HELSINKI, March 24 (Xinhua) -- As leaders of the European Union were on their way to meet in Rome and give a declaration about the future of the EU, political debate continued intensely in Finland about the role of Finland in the EU.
Following a closed door meeting of the parliamentary Grand Committee earlier in the week, opposition parties criticized the three-party coalition government for lack of determination and strategy.
In early March, Prime Minister Juha Sipila coined the Finnish line as "middle of the road". He flagged for continued unity of the EU.
Paavo Lipponen, the then prime minister at the time when Finland joined the EU, demanded that Finland should be in the core of the EU. In an article published in the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat last week, he warned against Finland "ending up in the outer fringe of the union."
Reviewing the situation on Friday, national Yle radio analyst Matti Koivisto attributed the unclear Finnish line to the difficulty in accommodating the views of the anti-EU True Finns and the rest of the government.
Kristi Raik, a senior researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, told Yle on Friday that she expected Finland could join the more intense core of cooperation, but the question remained open. "There is more uncertainty about the position of Sweden and Denmark," she said.
Tytti Tuppurainen, the social democratic vice chairman of the Grand Committee, claimed that Finland is not prepared for the alternative that various speeds will commence in the EU earlier than anticipated.
Anne-Mari Virolainen, the conservative chairman of the Grand Committee, defended the government but said she shared the view that the government's EU strategy lacked depth.
Prime Minister Sipila denied that there exists disagreement inside the coalition about the attitude towards the EU. Sipila reiterated that the current coalition would not arrange a referendum about EU membership. Such demands have been heard, however, within the True Finns, one of the three coalition parties.
The ongoing debate about the vision of the future EU concerns Finnish in respect of security as well.
The Grand Committee vice chairman Tuppurainen used the expression "spheres of interest" that has a notorious cold war flavour to Finns. She said that if Europe reverts to "a scene of competing national interests," the influence of the great powers would increase. "And in such a Europe, Finland would always be in someone's 'sphere of interest'", she said.
Newspaper Helsingin Sanomat said in an editorial that the "middle of the road" is no longer available. The newspaper described the government line as a "strategy without strategy."