PM Vanhanen leans on Chancellor of Justice guideline in Sipoo annexation question
Vanhanen sees government in role of a court
The chairman of the Centre Party, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, says that he is leaning on the directions given by Chancellor of Justice Paavo Nikula on the Sipoo question.
Not long ago Nikula warned that ministers should refrain from expressing their stands on the Sipoo border shift proposal, as they might have a conflict of interest in the question and hence be disqualified from decision-making on the matter.
The reason for this is that the decision on the Sipoo proposal is not only a political but also an administrative one.
"I am not willing to take the risk that a complaint could be filed claiming that a disqualified person has taken part in decision-making", said Vanhanen on Wednesday.
According to Vanhanen, the role of the government in the Sipoo issue is like that of a court, and at a normal court hearing the judge cannot take an advance stand on a case that he or she will handle.
Vanhanen stressed that he is strongly in favour of the proposal to link western parts of the municipality of Sipoo with the City of Helsinki.
He also rejected all allegations of just trying to avoid his responsibility. He noted further that he has been actively boosting the border shift process, for example by discussing in detail on various occasions how the annexation should be made.
Vanhanen states that the contentious issue will have to be brought before Parliament still before Midsummer.
On Wednesday, the Minister for EU and Immigration Affairs Astrid Thors met with Arto Sulonen, a senior official at the Ministry of the Interior, who is in charge of the Sipoo question. Subsequently, she will acquaint herself with the related documents. Thors will present the matter before Parliament.
The Centre Party’s ministerial group will not make a joint decision, but each of them will vote according to their own convictions.
In addition to PM Vanhanen, also Minister of Trade and Industry Mauri Pekkarinen will disqualify himself from taking part in the decision on the proposal, saying that he disapproves of compulsory annexations of municipalities.
Constitutional experts Antero Jyränki, Kaarlo Tuori, and Mikael Hidén were interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday, and none of them were willing to give a final statement on how ministers could be disqualified from decision-making on the Sipoo question.
None of these experts felt that the expressing of some opinions would automatically disqualify a person from making a decision. Moreover, they regarded the interpretation of the government’s role in the Sipoo question as wrong.
While involving some elements of an administrative decision, it is also a political one, and it is the ministers’ duty to take the political responsibility on the matter, the three experts agreed.
"A municipality is a body corporate, while it is also an administrative body. The government is competent to decide what the borders of such an administrative body are", stated Jyränki.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Centre Party fears Sipoo border shift proposal sets bad example (13.6.2007)
PM Vanhanen disqualifies himself from decision making on Sipoo border change (12.6.2007)
The Office of the Chancellor of Justice