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7 Aug, 2022 15:02

Finland warns about ‘imminent’ downturn in Europe

Looming recession may compromise European unity, President Sauli Niinisto said
Finland warns about ‘imminent’ downturn in Europe

An economic downturn is looming over the European Union amid the Ukraine conflict, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto warned in an interview with local media released on Sunday.

"Even we in Finland are used to living with the idea that everything will get better next year. But now this is suddenly no longer the case,” Finland’s leader said to the newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus, adding that the trend may impact the concept of European unity.

“We are moving in a direction where self-sufficiency in a very broad sense becomes central,” Niinisto reiterated. "It means self-sufficiency in terms of security, despite the fact that we have the NATO process in motion, and self-sufficiency so that there is enough food.”

He also voiced concerns over a possible escalation of the Ukraine conflict. “This risk is ever-present, and it must be taken into account," Niinisto said, without providing any details on what such an escalation might look like.

According to the Finnish president, it "is impossible to imagine" what form a possible reset in relations between the West and Russia could take after Moscow attacked Ukraine in late February. Niinisto also believes that the Ukraine conflict will have far-reaching consequences.

The Finnish leader’s warning comes after inflation in the Eurozone hit its highest level on record in July, reaching 8.9%, according to the European Union Statistics Office. The soaring inflation has largely been attributed to skyrocketing energy prices.

To mitigate the energy crisis, the European Council earlier this month approved a plan that would see EU countries reduce their gas consumption by 15% in light of possible disruptions of supplies from Russia.

Poland and Hungary, however, reportedly refused to back this plan due to legal concerns. Earlier, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban commented on the initiative, saying that energy rationing suggests that Europe is moving toward a “wartime economy.” In his telling, unless peace is reached in Ukraine, "we will not be able to solve any problems, there will be no energy, and the entire European Union will be pushed into an economic situation of war.”