Sunday 13 June 2010

Finland: Last European Council for PM Vanhanen

According to a press release from the Finnish government, prime minister Matti Vanhanen will represent Finland at the meeting of the European Council 17 June 2010.

Despite the undramatic announcement, this will be the last EU summit for Matti Vanhanen, the third longest serving member of the European Council.

The second longest serving member, Jan Peter Balkenende, is leaving Dutch politics after the election defeat of the Christian Democrats. If he still participates in the Thursday meeting as caretaker prime minister, it will be his last EU summit as well.

After this, Jean-Claude Juncker, from Luxembourg, remains even more the undisputed doyen of the European Council, having participated since 1995.

Vanhanen, who became prime minister of Finland on 24 June 2003, voluntarily stepped down from the leadership of the Centre Party (ALDE in the European Parliament) yesterday.

The Centre Party, with agrarian roots, elected a young woman from the capital Helsinki as its new leader. Mari Kiviniemi, 41, will become Finland’s second female prime minister when she takes over, probably on Friday. The international edition of Helsingin Sanomat offers additional details.

Youngish coalition leaders

The election of Kiviniemi completes a generational shift in the Finnish coalition government. The four party leaders – two males and two females - are all around 40 years of age.

Deputy prime minister and finance minister Jyrki Katainen, has led the National Coalition Party (EPP) since 2004. He was born in 1971, and re-elected as chairman yesterday.

The leader of the Green League (Greens-EFA) since 2009, Anni Sinnemäki, was re-elected in May. She was born in 1973.

Stefan Wallin, who will be re-elected as chairman of the Swedish People’s Party (ALDE) today, was born in 1967.

Opposition leaders

The next parliamentary elections in Finland will be held on 17 April 2011.

The opposition parties on the left have both tried to shed their stodgy images ahead of the campaign, by electing even younger leaders.

In 2008 the main opposition party, the Social Democrats (S&D), elected a new party leader, Jutta Urpilainen, born in 1975. She was re-elected in May.

Paavo Arhinmäki, born in 1976, leads the second largest opposition party, the Left Alliance (GUE-NGL), since 2009.

Ralf Grahn

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