No right-wing victory in Finland – The Finnish MEPs headed for Brussels are well-versed in financial sector issues

The Finnish summer holiday season traditionally starts soon after the Midsummer festivities in late June. Those of us who work on EU-related affairs, however, follow a continental holiday rhythm. Especially our newly elected MEPs have a busy July ahead of them.

The Finnish EU elections saw some results that were not foreseen in any of the pre-election polls. Unlike most member states, Finland did not witness a surge in the popularity of right-wing parties: the biggest winners in the vote were the Left Alliance (GUE-NGL) and the ruling political party National Coalition (EPP).

The undeniable winner of the Finnish vote was Left Alliance party leader and former minister Li Andersson, who won by a landslide and made history by receiving more votes than any other Finnish candidate has ever received in a European election. Andersson’s success has been interpreted to signal many voters’ concern over the rise of the European far right and the lack of focus on environmental and climate issues.

The elections were fairly successful also for the National Coalition, the Finnish prime minister’s political party. In contrast, the Finns Party (ECR), the other main party in the coalition government, took a nosedive in the elections. This has been attributed to low voter activity and the party’s role in the government.

Finns focused on the familiar themes of economics and security in the elections. As Finland is one of Europe’s external border countries, geopolitical security was a particularly important topic for many voters. Finns across the political spectrum are strongly in favour of the aims to strengthen Europe’s common defence and stand united in their support for Ukraine. Against this backdrop, it was hardly a surprise that two of the National Coalition’s newly elected MEPs include Mika Aaltola and Pekka Toveri, who became known especially for their expertise in foreign and security policy questions prior to their political careers.

Former Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) member Eero Heinäluoma from the Social Democrats (S&D) received a great deal of votes and has expressed interest in continuing his work in financial sector regulation. Another former ECON member, Ville Niinistö (Greens) was also re-elected. Both have long experience as ministers over several government terms.

Among the MEPs who did not retain their seat in the elections was Sirpa Pietikäinen (National Coalition Party, EPP), who has served consecutive terms in the Parliament since 2008. But as the next Finnish Commissioner will be appointed from the National Coalition Party, Pietikäinen will most likely step in the Parliament and stay in Brussels. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo confirmed on Saturday that the government will nominate Henna Virkkunen (National Coalition Party, EPP) as Finland’s candidate for a seat on the next European Commission, as expected. Virkkunen is a former cabinet minister and a MEP in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) as of 2014. On her Parliament career, she has concentrated on questions related to industrial policy, SMEs and digital policy.

One of the National Coalition Party’s new MEPs is Member of the Finnish Parliament Aura Salla. Although a first-timer, she is not a newcomer to Brussels: Salla was a member of Jyrki Katainen’s cabinet during his term as Commissioner and led Facebook parent company Meta’s EU public affairs office. Another interesting new MEP is longtime minister Anna-Maja Henriksson, who is resigning as the chair of the Swedish People’s Party of Finland (Renew) and moving to the European Parliament.

From the financial sector’s viewpoint, it seems like Brussels will be home to many MEPs who we expect may well show an interest in the many themes and areas of regulation that affect the financial sector. We are also certain that the very experienced and highly competent team of Finnish MEPs will have much to offer in the Parliament.

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