Finland and the Dying Left of Europe

The Finnish election results available here are the final nail in the Greek coffin and are a lesson for the so-called anti-austerity parties throughout Europe. The core of the next Government will likely come from the rural and small town Centre Party and the less pleasant Finns’ Party, formerly True Finns. The Prime Minister elect Juha Sipilä, a devout Lutheran, of the type more at home in the Gospel Halls of Ballymena, decisively defeated the outgoing Prime Minister and his … Read more

Is my education system better than your education system? Finland vs the world.

Depending on who you ask, Scotland has a world class education system, a Northern Ireland grammar school education is the envy of the UK, and pupils from Anahilt primary school go on to dominate the head girl and head boy posts in local post-primary schools (according to a leaflet in Lisburn Library). Idly browsing through some tweets this morning I noticed a link to an article in The Atlantic about the Finnish education system which has been at or near … Read more

Jean-Claude Juncker: “The Eurogroup is working on a proposal, which I hope all eurozone member states will be happy with”

A quick update from Brussels on the crisis in the euro-zone where Finland’s demand for collateral in return for financial aid to Greece is, as the New York Times reported, threatening the “fragile consensus”.  [Offer them an island or two! – Ed]  I don’t think that would cover it… The BBC reports that European Central Bank (ECB) president, Jean-Claude Trichet, wants European governments to get back to work quickly. “The full and timely implementation of the July 21 agreement between heads … Read more

Van Rompuy: “Europe is still sexy…”

So sayeth the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, as the BBC Europe editor Gavin Hewitt notes Europe’s leaders are unsettled, scratchy. Old certainties have given way to anxiety. The open road to ever closer union is now strewn with boulders. You can gauge the ebbing confidence from remarks that didn’t need to be made. “Europe is still sexy,” declared President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy. “As long as a club attracts new members,” he added, “it is … Read more

EU crisis: “the question is whether all this can be kept under control.”

EU leaders will discuss the proposed revision of the Schengen agreement at a summit next month, as prompted by France and Italy – although the Guardian reported that, at a meeting of EU interior ministers, “15 of the 22 EU states which had signed up to Schengen supported the move, with only four resisting”. Meanwhile, the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, has written a strongly worded letter to the Danish prime minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, warning against the Danish Government’s proposals to unilaterally re-introduce … Read more

“We can’t separate Denmark’s announcement from the wider context of what we’ve been seeing the past few weeks”

Another example of domestic political pressure potentially impinging on the “European project”.  This time in Denmark, a member of the Schengen zone, where the government has announced the re-introduction of border guards and spot checks “designed to fight crime and illegal immigration”. From the Wall Street Journal report In Denmark, the issue of tighter border control has become a political bargaining chip. The governing center-right minority government, which consists of a coalition between the Conservatives and liberal-right party Venstre, wants to … Read more

Finland goes to the polls

Finland’s general election today represents one of those domestic political pressures, in Ireland and elsewhere, I mentioned which could have much wider ramifications. As RTÉ reports The reason the outcome of this election is being watched so closely is that Finland’s parliament has the right to vote on EU bailouts, such as the one currently being negotiated between Portugal and EU and IMF officials. And as EU rules state that any bailout must be approved unanimously by all 17 eurozone members, … Read more

“What is clear is that Dublin’s perspective will not be the defining one.”

In his Irish Times European Diary Arthur Beesley sketches out the domestic political pressures elsewhere which may hinder the Irish Government’s attempt to renegotiate the terms of their bail-out. From the Irish Times article In Portugal, fellow socialist Jose Socrates talked himself into an early election a few weeks ago by failing to win support for a new austerity drive. The country is said to be in a funk of despair over the prospects of a bailout. Look northwards from Spain … Read more

Euro crisis: “The fix is not in. A line has not been drawn. And tensions are rising.”

What to make of the news emerging at the end of the two-day EU summit in Brussels? It depends.  The RTÉ report tells us The EU is battling to stem a debt crisis that has raged for over a year and led Ireland and Greece to accept bailouts. It had promised to unveil a comprehensive solution at this summit that it hoped would reassure jittery markets. But the abrupt resignation of Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates on the eve of … Read more