Finland's European affairs minister Alexander Stubb has reasserted the country's commitment to the euro after a senior member of the coalition government said plans had been made for the break-up of the currency.
Foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja told the Telegraph
in an interview
today that Finland had to "face openly the possibility of a euro break-up" and that such an eventuality could make the European Union "function better".
He said: "It is not something that anybody – even the True Finns – are advocating in Finland, let alone the government. But we have to be prepared. Our officials, like everybody else and like every general staff, have some sort of operational plan for every eventuality." The True Finns is a Eurosceptic party that won 19 per cent of the votes in the last general election, its highest ever score, amid growing concern about the debt crisis.
Tuomioja said there was a "consensus" that the fragmentation of the currency would cost more than dealing with the crisis but that it was "up to Greeks whether they want to stay in the euro". He also expressed doubts about plans for closer fiscal union in the bloc, saying he lacked trust for the EU officials drawing up the proposals.
However, Stubb later insisted that Finland was "100 per cent committed" to the euro. Speaking to Reuters
, he described the foreign minister's comments as "speculation" that "does not reflect the government's position". Stubb himself was Finland's foreign minister between 2008 and 2011.
A spokesman for the European Commission, asked about the comments at a regular press briefing in Brussels, said the euro was "irreversible" and all eurozone leaders had committed to preserving the currency's integrity. And Dutch finance minister Jan Kees de Jager told reporters: "We never speculate about an exit from, or the break-up of the eurozone. The eurozone is very important for the Netherlands."
Finland is the only euro area country to have a stable AAA credit rating with all three major rating agencies. In July the country's strict stance on eurozone bail-outs – including its demand for collateral in exchange for aid to Greece and Spain – was cited by Moody's as one of the reasons it maintained a stable outlook.
Tuomioja's comments on Greece come with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande next week. He is expected to raise the question of whether Greece might be given an extra two years to meet the conditions of its international bail-outs.
Yesterday Merkel, on a visit to Canada, said EU leaders were "committed to do everything we can to maintain the common currency". Adding that time was "of the essence", she said it was a question of "taking the steps that weren't taken when the currency union was created, namely a political union".
The series of meetings next week comes after figures published on Tuesday showed that the eurozone economy contracted by 0.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2012, with five countries – Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus – in recession as austerity measures designed to bring down public debts took their toll on growth.