December 21, 2016 / 2:26 PM / 4 years ago

Petition for Finland EU referendum fails to advance to parliament

HELSINKI (Reuters) - A petition to hold a referendum on whether Finland should leave the European Union failed to attract enough signatures by the deadline on Wednesday to move the proposal to parliament.

The “Fixit” petition was launched in June by the youth organization of the country’s co-ruling, eurosceptic Finns party in the wake of Britain’s referendum vote to leave the EU.

The proposal gathered less than 34,000 supporters in six months. The required number was 50,000.

According to a poll conducted by the Iltalehti newspaper soon after the Brexit vote on June 23, 69 percent of Finns opposed an EU referendum and 68 percent supported EU membership.

That suggested that Britain’s vote and consequent political turmoil had strengthened pro-EU sentiment in Finland. A previous poll in March had shown 43 percent of Finns wanted a referendum and 56 percent supported EU membership.

“It’s a shame we were not able to move forward this way, but we raised the discussion about Finland leaving the EU to a new level,” said Sebastian Tynkkynen, head of the Finns Party Youth.

Tynkkynen said the youth organization’s next goal was to make a Fixit referendum the main campaign demand for the party in Finland’s next general election in 2019.

Senior lawmakers in the Finns party have also floated the idea of a EU vote as a possible campaign theme.

Finland’s three-party government - which includes the Centre Party with agrarian roots and the pro-EU National Coalition Party - remains officially committed to membership of the EU and the euro single-currency zone.

Earlier this year, another petition demanded Finland’s break from the euro, saying the lack of an independent monetary policy was hampering economic growth in the country of 5.5 million people.

That petition made it to the parliament debate but the proposal was afterwards ditched by a parliament committee.

Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Jussi Rosendahl and Mark Heinrich

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