnish media reports.

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