Finland objects to loss of veto over EU bail-outs
By Philip Ebels
Finland has objected to a Franco-German plan to make decisions on using the eurozone bail-out fund easier, saying it is an "alarming" move.
Finnish finance minister Jutta Urpilainen on Wednesday (7 December) said she could not accept Paris and Berlin's push, outlined in a letter sent to Brussels on Wednesday evening, that decisions on the eurozone's rescue mechanisms should be made by majority vote rather than by unanimity.
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”In the future, consensus would no longer be required. From the Finnish perspective, it is a very alarming arrangement, and one that Finland cannot accept," she said, according to YLE, Finland’s public broadcaster.
The Finnish parliament on Thursday (8 December) will decide on the constitutionality of the proposal, hours before the start of summit negotiations in Brussels, expected to last until the early hours of Friday morning.
The country's constitutional law committee heard constitutional law expert Kaarlo Tuori on Wednesday, who said that the proposal would infringe upon the rights of Finnish taxpayers.
“Finland will give up its veto rights when it comes to [the still-to-be-implemented, permanent bail-out fund, the European Stability Mechanism] decisions,” Tuori said. “Without its own consent, Finland could be committed to decisions that concern using tax money paid by Finnish taxpayers.”
The committee’s chair, Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, said the committee's decision will tie the hands of Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen when he negotiates at Friday’s crucial EU summit, YLE reports.
The Franco-German plan, put forward on Monday, aims to avoid having the decision-making held up by just one country, as happened earlier this year when Slovakia's domestic politics delayed ratification of the current bail-out fund.
Under the proposal, a super marjority - corresponding to 85 percent of capital in the European Central Bank - would be enough to secure use of the fund's money. Critics, however, point out that this would still give a de facto veto to the big countries.
Separately, the biggest opposition party in the Netherlands on Wednesday said that elections should be called if the Franco-German plans, which include suggestions for tighter economic governance, are put in place.
The country’s minority government normally relies on the parliamentary support of the hard-right Freedom Party, but needs the opposition social democrats to deliver a majority on European policy.
“If there really is a question of transfer of powers, then I think we should ask the people’s consent. And that would mean elections, as far as I am concerned,” said party leader Job Cohen.
Ronald Plasterk, in charge of finance issues for the party, repeated the statement during a six-hour debate in the evening.
Holding the proposals by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in his hand, he said: “If there are to be real changes on these points, then I think that the voters should have their say.”
Prime Minister Mark Rutte, for his part, refused to comment on the proposals but said he would make the case at the summit for automatic sanctions for countries that flout budget rules, making sure the bail-out fund is big enough, and for any treaty changes to be made at the level of all 27 EU member states, not just the eurozone 17, a position Paris has pushed.