Finnish MEPs divided in opinion over PM Vanhanen's EU policies
Veteran MEPs: Vanhanen's EU approach has shifted towards that of former PM
Experienced Finnish members of the European Parliament disagree on whether Finland's EU policies are in good hands or going all wrong, as some critics such as Dr. Aatos Erkko have claimed.
The most discontented with Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen's (Centre Party) "fumbling and go-slow" EU politics are the MEPs from the National Coalition Party.
On the whole, MEPs from the Centre Party and the Social Democratic Party give Vanhanen's government a better grade for its EU approach.
The most critical opinions to date have been voiced by two EU sceptics and faultfinders, Esko Seppänen (Left Alliance) and Paavo Väyrynen (Centre Party).
In general, the MEPs' estimates on Vanhanen's success in his EU policy seem to reflect whether their own party is in the government or in the opposition.
MEP Riitta Myller (SDP) feels Finland lacks European politicians such as the former MP Paavo Lipponen, who was not shy about presenting ideas to develop the entire Union.
MEP Reino Paasilinna (SDP) has not heard any negative comments in Brussels regarding Finland's EU policy. On the contrary, other Europeans seem to wonder how Finland is able to sustain its welfare state status and yet always come out on top in competitiveness surveys.
National Coalition MEPs Eija-Riitta Korhola and Piia-Noora Kauppi complain how they still have to give reasons for why Finland - in the autumn of 2003 - insisted on an addition to the security guarantees clause that would ensure special conditions for non-allied countries.
"This year, however, Vanhanen has started to move away from the tentative EU policy route of President Tarja Halonen and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja (SDP) and towards the approach favoured by the National Coalition and the Social Democrats, first marked out by the former PM Lipponen", Kauppi points out.
Seppänen and Väyrynen agree with Kauppi's estimate concerning the change of tone in Vanhanen's policy, but see it as a negative development.
According to Seppänen, the new EU Constitution and the increased military co-operation nullify the citizens' right to voice their opinions.
"Only President Halonen dares to present differing opinions in this regard, for which reason the right wing media constantly scourges her", Seppänen says.
But if Vanhanen now continues on an EU policy route marked out by Lipponen, why is he being criticised?
According to MEP Kyösti Virrankoski (Centre Party), some of the criticism is explained by the National Coalition's aggressive opposition politics, but some of it has also to do with gradually prodding Finland towards NATO membership.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Vanhanen rejects claim that government has no foreign policy (22.11.2004)