Finland PM criticises EU policymaking, euro debt

HELSINKI Wed Sep 7, 2011 6:05pm BST

Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen arrives at an European Union leaders summit in Brussels June 23, 2011. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen arrives at an European Union leaders summit in Brussels June 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

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HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen criticised recent policymaking in Europe, saying decisions by a select few on issues such as the debt crisis posed a risk to fairness and democracy in the wider European Union.

In one of his strongest statements against current European policymaking, Katainen also said the euro zone had broken rules for too long and that bailouts should be the "extreme exception."

"The problem in the euro zone is too much debt. Another problem is that we have broken, and at least flexibly interpreted, our own rules for too long, which is why our decision-making suffers from a lack of confidence," he said in a speech.

Katainen said he saw increasing divisions among the EU's 27 member states, with decisions being made by some groups with others expected to follow.

He said German Chancellor Angela Merkel's and French President Nicolas Sarkozy's idea of regular meetings by the 17 euro zone countries' premiers would deepen dividing lines between the zone and the other EU members.

"The more decisions are made without clear regulation basis or outside the structures, the more unclear will the decision-making be," he said. "This is a risk for democratic decision-making."

Finland's government, led by Katainen's right-leaning National Coalition, is pro-Europe but must answer to voters increasingly fed up with helping bail out indebted countries while they face austerity at home.

It has also been demanding collateral as a condition for new loans to Greece, prompting criticism among some other member states who say they should get the same treatment and raising fears of a delay to the rescue plan.

Katainen repeated to reporters on Wednesday that Finland could opt out of the bailout package if its demand for collateral is not met.

He also urged the European Union to boost its global competitiveness, and said he would support sanctions for countries that don't.

(Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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