Finnish greens – no

/// European Greens update

To refresh our common memory, in 2002, the Finnish Parliament accepted the government’s decision-in-principle to allow the industry to build a fifth nuclear reactor. The project had been proposed several times before, e.g. before Chernobyl 1986 and again in 1993 when it was defeated by a cross-party majority in Parliament. [:]

The Finnish Greens were in the government from 1995 and stepped down after the decision on the fifth reactor was made. The party left the coalition of five parties even if the prime minister, Paavo Lipponen, had tried to convince us to stay.

The majority felt morally and politially committed to statements made by the party leadership before the parliamentary elections of 1999, according to which the party would not remain in the coalition in a situation which now had become a reality. A second reason was that it would be particularly unhappy to become a kind of an eco-label for nuclear energy internationally.

Only a small minority in the party argued that it would be better to go on to work for other Green objectives in the coalition, especially since the Green minister of environment, Satu Hassi, had done everything to stop the project, and one could not appeal against the decision of the “last instance”, i.e. Parliament‘s

Now, four years later, there is no reason to think this had not been the right decision. It was fair to voters, it was correct with regard to the international Green movement. Finland has become a regular quote for a “sensible” and “climate-friendly” energy “mix”. Of course, we do not see how nuclear energy and renewables could realistically be a complement to each other. 

The nuclear industry sees developments in Finland as the opening of a new era of nuclear energy. In his present capacity as President of the Finnish Parliament, Paavo Lipponen is a welcome speaker for nuclear energy in London and Paris etc. in conferences organized by the nuclear lobbies. Needless to say, this is not in accordance with his high position.

Against this backdrop it may not be a surprise that in Finland the discussion on the sixth reactor has already started. Most political parties are careful and do not call for it openly – but their prominent representatives take a stand in favour. Many want to see nuclear energy and renewables as the two main  components of energy policy. Some labour unions, who lobbied for nuclear energy and even financed pro-nuclear MPs, swear that they will not do it again. They have been gravely disappointed by the failed promises on juicy sub-contracts. Most jobs fallen to foreign companies.

Nevertheless, what happened in 2002 could repeat itself after the parliamentary elections of March 2007. The Green party has no intention to revise its views on nuclear energy. It is unthinkable that Greens could be brought to a coalition to vote for nuclear energy.

It is not even realistic to expect that in any coalition negotiations the formulations would again include more than an obscure wording on nuclear policy. The dividedness of most other parties in the issue also allows for “free hands” for each minister and MP, should the industry come up with an application for a sixth reactor.

The lesson from 2002, however, is that it would be wise to tell the voters before the March elections that the Greens would not automatically on their own initiative step down from the government, should we be in it, and should we lose our case. One would have to carefully weigh against one another the pros and cons in the actual situation for furthering the Green platform, including an intelligent energy policy.

As the power grids are being more and more integrated, a common European energy policy to regulate those markets is needed. With free electricity imports and exports it is more and more difficult to master nuclear energy in one country alone. This is also a call for support by Greens all over Europe and worldwide to participate in the common climate campaign.