Making a Markka

Here’s the Economist’s Charlemagne with an interesting twist on the Eurozone’s attempts to put its financial house in order:

Boosting the current “temporary” EFSF has also been agreed in principle, except that the final accord has been pushed back to June. That is because of political problems in Finland.

The government in Helsinki is refusing to sign up to any increase in the lending capacity of the EFSF until after its election next month. In part this is a constitutional issue, as parliament would have to be recalled for an emergency session to endorse any increase in Finland’s contribution, be it in terms of cash or guarantees. In part the reluctance is also a bit of electioneering. The centre-right National Coalition party, led by Jyrki Katainen, Finland’s finance minister, is expected to win the largest number of votes. But he is acutely sensitive to the strong challenge posed by the True Finns, a populist anti-immigrant and anti-EU party that has surged in the polls – in large part because of popular resentment at Finland having to contribute to the bail-outs of Greece and Ireland.

Asking Finland to reach again for its credit card before the election would only boost the True Finns…

I cannot say that I know too much about the True Finns. Like a number of the other ascendant populist parties in northern Europe they combine both elements of both left and right in their programs. However, the party’s leader, Timo Soini, has at least one achievement to his name: he has told a reasonably good joke. That’s no small feat in famously taciturn Finland, a country where extroverts are said to look at your shoes rather than their own.  According to a Finnish friend who watched a recent pre-election debate on TV, Mr. Soini suggested that Finns should take their holidays in Greece ‘as their money was already there’.

Well, it made me laugh anyway.

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