Finnish Nationalistic MP Maria Lohela: Bulgaria Isn't Quite Ready for Schengen
An interview for Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency), novinite.bg and the Trud daily with Maria Lehala, MP with Perussuomalaiset, "the Finns" party (formerly translated as "the true Finns").
The interesting thing about "the Finns" is that, at least to my understanding, it is not a far-right party unlike some other nationalistic parties in Europe, you are not far-right.
Exactly. We consider ourselves to be centrists. We have a very long tradition in Finnish politics; our party builds upon the tradition of the party of the people from the countryside. In that way, we are nothing new in Finland's political life. The parties you are probably comparing us with are established as a reaction to more recent changes in the society.
Let's take for example the Dutch nationalistic party that is influencing its country's government regarding key issues like Schengen – and Schengen is an important issue for Bulgaria. How would your party do about the expansion of the Schengen zone if you were in the government?
The current Finnish government used to be in line with the Dutch stance, but they have subsequently given in, hoping that certain requirements are met so that Bulgaria and Romania are included in Schengen.
We believe in free movement, this is a good start and we support it. Sometimes even those who have nothing bad in mind suffer as a consequence of the tighter border control.
What Bulgaria and Romania need to do is to be stricter about combating crime and have plans in place in order to meet the requirements.
However, our party does not think Bulgaria and Romania are quite there yet.
Should Bulgaria cope with the requirements alone or could someone help it?
I believe we should tell Bulgaria about good practices, but I do not think we should impose anything.
Why are you not in the government?
The issue of financially supporting countries like Greece and Portugal was a bit too difficult for us to overcome. We do not think Finland should pay for the serious mistakes other countries' governments have made. In politics, you always have to make compromises, but each party has values which it considers so important it does not want to give in. That was too much for us.
However, we really wanted to be in the government. It was not an easy decision.
How do you expect to do in the next parliamentary elections? Will you gain support or will you lose some?
It things continue to go the way they are now, I think we will gain more support.
What do you make of Finnish European Affairs Minister Alexander Stubb's support of the idea that triple A economies should have bigger control over the financial matters in the European Union?
Our party is against the European Union moving towards becoming a federal state. We think what he suggested would be a step towards that.
We do not want to encourage such steps.
How do you see the future of the Eurozone? Will the Euro collapse and will national currencies return?
We do not think the Eurozone will survive as it is and there will be probably some countries that will end up leaving it. But I believe all possible efforts will be put into saving it. The most likely outcome is that only the countries with serious financial problems will leave the Eurozone, but the Eurozone as a whole will not collapse. At least not anytime soon.
What is your stance on immigration?
I think we should never restrict people who are coming here to work or to study. But we have a welfare society and we need working people who pay taxes in order to keep it running. It is becoming more and more costly to do that: our unemployment rate is about 8%, which is a bit high even though it as bad as what Spain is going through at the moment. We still have to tackle that problem.
We support work-related immigration, as well as student exchange. There should be more of it. Finnish people should be more eager to go abroad and foreigners should be able to come here – despite the language barrier.
We should not stop immigration if there is a valid basis for it. We are in the same boat as the government in our efforts to curb the gray labor market. People come here and are paid very low wages, which is wrong. If you do the job, you should get paid; you should have the same rights and responsibilities as the Finnish worker, no matter what background you have.
What about the Roma who may come here and rely on social benefits?
I feel very bad for Roma people and I think the countries they come from should tackle these issues first. They have the first responsibility. I believe the EU should follow up on the progress and make demands when it comes to improve their situation. They are people and we do not have anything against people, we want everyone to be treated fairly.
You cannot just push people out; you have to handle these problems.
If you want to change it, it is possible – and it is possible in Bulgaria and Romania, too.
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All nationalists are xenophobic. Nationalism is the root of all evil.
Anyway, (not counting Sweden, as it borders that innocuous/obnoxious little country Norway, that are part of Schengen anyway) Finland has the longest border with non-EU/non-Schengen countries of any EU member and they, hahahahahahahahah, I can’t stop laughing, hahahahaha, worry about a few Bulgarians and/or that we might not be capable of holding back the hordes?
Grip a brain Maria!