Friday, April 15, 2011

Finland and the Euro-zone debt crises

I certainly do not claim to be an expert on Finland.  Compared to the typical citizen of USA who is lucky to know that "sauna" is a Finnish word however, my credentials to describe that most obscure of the Nordic countries are solid.  In 1989, a draft of what would become Elegant Technology was published in Finland as Tuottajat ja Saalistajat.  My Finnish publisher tried its best to make my book as famous as possible and I got to meet a lot of highly intelligent and informed examples of their culture.

Getting to know a culture through her intelligentsia may not be the best way to understand that culture but it most certainly is a good way.  And one I had open to me.  And this is what I discovered about Finland.

Finland has certainly been subjected to the neoliberal trends that caused the current global debt crises.  Example--a man I knew who was a member of the Communist Party and could defend the teachings of Marx as a university student in the 1970s was writing a book on Adam Smith in 2005.  But neoliberal trendiness aside, Finland has a long history of treating debt VERY seriously.  Finland has the distinction of being the only country on the planet to pay off her WW I-era debt and when the Soviet Union demanded reparations to remain independent after WW II, the women of the country melted down their wedding rings to help meet the payments.  This is NOT a culture predisposed to be frivolous about debt.

The Finns are also incredibly hard-working in a country that has only water, rocks, and trees as natural resources and clings to an existence at the edge of nowhere.  For example, when the borders moved at the end of WW II, Finland found itself swamped with at least 400,000 refugees from Soviet Karelia.  Because of the economic crises, Finland needed to harvest some of her forests but could not afford chain saws.  So many of those Karelian refugees were put to work cutting pulpwood with axes.

So there you have it--a country with the world's best schools and a work ethic that a good Protestant would find positively erotic, harboring a hatred of debt that burns like a 1000 suns and guess what, the Finns do not have the debt problems of a Greece or Spain.  But this doesn't get them off the hook because they drank enough of the kool aid to convert to the Euro in 1999.  So instead of being forced to reduce their living standards because of debt, they are being forced to lower their living standards to pay for the bailouts of others in debt--mostly because they have accumulated enough wealth to attract the attention of the banksters.

Not surprisingly, folks are PISSED!

Finnish Anti-Euro Party Set for Record Support in Election
By Kati Pohjanpalo - Apr 15, 2011 3:59 AM CT
Finland’s anti-euro bloc is set to win record support at the weekend’s election, forcing the country’s biggest parties to take a tougher stance on bailouts as they try to woo voters tired of rescuing fiscal failures.
Support for political groups opposed to euro-area rescues was 47.3 percent in the latest poll by Helsingin Sanomat, published April 12. The True Finns, whose leader Timo Soini says taxpayers in the Nordic country shouldn’t have helped bail out Greece or Ireland, has seen its support soar to 16.9 percent from 6.9 percent a year ago.
Finns will vote on April 17, 11 days after Portugal became the third euro member to seek a bailout and as speculation grows that Greece may be unable to honor its debts. Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen assured voters last week Finland will insist Portugal’s “medicine” is “tougher,” while Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi on April 13 called for “harsher measures” than those Portugal’s parliament rejected in March. Both politicians want to stop voters backing the True Finns’ leader, who says countries that can’t pay their debts shouldn’t be in the euro.
“The Portuguese crisis was a godsend for Soini,” Tuomo Martikainen, professor emeritus in political science at the University of Helsinki, said in an April 13 interview. “Greece, Portugal and the whole debt crisis brought the underlying anti- European sentiment to the fore.”
Economic Hardship
Soini’s campaign to protect taxpayers from rules made in Brussels has resonated with voters who endured economic hardship without blowing the budget.
Finns of voting age remember how the country worked its way through its 1990s recession, triggered by a banking meltdown that coincided with an export slump as the Soviet Unioncollapsed. That downturn sent unemployment to 19.9 percent in May 1994, from 2.1 percent in 1990.
Finland has since emerged as one of the euro region’s fastest-growing economies. Gross domestic product expanded an annual 5.2 percent in the fourth quarter, Statistics Finland said on March 1. Finland kept its budget deficit within the bloc’s 3 percent threshold even as its economy contracted 8.2 percent in 2009. Its deficit will narrow to 1.6 percent of the economy this year, versus a European Union average of 5.1 percent, the European Commission estimates. more

True Finns Threaten Debt Bailout Plan as April Election Nears: Euro Credit
By Kati Pohjanpalo - Feb 28, 2011 5:11 AM CT
Finnish voters may prove as great a threat to the euro region’s retooled bailout plan as German taxpayers.
Support for the anti-euro True Finns party has soared as an April 17 election nears. It’s the fastest-growing movement in the northernmost euro member, with opinion-poll backing to rival the nation’s biggest opposition party. Voters are rallying to its argument that Europe shouldn’t have rescued Greece or Ireland, and Finland should veto more cash for the bailout fund.
“How come they can’t see the euro doesn’t work?” Timo Soini, leader of the True Finns, said in a Feb. 24 phone interview. “If a melon and an apple each wear the same size baseball cap, everyone can see that just doesn’t work.”
The party’s success comes as opposition mounts among Europe’s AAA rated nations to a revamp of aid packages, to be debated at a March 24-25 summit prior to seeking approval from the 17 euro-area parliaments. Portugal’s 10-year yield has climbed to 7.58 percent from 6.93 percent at the start of the month as investors fret that the rescue mechanism won’t be big enough, last long enough or would charge recipients too much.
Europe’s leaders need to strengthen the bailout fund amid speculation that Portugal may need assistance to repay its debts. Greece has been relying on a 110 billion-euro ($151 billion) bailout since May, while Ireland agreed to its 85 billion-euro rescue loan in November. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bloc lost a Hamburg regional election on Feb. 20 as voters recoiled at having their taxes pay for Greek overspending.
Frustrated Voters
“Some citizens may feel frustration because of the poor economic policies of the Greeks and the Irish, especially since Finland has kept its finances in good order throughout the difficult times,” Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi said in an e- mailed reply to questions.
Finland pays 20 basis points more than Germany to borrow for 10 years, the second-smallest yield premium in the euro area after the Netherlands. Greece’s premium is about 870, while Ireland’s is 616. Portugal’s spread has climbed to more than 440, up from 370 at the start of the year. more
Naturally, the bankster press is horrified that the Finnish electorate is about to call their bluff so the slander has begun in earnest.  An example from Business Insider.
The Surge Of The True Finns
John Ellis | Apr. 13, 2011, 11:52 AM 
The story no one really wants to talk about in Europe is the rising tide of right-wing politics. This is a particularly taboo subject in Germany, for obvious reasons. But it's happening all across the European Union, as this handy chart from The Economist makes clear.
The driving issues of this surge are said to be economic uncertainty, immigration and anti-Islamic "prejudice." But the overarching issue is nationalism or, more specifically, opposition to what might be called the "ideology" of the European Union. 
Anti-EU politics have already toppled governments in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Iceland. Anti-EU politics are now threatening to topple governments in more prosperous European nations. 
For the first time that anyone can remember, all eyes will be on Finland this weekend, The anti-EU, right-wing True Finns Party, long an unimportant small farmer's party in Finnish politics, is poised to score major gains in the April 17 national ballot. Indeed, the True Finns party is expected to do so well that it will likely be asked to help form a government. Such a development would have been unthinkable five years ago. more
And the tut-tutting from The Guardian 
Eurosceptic 'True Finns' shatter the old consensus
Against a background of bailouts, Finland's election is being dominated by the previously uncontroversial issue of the EU
Teija Tiilikainen, Thursday 14 April 2011
Timo Soini
As Finns prepare to go to the polls this Sunday, one thing is already clear: this has been a general election campaign like no other. For the first time, a European issue has dominated the debate. The issue in question is not one that makes for catchy headlines: the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a permanent rescue funding programme that is due to take over from current, temporary mechanisms for bailing out financially stricken European nations in 2013. The euro crisis, and subsequent need to bail out Greece, Ireland and now Portugal, has fed a rising wave of anti-EU sentiment and fuelled a rise of populist, often anti-immigrant parties across much of Europe. Finland is no different.
In Finland, this sentiment has led to the emergence of the "True Finns" party, which has in turn shattered the broad domestic consensus between political parties over the ESM and the bailouts. This party, led by MEP Timo Soini, has seen a meteoric rise in support over recent months, taking it from the margins of Finnish politics to the heart of the national conversation, with opinion poll ratings of about 20%, close to those of the three major parties. If this translates into votes, it would be difficult for their opponents to exclude the True Finns from negotiations on forming the next government. There have even been suggestions that Soini could become Europe's first openly Eurosceptic prime minister.
The True Finns' ideology is essentially built around a national-romantic vocabulary. They are anti-immigrant, and when it comes to Europe they share the views of many of their sister parties in the European Parliament's Freedom and Democracy group (which includes Ukip). The party is fiercely critical of political integration and the allegedly federal elements of the EU, which are presented as a challenge to national sovereignty.
The True Finns party demands a transfer of power back to the member states and has threatened to extract Finland from the EU if that doesn't happen. Its clarion call in recent months has been opposition to the bailouts, and to the ESM – Soini has promised to renegotiate Finnish commitments if he wins at the weekend and could theoretically block new rescue loans, which require unanimity among eurozone members.
However, the True Finns perform in the elections, their Eurosceptic stance will affect Finland's EU policy in the coming months – arguably, their rising influence is already visible in the tough line adopted by the Finnish government in recent negotiations. Any party needing to lure Soini into coalition partnership would need to make some concessions in terms of EU policy, and a compromise would likely involve more emphasis on Finnish interests. more
Of course, the banksters don't care one bit whether the True Finns originally represented farmers (gasp) or are not too excited about trying to integrate Muslim refugees into their ranks--what they care about is that someone is refusing to pay off the bankster gambling debts.

By Finnish standards, the True Finns certainly have an odd duck at the head of their party.  Soini is a Catholic in an overwhelmingly Protestant country, a soccer fan in a country known for its world-class hockey, and a friend of Israel in a country that has long had sympathetic ties to the Palestinian cause.  This guy is a rebel!  Without the Euro crises, Soini is a bit player in Finnish politics.

Keep something firmly in mind.  Finland still has an organized and effective Producer Class to the point where it is not inaccurate to call it a Producer Class state.  Paying off someone else's debts is about as clearly a Producer Class issue as one can imagine.  All the other Finnish parties have Producer Class members in their ranks so the idea that the True Finns will have these economic issues to themselves for very long seems remote.

But right now, this is Soini's issue and he already has international fans.  This from Britain.
The rising influence of True Finns is scaring EU elite
Posted on 12 March 2011 by Giuseppe De Santis
A few days ago we wrote about the huge rise in support for the True Finns party.
The elections in Finland will take place next month (they will be held on 17th of April) the EU ruling elite are now worried that True Finns will get enough votes to form part of a government coalition, and so push for tougher anti-immigration laws and oppose any plan to bail-out the Euro.
The article below shows what they fear most is that Timo Soini cannot be smeared in the same way other nationalist leaders are, because he has a different background and so, to them he is a lot more dangerous.
This is good news for nationalists as clearly True Finns, for all their faults, will help to destroy the European superstate and indirectly, will help us to save Britain.
Interestingly no newspaper in Britain ever bothered to write an article about them.
"Meet Timo Soini, and you cannot fail to fall under the spell of his charm. Humorous and friendly, with a good sense of repartee, he does not give the impression of being loudmouthed or stupid. And although he is deeply pious, he remains discreet on the subject of his religious beliefs.
Demonstrating a mastery of the background to political issues, his answers to questions are usually to the point. But he is also an outspoken populist intent on surfing the wave of ambient discontent with a ready supply of simplistic responses to complex questions.
Timo Soini is the leader of the True Finns: a political party that until recently was consigned to the sidelines of Finnish politics, which in the 2007 general elections obtained a modest 4.1% of the vote.
But four years is a long time in politics, and the most recent opinion polls show support for the party has suddenly increased to 17 % – an upsurge that has taken the country’s institutions by surprise, and elevated the True Finns to a position on a par with the country’s three mainstream parties: Kokoomus or the National Coalition Party, the Centre Party and the Social Democratic Party.
True Finns will be difficult to keep out of the next government
Today, in the wake of the most rapid rise in decades of Finnish politics and with only two months remaining until general elections, Timo Soini’s True Finns are almost on a level with the social democrats (17.3 %). more


  1. I'm portuguese and advise you the following, in Portugal the most biggest social injusties are all made under the law by the State, legalised by the votes of naive and misinformed electors. DO NOT approve more loans to the political lazy class and their aggregate workers. This is almost like Africa, few loan money will arrive to the common citizens. Don't be clowns.

  2. Thank you for your insight. Somehow, I have no reason to doubt your account of things. It's almost that bad here in USA and this country, at one time, actually knew better.