Paavo Väyrynen, a veteran of Finnish politics, has today produced a citizens’ initiative to organize a referendum on the Finnish membership of the euro area. This initiative, certainly inspired by Greece’s difficulties and the attitude of the eurozone Member States, should not been taken lightly, as a majority of the Finnish population seems to become quite sceptic, and may welcome at least a debate on the topic, in particular when the EU Commission and some countries wants to go towards more economic integration.
Paavo Väyrynen, who is now 68, is a politician of the Centre Party (now leading the Finnish government) , who has been the leader of the party, minister of Foreign Affairs and later Minister of Foreign Trade and Development, member of the Finnish Parliament, and is now for the second time a Member of the European Parliament. As a minister, he has already said loudly that Finland should not have joined the Eurozone. In 2008, he has created a controversy when he labelled the Russia–Georgia War as a “Georgian attack” on “Russian peacekeepers” and ended his article with the statement that Finland should not discuss NATO membership because “it could create the impression that Finland is moving from cooperation to confrontation.
Väyrynen justifies his initiative by the fact that Finland’s membership of the euro area in over 15 years has not been very positive. He notes that a comparison with Sweden, where there is a better employment situation and a positive growth, shows that Finland made a mistake when joining the euro zone. For him, the future goes in the direction of a supranational federal direction, which is going to reduce seriously Finnish capacity to face its difficulty: he is particularly concerned with a recent proposal from French President Francois Hollande to have for the euro zone a common budget and a common government.
On his blog, he indicates that the euro was created in the belief that it would increase the unity of Europe. In fact, the contrary happened: it has caused serious conflicts between the euro area member states and within them.
For Väyrynen, the citizens’ initiative and, possibly a referendum, would offer an opportunity for Finland and its citizens to discuss really discuss Finland’s relations with the euro area, and thus have a decisive influence on Finland’s future. He reminds that when the euro was created, there was in 1994 a proposal from Wolfgang Schäuble (supported by Väyrynen) to have the single currency for only five countries, France, Germany and the Benelux countries, and then the others would have used the euro alongside their national currencies. Schäuble suggested that this group of five countries would intensify their political integration, and would form a “hard core” of the European Union.
But then, there were some opposition from countries such as Finland who wanted to belong to the core group. It was then that pre-set criteria were defined and Finland, with Paavo Lipponen and Sauli Niinistö Finland wanted to join in the first groups, although the other Nordic countries were being excluded. It was a political decision, which was taken by almost all interested countries. Greece had to wait a little bit.
The result, according to Väyrynen, is the Euro zone crisis, due to the presence of too different economies. Now there are suggestions made by the Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker, to accelerate the economic integration, which is in total contradiction with the current Finnish government program. Some propose opposite solutions, with the reintroduction of national currencies beside the euro, which is a recent proposal of a working group led by Professor Vesa Kanniainen .Another model proposed by Professor Vesa Kanniainen is that Finland withdraw from the euro area alone, which may lead if other countries follow. This could lead over time to the fact that some other countries would also leave, and we would come closer to the solution put forward by Schäuble in 1994 with a core group with a common currency and an economic integration. For Väyrynen, it would require the courage to break away from the euro area, but if we continue, we will experience great economic losses, as we are getting in the Euro zone into a greater responsibility for the debts of other countries and losing our economic and governmental independence.
Väyrynen deplores that Finland has gone into the euro zone without a referendum, which is for him a violation of the Constitution. He considers that now is the time to hold a referendum on the willingness of the Finns on the topic.
His initiative is currently being reviewed and approved by the Ministry of Justice. It is open for signature by electronic means on the Kansalaisaloite.fi website. He will also continue to collect signatures in autumn at public events across the country. If the initiative is signed by at least 50 000 Finns, it will be dealt with in the Finnish Parliament. He has already collected in some days more than 16 000 signatures.