Alexander Stubb is Finland’s most popular politician – at least on Twitter https://twitter.com/alexstubb – where he shares everything from company visits to Ironman training with his 76.000+ followers. In 2011 he was appointed Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade of Finland. We were lucky to have him over for a visit so he could respond to our many questions without having to stick to a 140 character limit.
I’m from Germany where – at least until the recession – nobody was really interested in the EU. It was just regarded as some kind of bureaucratic monster that you would keep away from. Is it the same in Finland, or would you say that the general perception is different?
Pretty much the same. My counter question is always: who likes the Bundestag? Who likes politicians? You have to be a little perverse to do that, right? When the financial crisis hit especially Germany and Finland – and actually also in the southern countries – somebody was, “umm, this EU has an effect on my life!” And that’s what people start looking at more closely, and that’s when it really goes under your skin. So paradoxically the EU is very close to you right now, because of some rescue packages, because of some austerity measures etc.
What are the most important steps in solving the euro crisis?
If you would define the European crisis of 100 steps, I would argue that we’ve taken about 60 to 70 steps. We’ve taken most of the institutional decisions: six-pack, two-pack, rescue package, Portugal back on the market, Ireland back on the market, Spain never exiting the market, Cyprus in shape, Greece still a question. There are going to be some aftershocks, that’s for sure, but we must start thinking how to get growth growing again. And here I don’t believe that states, the EU or governments can create growth. That comes from companies, so we must create the possibilities for the companies to do that.
How do you see European solidarity, taking into consideration the division between north and south that is often referred to nowadays?
I think it’s very dangerous to start creating new divisions in Europe. There is a strong feeling in Finland that we have been paying for the sins of others. I actually disagree with that approach because I know the realities. We have also benefited enormously from the fact that we are AAA-rated. Our spreads have been below two percent for the past four years and that’s unprecedented in Finnish history. Now of course in terms of public perception in Europe we’ve been seen as the hardliners. We’re little Germany in many ways, or little Netherlands. And from a political perspective that’s not a good thing. We might need solidarity ourselves someday. I think we’ll come out of this stronger, but there will be a lot of confidence building that needs to be done in the next few years.
Right now, how powerful do you feel among the other EU members?
I feel that we have more say in international and European affairs than we’ve ever had in our history. Lot of people talk about losing sovereignty in terms of currency. I think that’s incorrect. We had the Finnish markka since 1860 and it was always a little button in the power politics of big states. Now we have a common currency with 18 EU countries and we are the only stable AAA-rated by all the credit agencies. So we actually have a voice that we never had before.