European Union Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn has told the leader of Finland’s euro-skeptic party to apologize for likening him to a Czarist-era ruler in a spat that coincided with the nation’s vote on a second Greek bailout.
Timo Soini, who leads “The Finns” party, yesterday told broadcaster YLE that Rehn reminded him of Nikolay Bobrikov, a Russian appointed by Czar Nicholas II to lead the Nordic country before Finland gained independence in 1917. Bobrikov was shot dead in 1904 by a Finnish activist after imposing rules that undermined local laws and required Finns to speak Russian.
“This is not only hurtful for a patriotic man such as myself, but also dangerous hate speech to be likened to a murdered man,” Rehn, a former Finnish lawmaker, said in an e-mailed statement today. “This statement is inappropriate and I expect Soini to apologize for his distasteful remark.”
Soini has lambasted European leaders’ efforts to contain the debt crisis and said the measures demanded of Greece in exchange for its bailout impinge on the nation’s sovereignty.
“Brussels’ Bobrikov is a figure of speech,” Soini said today, according to broadcaster YLE’s website. “I stand by my words. A person in public office must be able to take criticism.”
Greece won a second rescue package this week after Europe’s governments wrung concessions from private investors and tapped into European Central Bank profits to prevent a default. Greek parties were asked to commit to austerity measures and reforms in exchange for the 130 billion euros ($173 billion) of loans.
Finnish lawmakers are due to vote on the country’s contribution to the second bailout on Feb. 28.
The International Monetary Fund, the ECB and the European Commission dictate Greece’s policy regardless of its election results, Soini told YLE. Soini’s party became the parliament’s third-largest last April as voters rewarded his bailout-bashing agenda. It’s the biggest opposition party in the legislature.