Anna Sirkiä, of the The Centre Party of Finland (ALDE) answers the questions of EAP on the major issues of the next European Elections in Finland. The country is to assume the presidency of the EU during the second half of 2019 i.e. when the new European Commission will start its activities.
« I’m running for European Parliament next spring and the most important thing for me is to defend the northern sustainable way of living and to help theEuropean Union to become stronger and more effective especially considering human rights and climate change. »
EAP : What is the current political landscape in Finland ? What are the main competitors of the European electoral campaign that is just beginning? What are the divisiv issues of that campaign?
Anna Sirkiä : Next spring, we are going to have also our national parliamentary election, only one month before the European elections. So, everyone in Finland is focused on national politics. I think this will affect also our political discussions during both campaigns. Right now we are trying to complete one of the biggest reforms in our history: the health and social services reform. It dominates conversations and media very strongly. If we can actually implement the health and social services reform before parliament election the next enormous question will be our social security reform.
Finnish parties in general appreciate international cooperation. We have one clearly eurosceptical party, Finns Party and they have 7-9% support in the latest polls. I think that the most divisive questions will be immigration and economy through the case of Italy and probably also climate change, especially what it comes to LULUCF, forestry and carbon farming.
EAP on the domestic political stage, are Finnish voters traditionnally indifferent to the European elections? Or are they involved?
Anna Sirkiä : Our voter turnout in European elections 2014 was 39.1% so it is a bit below average when you compare to other countries. The turnout has been same in the three past European elections. The turnout in our municipal election in 2017 was 58,9% and in presidential election in 2018 it was 69.9%. As you can see, Finnish voters are not as active in European elections as they are in other elections, but I still wouldn’t make the assumption that they’re indifferent. Especially young people are very positive about European union. 81% of people age 18-29 think it’s a good thing that Finland is a part of European union. Still we have a problem with voter turnout especially among young Finnish voters.
EAP: The Finnish voters will send 14 Members of the European Parliament (MEP) to Brussels and Strasbourg. What parliamentary groups will they join? ALDE? PPE? S&D? ACRE?
Right now we have four MEPs in ALDE, three MEPs in EPP, two in both S&D and EKR and one in both GUE/NGL and EVA. I think the situation will stay nearly the same after elections 2019. There can be some changes, but probably nothing dramatic.
EAP: Is there a Finnish agenda for Europe? If so, what is it? What can be the national priorities in the next European Parliament and the next European Commission?
I think that in general Finnish politicians and voters think that international cooperation is very important and that the European Union is a natural form of cooperation for us. The basic stance of Finland’s EU policy is to further develop the European Union and to promote growth, stability and security in Europe. Finland is an active, pragmatic and result-oriented Member State. We want to promote common values, growth, competitiveness and the effectiveness of regulation. It’s very important to us to strengthen the EU’s external and internal security and to respond to migration issues.
Right now Finland is preparing for the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has hold round table discussions about our Presidency, because we want to hear all parliamentary groups in this process especially when the government is likely to change after national elections in April. It is clear that especially Europe’s fundamental values and basic rights like gender equality are very important to Finland and we will strongly promote them. The unity of the EU is an absolute priority to Finland and we think that the Citizens should be given more tools to voice their concerns. Rule of law and democracy should be the founding principles of this work. We think that Citizens and their expectations should be at the forefront of EU actions. EU should provide them with jobs, economic welfare, social protection and security.
We want to develop the economy and distribute economic growth fairly across Europe, Member States and society and create opportunities for all. We want to invest in our youth and in education. Climate change is also very important question to us and especially bio-economy, sustainable way of living and circular economy are important. Finland also wants to develop military and security cooperation in European union. The strategic and economic value of agriculture, food security, clean water and energy cannot be overestimated.
Of course the new government will decide about the specifics and the main issues for the Presidency after our election, but the working group in charge of identification of the agenda for the Finnish presidency has come up with these guidelines that most of our parliamentary groups agree on.
EAP : what is the position and the agenda of your party for the EP2019?
I’m a candidate in the Centre Party (see logo), which is now the Prime Minister party of Finland. We have three MEPs in the ALDE group right now. Our goal is to keep all those three places in the parliament and to gain one more. Our party wants to create whole Europe. We in the Centre Party want to develop European union as a responsible and effective union, which will promote human rights and security and find solutions to globalization and migration. We will work for greener Europe and promote especially circular economy, carbon farming and sustainable use of forests. We want to strengthen the social pillar of Europe, promote responsible labor market, equality and human rights. We also want to invest in education and develop economics and monetary union responsibly.