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News, 4/28/2011

Rehn: “Dispense with the sense of superiority”

Olli Rehn compared helping Greece to putting out a brush fire that prevented a Europe-wide forest fire. Photo: Eero Kuosmanen.Olli Rehn compared helping Greece to putting out a brush fire that prevented a Europe-wide forest fire. Photo: Eero Kuosmanen.

European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Policy Olli Rehn continued campaigning so that Finland would take part in rescuing the EU crisis countries. According to Rehn, Finland would curb the country’s own development by preventing support for the crisis countries.

The sense of superiority towards crisis countries in an economic predicament that is spreading in Finland worries Finnish economic leaders.

Commissioner Olli Rehn states that work to bring the economy into balance is being done in Greece and Portugal in difficult circumstances. At the same time, in Rehn’s view, an attitude of national selfishness is prevalent here, along with the feeling that we would be in a different position.

“Finland succeeds when things go well for Europe,” Rehn repeated at an event organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to discuss the crisis of the Euro countries, which was held in Helsinki on Wednesday.

A high proportion of today’s senior secondary school students were born after Finland had acceded to the EU. To them, internationalisation brings new opportunities – unless they inherit a poorly managed Euro zone. Photo: Eero Kuosmanen.A high proportion of today’s senior secondary school students were born after Finland had acceded to the EU. To them, internationalisation brings new opportunities – unless they inherit a poorly managed Euro zone. Photo: Eero Kuosmanen.

A revised edition of EU-perusteos, the book on the basics of the EU written by Marko Ruonala and published by Europe Information, was launched at the event.

According to Director Martti Salmi of the Ministry of Finance, who also spoke at the event, Finland is no EU model student. It is useless to criticise the crisis countries when Finland’s public debt is increasing and redundancies are reported constantly.

In his view, Finland’s responsibilities are not too great because a new economic crisis would have still more massive effects on Finland.

What if?

Martti Salmi joked with the senior secondary school students, saying that at the present rate the public debt is increasing, each one of them could bring a 20-euro banknote to the Ministry of Finance. Photo: Eero Kuosmanen.Martti Salmi joked with the senior secondary school students, saying that at the present rate the public debt is increasing, each one of them could bring a 20-euro banknote to the Ministry of Finance. Photo: Eero Kuosmanen.

According to both Rehn and Salmi, at present the EU economic structure should be seen from a wider perspective rather than focusing merely on the obvious problems such as Portugal.

The students at the event, however, expressed concern about what would happen if the crisis countries were unable to correct their economic course and to repay their loans.
“Nothing has been planned should it happen that the countries cannot repay their loans,” Salmi answered.

In Salmi’s opinion, now the most important things are to minimise risks and restore market confidence by cutting spending. Rehn considered strengthening the economic system to be the most important. For instance, changes are envisaged in investors’ responsibility, a topic of much recent discussion.

Changes are also needed in the system of regional subsidies. Salmi said that the functionality of subsidies should be rethought, as the crisis countries had previously received 62 billion euros in regional subsidies.

From election speeches to practical measures

Although the economy has taken an upward turn in Northern Europe and Germany, it is well known that subsidies are a sensitive issue when Government negotiations are in progress.

In Rehn’s view, the election debate was too polarised into camps for and against support for the crisis countries. A broader, more comprehensive picture of the Union’s future was missing.

“International cooperation will be needed in future, too, and this includes Finland’s input,” Rehn stated.

Text: Kaarina Vainio
Photos: Eero Kuosmanen

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Updated 4/28/2011

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