Although Britain is challenging the very premise on which the European Union is founded, the main concern for Finland remains domestic matters, President Sauli Niinistö said in an interview with the US television news network CNN during the World Economic Forum summit taking place in Davos, Switzerland. President Niinistö warned Friday of the human impact of cutting benefits.
Europe is understandably rattled by the British bombshell of a possible national referendum on membership in the European Union. Speaking Friday with CNN’s roving reporter Richard Quest in Davos, Switzerland, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said he’s “not primarily worried” about the recent statements made by British premier David Cameron.
The President said that in 2013 Finland’s biggest concerns lie within its own borders.
“It’s undoubtedly the economy and unemployment and in my opinion we should take more and more care of social cohesion so that we don’t drop people out of society,” Niinistö said.
“At what point will Finnish politicians tell the Finnish people that they can no longer enjoy that level of social benefits that they've enjoyed, because it is unsustainable?” Quest probed.
Niinistö pointed out that as Finance Minister during the 1990s recession, he had to do just that. “I had to tell them then that 30 percent of our budget is borrowed money and we have to cut benefits, very radically. At least quite a lot of people understood that ‘Well, we have to do that’”, he explained.
The President stressed that it is important to understand that “cutting benefits always hurts people.”
“The risk is when growth begins again – and we made that mistake in Finland – that those people who lost didn’t get it back. It went to other pockets,” he added.
Niinistö said that Europe – as well as Finland – needs to remember these lessons.
“We have to keep in mind ... when we recover from this crisis ... that those who have lost have rightful compensation before those who haven’t lost,” he cautioned.