Party leaders agree on Finland's joining NATO Response Force
The chairmen of Finland's three largest parties see no objections in principle to Finland's taking part in the NATO Response Force (NRF).
Right now, however, Finland does not have the resources - in other words the hard cash - for such a move, outlined Eero Heinäluoma (SDP), Jyrki Katainen (National Coalition Party), and Matti Vanhanen (Centre) outlined.
The three chairmen met in a televised "Prime Minister Debate" arranged by the commercial MTV3 television channel with an eye to the upcoming Parliamentary election in March.
Nothing particularly surprising emerged during the hour-long broadcast. The three were seated far from each other on a settee, with Heinäluoma in the middle, between the two non-socialist representatives, who sniped at him with questions from both sides.
At the beginning of the debate Katainen, who heads the largest opposition party at present, challenged Heinäluoma on the subject of the new Cooperation within Undertakings Act. Vanhanen was left outside this debate, despite the fact that the law heavily divided the Centre Party.
"The National Coalition regarded the SDP as their main opponent already in the Presidential election", Heinäluoma noted.
In Katainen's view, the National Coalition Party gives a 99-percent support to the Cooperation within Undertakings Act, but would leave small companies with less than 20 workers, who have expressed fears towards the Act, outside the scope of the reforms. Behind its rather cumbersome name, the legislation is important and topical, in that it refers primarily to management/personnel negotiations in the case of downsizing and layoffs. The conservatives of the National Coalition Party are reluctant to see the same structures as are in place for large companies being applied to smaller firms.
Heinäluoma, in turn, familiarly evoked "horror scenarios" of a rightist government.
Katainen responded immediately by offering the Social Democrats a joint seminar on the subject of the future of work and entrepreneurship. The two men shook hands on it.
At first Vanhanen tried to adopt a prime ministerial role in the proceedings, and seemed even somewhat distant. He received support from an MTV3 poll, according to which the majority of the people considered him the most competent of the three in foreign and economic policy.
In the second round, however, Vanhanen and Heinäluoma went head-to-head on the subject of election promises. Vanhanen criticised the Social Democrats on their "exaggerated" EUR 2.4 billion promises of welfare reform.
Katainen remained an onlooker as the large numbers were bounced around, while Heinäluoma retaliated by denouncing the Centre Party's taxation policies.
None of the party leaders deemed it necessary to introduce major increases to defence allocations in the coming term.
Defence Minister Seppo Kääriäinen's (Centre) recent speech, according to which Finland's choices are either to join NATO or to increase spending on defence, failed to receive support from the chairmen.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Poll indicates care for the sick and elderly at top of voters´ agenda (1.2.2007)
Opposition leader welcomes NATO initiative, Prime Minister sceptical (30.11.2006)
Poll: Matti Vanhanen most popular choice for next Prime Minister (18.1.2007)
Party leaders argue taxation in first major election debate (1.2.2007)
Poll: Voter turnout in March elections could fall from 2003 level (29.1.2007)