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Finnish lawmakers discuss possible referendum on euro exit

29 April 2016 11:01



Finland’s lawmakers have held a debate over a citizen petition that demands a referendum on a possible exit from the European single currency euro as a remedy to economic woes of the Nordic country.

The rare parliamentary debate was held on Thursday after some 53,000 Finns signed the petition to put the issue on the chamber’s agenda.

The appeal demands a referendum to review Finland’s euro membership amid the country’s poor economic performance and rising unemployment.

The petition would need to pass several stages in the parliament before reaching a final plenary vote and a possible referendum. The next stage would be a discussion on the initiative at the relevant parliamentary committee.

Opinion polls indicate the country is unlikely to exit the common currency, but the success of the petition shows the high level of public dissatisfaction with the economic situation and the government’s austerity policies.

According to a December poll by public broadcaster YLE, 54 percent of Finns supported remaining in the euro zone, while 31 percent wanted to leave. Asked whether Finland would do better outside the euro zone, 44 percent answered yes.

Euro-sceptic parliamentarians believe the economic crisis in the country stems from the lack of an independent monetary policy, saying Finland should have held a referendum before adopting the euro in 1998.

Nordic neighbors Sweden and Denmark voted against adopting the euro a few years later.

“The euro is too cheap for Germany and too expensive for the rest of Europe, it does not fulfill requirements of an optimal currency union,” said Simon Elo, an MP from the co-ruling Finns party.

However, the government remains committed to euro, arguing that a possible exit from the 19-member currency, also referred to as ‘Fixit,’ could further complicate the situation.

The Finnish economy grew by just 0.5 percent last year after three years of contraction. The stagnation reportedly stemmed from a string of problems, including high labor costs and the decline of Nokia’s former phone business.

Referendum on Brexit

EU membership has long also been a hot topic in Britain, where people are set to go to the polls on June 23 in a referendum to decide whether to leave the 28-nation bloc or stay in it.

According to the latest reports, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has warned the UK over leaving the European Union.

The inter-governmental body said in a study presented in London on April 27 that there is no advantage to Brexit for Europe and the UK.

Brexit campaigners, however, responded by saying the OECD is “making every possible worst case assumption” and the warnings were “just wrong.”

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