Fortified by euro, Finns take bailouts on the chin

Fri Jul 27, 2012 2:40am EDT
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By Ritsuko Ando

HELSINKI (Reuters) - After dutifully abiding by EU fiscal rules, Finland's tiny population remains surprisingly phlegmatic about bailing out less disciplined euro zone members, and is mostly clinging on to its faith in the single currency project.

That faith has been tested as a succession of struggling nations make ever greater demands on the sounder economies in the currency bloc, but it is not yet at breaking point.

"We had to sort out our own problems ourselves in the past. That's why people are asking, do we have to help others?" said Maija Siirala, a freelance dressmaker and alterations specialist.

Finland, one of only four euro zone countries still boasting a triple-A credit rating, recovered from a financial crisis in the early 1990s without outside help, and the years of harsh austerity and debt repayments are part of the collective memory for many.

Now Finland must cough up 12.6 billion euros ($15.3 billion), which is equivalent to about 6 percent of GDP, for the European Stability Mechanism, the zone's permanent bailout fund.

"But I think yes, we still have to help others," Siirala adds without hesitation.

That is at least in part a recognition that Finland has benefited from membership of the euro zone.

Jussi Huotari, a man in his 30's working for a technology startup, criticized European officials for letting the crisis get out of hand, but said the euro had been "great for Finland" so far, and he had not been put off the idea of a currency union.   Continued...