HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen announced on Saturday that he was stepping down in June, saying he was interested in top EU posts.
Katainen, who has been leading a quarrelsome six-party coalition government since 2011, said he would not run for a new term as a chairman of his conservative National Coalition party at its congress in June, which means he will no longer be prime minister after that.
Katainen also said he would not run for the EU parliament in May or the Finnish parliament next year either, but added he is interested in international tasks.
“For example, membership of the (European) Commission or special duties outside the commission, which are given after the election - I am interested in them,” he said in a speech at a party campaign event.
“If those are not possible, then I’ll just look at something else,” he said.
The 41-year old led his party for 10 years, during which he also served as Finland’s finance minister in the previous government coalition.
“This is a good time to hand over party leadership, the country is set on a right course,” he said.
Katainen has been seen as a potential contender for EU’s top posts, although Finland’s tough stance towards bailouts in the euro zone crisis might make him unattractive to southern EU states.
Katainen’s government includes parties with varying views, and one of its members, Left Alliance, last month said it would resign from the coalition due to planned budget cuts.
The Finnish media has speculated that the next National Coalition chairman could be Jan Vapaavuori, the current economy minister; Henna Virkkunen, the municipal minister; EU minister Alexander Stubb or Petteri Orpo, who is the chairman of party’s MP’s.
Katainen helped his party to win the 2011 general election with a support of 20 percent, which narrowly surpassed the runner-ups Social Democrats and the euro-sceptic The Finns party. In the recent party polls, National Coalition sits second after opposition party The Centre.
Reporting By Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Bernard Orr
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