At the end of summer, EU leaders struck a deal on a huge coronavirus recovery package after days of bitter talks. The €750billion (£668billion) coronavirus fund will be used as loans and grants to the countries hit hardest by the virus. The remaining money represents the EU budget for the next seven years.
The talks began with a divide emerging between the hardest hit nations and those intent on a more “frugal” package of measures.
Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and Austria all pushed back on an initial package of grants worth €500billion (£450billon), reportedly causing French President Emmanuel Macron to bang his fists in anger.
Despite all coming to an agreement in the end, there already seems to be serious bumps on the road.
The youth wing of Finland’s Finns Party has organised a successful petition for a referendum on the EU’s stimulus package, threatening the stability of the bloc.
In just five days, the group obtained enough signatures for the petition to move to the next level.
Since 2012, any citizens’ initiative that collects at least 50,000 certified signatures from Finnish citizens must be considered by the legislature.
While the petition acknowledges that the recovery fund is justified due to the economic collapse, it argues that its “effects reach significantly further and more broadly than warranted by the coronavirus crisis”.
It added that the package is a “highly significant entity from a national standpoint, whose economic and societal impacts require broad approval from the people”.
Finland, whose economy has so far weathered the storm better than most countries in the EU, is responsible for €6.6billion (£6.01billion) of the grants.
Meanwhile, the country is expected to receive a few billion euros in support.
Altogether Finland’s total liabilities for the package total about €13billion (£11.8billion), including loan guarantees.
The package must still be approved by all the EU‘s national parliaments.
The Finnish government is expected to present the package to Parliament this autumn.
The Finns Party, the second largest group in the legislature, says it will try to block approval of the plan.
According to YLS News, so far 36 citizens’ initiatives have gained enough certified signatures to move to parliament, but so far only two have led to new laws: legal recognition of same-sex marriage, which took effect in 2017 after gathering a record 166,851 names, and the Maternity Act, which became law a year later, ensuring that both women in a same-sex couple are legally recognised as mothers from the moment of a child’s birth.
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Earlier this month, Finnish MEP Laura Huhtasaari erupted into an explosive rant against European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, criticising her defence of the union despite the bloc’s repeated violation of the law.
Ms von der Leyen hailed the European Union’s management of the coronavirus pandemic as a success and urged the EU 27 to come together to form a stronger union as she denounced attempts frome member states to violate the rule of law.
But Ms Huhtasaari quickly pointed out the EU chief could not give lessons to the members after the bloc broke its own rules in a bid to secure support for its recovery fund.
Ms Huhtasaari said: “Madame von der Leyen is wrong. The EU did not succeed, the EU broke the rules.
“No matter how much von der Leyen is trying to convince us she is better than us EU critics politicians, she broke the no-bailout rule. We didn’t.
“A community that does not follow its own rules has no credibility. The EU is a hypocrite.”
She continued: “What Europe needs now is immediate tariffs on Chinese imports following the example of the United States to save its own industrial production and the European way of life.
“We are the ones who want to follow the rule of law and von der Leyen is not. That has to be made clear.”