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The Big Leap to the West: The Impact of EU on the Finnish Political System. ZEI Discussion Papers: 2001, C 89

Raunio, Tapio and Wiberg, Matti (2001) The Big Leap to the West: The Impact of EU on the Finnish Political System. ZEI Discussion Papers: 2001, C 89. [Discussion Paper]

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    Introduction. When analysing Finland’s integration policy, one is struck by the speed with which the political leadership turned its gaze from the East to the West. Within less than a decade Finland changed his status from a nonaligned country with close political relations with the Soviet Union to a full member of both the European Union (EU) and the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). It was not enough that Finland just joined the EU: the last three Finnish governments, starting from the centre-right coalition cabinet which took office in 1991, have decided that Finland’s place is in the inner core of the union. While rhetorically claiming to be interested in developing the EU as an intergovernmental project, the practical steps taken have shown that the recent governments have been willing to support and also put forward initiatives that strengthen the supranational nature of the Union. Finland has not at any instance seriously questioned the general development of integration: in this sense it has become a harmless participant in the inner core of the Union. Several observers have praised Finland’s commitment to integration. Finns have received credit from their European colleagues for their pragmatic and co-operative approach. For example, according to The Economist: Since joining the EU in 1995, and despite coming from its most distant edge, they [the Finns] have displayed an almost uncanny mastery of its workings. Many point to them as the very model of how a "small country" (vast in land mass, but with only 5.2 m people) should operate within the EU’s institutions: not preachy like the Swedes, not difficult like the Danes, not over-ambitious like the Austrians, merely modest and purposeful, matching a sense of principle with a sense of proportion. Another example was given by the European Voice, which in its leader, titled "Finnish presidency ends on triumphant note", argued among other things that ‘the Finnish presidency has proved once again that small countries are often the most adept at managing the EU’s business’ and that ‘the Finns have shown that a presidency which begins on an unauspicious note can end with plaudits from all sides’. The Finnish determined approach stands in contrast to the hesitant EU policies of both Denmark and Sweden. What explains this pragmatism and commitment to integration? Does the public share the commitment shown by the political elite? We argue that Finnish integration policy is very much driven by the need to secure her place among the Western European countries and to influence EU decisions in order to protect national interests. Support for the deepening of integration or for federalism is weak among the public and the parties, with integration primarily seen as an efficient way of furthering national economic and security objectives. The chapter is divided into six sections. In the next part we present the reasons that led Finland to apply for European Community (EC) membership. The third part focuses on the 1994 referendum and explores its main issues and cleavages. In the fourth section we analyse the impact of membership on party politics and administration. Europeanisation of the Finnish polity and public opinion are examined in section five. In the concluding section we discuss briefly the main aspects of Finnish integration policy, with emphasis on the future development of the Union.

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    Item Type: Discussion Paper
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > europeanisation/europeanization & European identity
    Countries > Finland
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > political affairs > European elections/voting behavior
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > political affairs > public opinion
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > political affairs > political parties
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > University of Bonn, Center for European Integration Studies > ZEI Discussion Papers
    Depositing User: Peter Zervakis
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2003
    Page Range: p. 35
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:14

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