Home is where the EU is – it’s time to roll up our sleeves and solidify our place at the heart of the Union

The year 2024 is one of the busiest election years in recent history. In Europe, the season reaches its highest point in the European elections in early June. The new Members of the European Parliament will also include a new roster of Finnish MEPs. As a small country, our representation is also small: out of the 720-member Parliament, only 15 people to look after the interests of Finland and its citizens in addition to promoting the common interests of the entire Union. No wonder we’re sometimes scratching our heads over the decisions being debated in the EU.

Although the EU is not perfect and unfailing and the logic behind decisions made in Brussels is sometimes lost to us, the heart of the EU is unquestionably the best place for Finland. It is in the best interests of the Finnish financial services sector and Finnish citizens alike. The EU grants us stability and benefits that only a large single market can offer.

But this does not mean that we should settle for the present state of things. Finland could benefit from the EU to a much greater extent. The bigger member states set a good example: they do not sit around patiently waiting for the EU to draft legislation that works to their advantage. Instead, they engage in proactive lobbying to ensure that regulatory texts develop in a favourable direction from the start. The active member states raise viewpoints that are not only characteristic of and important for their own markets, but also essential to take into account in pan-European legislation.

Regulation that suits one member state might not suit another.

The financial sector is subject to a large amount of regulation, most of which originates at the EU level. The sector is a prime example of the importance of early and proactive lobbying. Regulation prepared in the EU should be equally applicable in the Finnish and Dutch financial sectors and in the financial sectors of Bulgaria and Italy.

But just like no two member states are alike, neither are the financial sectors of different countries. A case in point are the plans for a European deposit guarantee scheme. While solvent Finnish banks have been collecting a buffer to guarantee their customers’ deposits for many years, some European banks are only starting this work. And they may do so from a far weaker solvency position to start with.

There lies the risk that member states who have looked meticulously after their finances will have to foot the bill on behalf of their more lax neighbours. This is no more in the interests of the financial sector or the denizens of Finland or any other scrupulous member state. What it all boils down to is who gets to set the terms when a regulatory project is launched.

Major EU lobbyists are the member states themselves.

New legislation is never created in a void. This applies in the national and EU-wide contexts alike. It is now time for Finland to step up and take on the role of a much bigger country. Submitting comments on proposals and dutifully implementing regulation that others have shaped is no longer enough: we must set our sights on a Finland that is an active member in a strong and unified EU. An active member that promotes the shared interests of the entire Union but also looks after its own national needs. In the future, Finland must be one of the countries that actively propose ideas to the Commission while highlighting its national specificities.

Only 15 Finns among the 720 MEPs ‒ in light of these figures alone, it is clear we cannot afford to give our bigger and more influential European partners a head start in the game. We need more vigorous and proactive EU lobbying. This applies to our decision-makers in both national committees and in Brussels as well as to our entire body of officials and lobbyists. Together we can increase our influence substantially.

The Finnish financial sector stands with the EU. But a union can only be as strong as its members – it does not benefit either if we do so at our own expense.

Sara Mella is Head of Personal Banking in the Nordic region at Nordea and the Executive Chair of Finance Finland’s Board of Directors.