The Finnish parliamentary elections are not usually a reason to get overly excited. However, its fortunate timing coinciding with the meeting of the European Commission, the ECB and IMF in Lisbon to negotiate the third EU bailout in a year (one which is estimated to cost €80,000,000,000), meant the Finns went to the polls safe in the knowledge that they would be expected to foot, albeit not for the first time, their share of the bill.
Riding a wave of Euro-scepticism, the former underdog True Finn party (allies of UKIP in the European Parliament) increased their share of the vote by over 15% and knocked the ruling Centre Party into fourth place, a development which has the potential to wreak havoc on the EU’s planned bailout. As one of the few countries in Europe whose parliament has the ability to scrutinise EU bailout packages on a national level, the True Finns, along with their fellow bailout sceptics the Social Democrats, could veto the bailout plan. True Finn leader, Timo Soini, has prophesied that ‘the package that is there – I do not believe it will remain’, to cries from the opposition of Finland having to uphold the ‘common European cause’.
Just how legitimate is this ‘common European cause’? Before any bailout packages, every Finn has been made €470 worse off per capita owing to EU budget contributions between 2007–2013. Although the bailout for Portugal includes allegedly radical reforms including privatisation, labour market reforms and moves to bolster fragile banks, Portugal will not rid herself of her multi-billion Euro debt by these reforms alone. Laden with debt, dependent upon a textile industry that is forever being squeezed by foreign competition and encumbered by EU regulations, a bailout will simply defer and draw out Portugal’s pain. In attempting to rescue an indebted nation from economic collapse, is even more debt an effective solution?
Ultimately, Portugal should leave the EU, default, and radically restructure its economy along free market lines. But, of course, this wouldn’t happen as it is politically impermissible in Brussels. Until the day that changes, it seems that the responsible nations of Europe shall continue to pay for the excesses of their EU bedfellows. However, it is clear from the recent result in Finland that dissatisfaction at the EU is on the rise once more.