Tuesday, 19 February, 2019

Parliament goes into spring session

President asks MPs to consider disputed issues

07 Feb 2018, 01:42 ( 07 Feb, 2018) | updated: 07 Feb 2018, 09:30 ( 07 Feb, 2018)

DF Report
Photo Finnish parliament by Hanne Salonen.

President Sauli Niinistö on Tuesday called on the lawmakers to consider those matters that have sparked a lot of debate in the country. 

“Parliament will now consider matters that have triggered lots of debate. Social welfare and healthcare reform, intelligence law – these are not simple to resolve,” said the president while inaugurating the spring session of parliament.

He also said that the European Union (EU) has returned on the growth track, and the improving economy is creating a positive atmosphere in and around the bloc.
“Europe will also face pressure caused by future migration, probably to a growing extent and particularly from Africa. The best way to alleviate this pressure is to improve the living conditions in the countries of origin. The EU member states and the union itself have their respective development cooperation programmes, which need to be better coordinated,” said Niinistö. .
The EU should also establish common practices for border control, the processing of asylum applications and return of the immigrants, said the president, adding, “The content and interpretation of both the Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Regulation should be clarified.” 

The spring term of parliament is expected to last until the end of June, with plenary sessions to be held weekly from Tuesday to Friday.

The opening speech was given by the newly elected Speaker Paula Risikko.

News Agency Xinhua adds:  President Niinistö on Tuesday voiced his concern that the Finnish political community may face difficulty in making choices when talking about the integration of the EU in the future.

Addressing the opening of the 2018 session of Finnish parliament, Niinistö identified that discussions about the common currency and the increase of joint responsibility... will create dilemma for Finland.

It is clear that there are problems with the euro, but it is equally clear any changes in the single currency will require unanimity. Finland should adopt an active role in this process as well,” he said.

The president’s speech followed recent Finnish media speculation that the vista for possible tighter cooperation in the EU may cause increased polarization between political parties in Finland and thus complicate the formulation of a Finnish stand.

Former Finnish prime minister Paavo Lipponen, who was present in parliament, underlined that the Finnish government needs the support of the president and parliament for upcoming negotiations.

“The government must have room for manoeuvre, so that it would not have to say ‘no’ but can work for a solution,” Lipponen said to the social democratic news service Demokraatti.

Touko Aalto, chairman of the Green Party, told Finnish the news agency STT that he was pleased that the president triggered debate on the EU in Finland. He said Finland has lost “ten years in taking a stand on the EU” and that there had been no Finnish opinion leadership on the EU since Lipponen in the 1990s.

Petteri Orpo, chairman of the conservative party and the current finance minister, said to STT that the president’s speech was in line with the government policy. Orpo predicted that Finland may face difficult choices when talks about the development of the EU progress.

In his speech, Niinistö expressed the view that the best way to alleviate pressure from migration is to improve the living conditions in the countries of origin.

Niinistö also suggested a closer contact between the Finnish president and the Finnish parliament. He said such contact will improve continuity as governments change.

In the current Finnish practice, EU affairs have been dealt with by the government, and the president has concentrated on relations with countries outside the EU.