Finns agree on ‘necessary evil’ of EU coronavirus recovery budget

The EU's €750 billion coronavirus fund has been a contentious subject in Finland, with the main opposition group stridently against the deal.

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Finnish PM Sanna Marin (SDP) talks to reporters in Brussels, 20th February 2020 / Credit: European Council Newsroom

A new poll by three Finnish newspapers finds that most Finns – two out of three – broadly support the the recent EU budget deal which provides a €750 billion fund to help countries recover from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Answering a series of questions for Rural Future, Hufvudstadsbladet and Verkkouutiset newspapers, 40% of respondents indicated that they think the mix of grants and loans is a ‘necessary evil’ but acceptable nonetheless; around 25% replied positively to say the stimulus fund was completely the right solution, and a necessary one at that; while another 25% say it was a bad solution and should be rejected.

Some 10% of people didn’t have an opinion on the subject in the survey which was answered by a thousand people in Finland.

According to the survey men are more critical of the EU recovery fund than women; younger people have a more positive attitude than older people; rural residents are more negative than urban residents; and the most positive attitudes towards the budget deal  can be found in the capital city region.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) during an interview on 22nd July 2020 / Credit: News Now Finland

What’s the background to this story? 

Last week in Brussels leaders from 27 EU countries agreed on a new three-year, €750 billion coronvirus recovery deal after five days of contentious negotiations that lasted into the early hours of the mornings.

A group of countries known as the ‘Frugal Four’ – Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Netherlands – which Finland was aligned with, but not formally part of, argued for the fund to be made up of less grants and more loans.

The EU plans to raise money for the fund on the open markets but countries will have to pay back their loans over the next several decades. Some countries, like Finland, have traditionally been against taking on debts on behalf of other EU nations.

Meanwhile countries in the south of Europe which had been hit particularly hard by coronavirus like Italy and Spain, argued for more support from the EU and wanted more grant money to be made available to help their economies.

“I want to underline that it is so important for Finland that the whole European economy recovers. We are a very small, and also export-dependent country so it’s crucial for us that European economy recovers, and it’s also in our interest that we all recovery from this horrendous crisis that we’re all in” Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) told News Now Finland in an exclusive interview when she returned from Brussels.

At the end of the European Council negotiations no country got everything they wanted from the recovery fund budget deal, and a compromise was found which both sides of the divide could sell as a successful outcome.