Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Live From New York: A Finnish Expat on the Euro Crisis

A Finn-come-New Yorker expounds on the transatlantic notions that surround the euro crisis, the recent victories by right-wing nationalist parties in Finland's elections, and how observers in the US  may or may not be able to comment on it all. A thought-provoking read.

"Our resentment toward being asked to help our far-flung partners in the Union is also exposing the hypocrisy behind another dearly held Finnish tradition: our disgust at how little compassion Americans seem to have for their fellow citizens in terms of sharing the wealth. When my friends criticize the United States for failing to provide universal health care, I point out that America is twice the size of the European Union. It’s not quite parallel, but if Finns were asked to contribute to the health care of the Greeks, the Irish and the Portuguese, they might feel a little like Americans.
"And now they do.
"Friday afternoon, without the support of the True Finns, Portugal’s bailout was endorsed in Parliament, clearing the way for its approval by the European Union on Monday.
"Because they failed to get what they wanted, the True Finns dropped out of the negotiations to become a coalition partner in the new government.
"But even if they won’t play a major role in determining Finnish policy, the True Finns have prompted some lasting changes, and transformed Finland’s meek stance toward Europe. The leading parties have refused to back further bailouts unless the country in question provides direct guarantees on the loans. (...)
"And the debate they started — about what kind of country Finland is, and wants to be — continues. The True Finns fear that the Finnish way of life will be undermined by immigrants. In my “red-green” circles — as the politically leftist and environmentally aware are called — the fear is that Finland will succumb to close-minded bigots and lose the diversity and benefits that come from belonging to a larger European community.
"For my part, I did what I could to help — I offered a place on my couch in Brooklyn to any political refugees. But in the end, my friends in Helsinki seem to be deciding that this is no time for retreat. Instead they’ll stay to help determine the future of their country.
"Perhaps in the process, we Finns will learn something from that union of states on the other side of the Atlantic. And maybe we’ll even be able to offer some suggestions in return."


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