Stubb becomes Finnish prime minister, eyes economy

HELSINKI Tue Jun 24, 2014 5:57am EDT

Alexander Stubb, new chairman of the National Coalition party, celebrates after his election in the party's congress in Lahti June 14, 2014.   REUTERS/Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva

Alexander Stubb, new chairman of the National Coalition party, celebrates after his election in the party's congress in Lahti June 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva

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HELSINKI (Reuters) - Alexander Stubb, a staunchly pro-European free marketeer, took over as Finnish prime minister on Tuesday hoping to kickstart the euro zone country's sputtering economy before a general election scheduled for April 2015.

Stubb, a former EU minister who also wants neutral Finland to join NATO, was sworn in along with his new government at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Helsinki. He and the other ministers made no statements during the ceremony.

The government, which comprises the same five parties as its predecessor, wrapped up formation talks last Thursday and agreed to stimulate the economy with tax cuts and infrastructure investments worth around 1.1 billion euros ($1.5 billion).

Finland is one of the few remaining triple-A rated countries in the euro zone, but the economy has contracted for the past two years due to problems in key industries and weak domestic spending.

The leading forces in the government are Stubb's center-right National Coalition party and the Social Democrats, whose leader Antti Rinne stays on as finance minister.

The British and U.S.-educated Stubb, 46, is not expected to introduce any major policy changes before next year's election.

His predecessor, Jyrki Katainen, quit as prime minister to seek a high-level job in the European Union.

($1 = 0.7357 Euros)

(Reporting by Sakari Suoninen; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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