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Finland to decide Wednesday on Portuguese bailout position

Published on 06/05/2011

Finland will take a position on a European Union bailout package for Portugal on Wednesday, parliamentarians told AFP Friday.

The decision, taken by the parliamentary committee that sets Finland’s EU policy, is crucial because it will determine Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen’s position at the May 16 ECOFIN meeting of European Union finance ministers.

“The ECOFIN meeting will be dealt with next Wednesday… and Minister Katainen will be heard in the matter,” Erkki Tuomioja, the chairman of the so-called “Grand Committee,” which is made up of parliamentarians, said.

Katainen is also the head of the conservative National Coalition, the political party that won the most votes in an April 17 election, and is poised to become Finland’s next prime minister.

He said Tuesday Finland would determine its stance on the Portuguese bailout question before the ECOFIN meeting and hoped for concrete results this week.

But the committee’s work has stalled because a working group made up of members of parliament from all parties, in charge of submitting the Portugal proposal for the committee to rule on, could not agree on the specifics.

“The first thing we have to agree on is whether we are ready to approve the Portugal package, and if we are, then what conditions the package has to have,” working group head Kimmo Sasi said, explaining his group would put forth a proposal before Wednesday.

Finland is the only EU country that needs its parliament’s approval of Portugal’s rescue package, and one of only six eurozone countries to have a triple-A credit rating, making it a crucial backer of EU bailout packages.

Even if the committee gives its approval for Katainen to pursue backing loans to Portugal, the final agreement still must pass a parliamentary vote.

It is usually a rubber-stamp vote since the original proposal is often written with the consensus of a parliamentary majority.

The nationalist True Finns, which became Finland’s third-biggest party in the April elections, said Monday it would not vote in favour of an EU bailout for Portugal were it to join the new Finnish government.