Sanna Marin’s Heat Level: An increasingly hotter weight on EU politics

  • + The negotiations for the EU Recovery Budget have been tough.
  • + Marin’s paper has been surprisingly relevant in reaching an agreement.
  • + The young Prime Minister’s popularity is on the rise due to her management of the pandemic.
Source: EPA-EFE

Why is Sanna Marin’s heat level hot?

Answer: Her role in the EU budget deal has been key to reach a satisfactory agreement and unblock negotiations.

Last Tuesday 21st, an agreement between the 27 EU heads of government was reached after four days of intense negotiations. The subject of debate was none other than the EU Budget for the period 2021-2027, in which the EU recovery measures for the pandemic were included. 

The final result of the summit was welcomed by Marin, as well as by other Prime Ministers. The young politician stated on Twitter that from Finland’s point of view, the package is positive and includes important measures for the country’s interests. This led us to ask ourselves: what was the concrete role of Marin in these negotiations? 

Chosen by parliament as the world youngest Prime Minister in December 2019, Sanna Marin has increasingly wider popularity in EU politics. Despite her recent designation as leader of Finland, her management of the coronavirus pandemic echoed in the international media next to other notable female politicians such as Tsai Ing-wen, Jacinda Ardern or Erna Solberg.

While Marin’s domestic decisions were warmly welcomed, her importance during the EU summit has shown us a politician whose role will be relevant for the EU intergovernmentalism. 

Last 17th of July, the heads of state of the 27 Member States met in Brussels in order to find a common agreement on the design of the recovery plan and the multi-annual budget. Even though some approaches were previously intended, the tensions between the two main blocks on a solution for the funding issue were rough. Moreover, a confrontation between the “Frugal Four” (Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden) and the group led by Sánchez and Conte took place. 

Sanna Marin was neither part of the self-called frugal, nor friend of Pedro Sánchez. As a politician with an economic approach closer to Rutte’s point of view, she defended some of his statements and stated that the “Frugal Four” were Finland’s partners regarding the recovery package. Despite this, she was open to negotiate her terms and was seen as a middle point between the main confronted stances. 

On Sunday 19th afternoon she announced the only proposal that met both groups’ aspirations on the EU budget, with the support of Rutte’s group. Finally, the multi-annual budget was approved by unanimity, which was an agreement similar to Marin’s proposal.

In line with the latest events, we can state that Marin is strengthening Finland’s paper on EU decisions, and building an image of a leading model. 

Who is changing Marin’s temperature?

Answer: She is demonstrating to be an efficient and increasingly influential leader for Finland’s position in EU politics. The support of Finland’s Parliament has been crucial to this.

Sanna Marin’s political weight has grown rapidly since 2012, the year in which she became head of administration in the city council of Tampere. Some years later she was elected as a member of Finland’s parliament, where she is quite well-liked. After the criticism of her predecessor Antti Rinne, she had work to do in order to regain the electorate’s confidence and the image of her party. 

In fact, it seems that Marin has taken this aspiration seriously, and is working hard to achieve a strengthened reputation for herself and the Finnish socialist party. Furthermore, her image and popularity has arisen since her designation

Firstly, it was Finland’s parliament who increased Marin’s temperature by trusting her as Finnish Prime Minister. Secondly, it is herself who is changing her own temperature and being appreciated by her colleagues on the European Council.

Her behaviour has transcended frontiers thanks to the media, and recently thanks to the paper she has played in supporting the “Four Frugal”. It was in the EUCO summit where she took advantage of her economic approach to, with the support of Rutte, take her positions in the political agenda of the EU.

We can assume that her role and weight in future summits will be relevant and her figure as a politician strengthened. The world, thanks to the media, is fascinated by this young woman in power and her actions in managing her country’s interests. And in the political scene, she is a key actor in EU agreements. 

What is driving Marin?

Answer: Marin’s attitude finds its origin in reaching what, in her opinion, is best for her citizens. 

Coming from a low income, homo-parental family, Marin thought that political life was far from her future. However, one thing was clear to her: if she went into politics, it would be to make Finland a better place. In other words, to look after the interests of Finnish citizens based on equality and rights.

When she finally got into politics, she defended society and her citizens’ rights. That is the main driving force she has in her political behaviour. She wants to make visible what was invisible in the past, such as families like hers. 

Despite her commitment to fighting climate change and improving environmental measures in her country, Marin is not a member of the Green Party, but of the Socialist. And, despite being a socialist, as a Northern European political party, it advocates for a liberal economy in which the government only has a relevant role in financing some social services through high taxes. This is an economic approach that she defended in the EUCO summit, and the reason why she was closer to the “Frugal Four” than to the Italian and Spanish governments. 

As it was already mentioned, hers is a strong commitment towards the respect of human rights and the law. That is why she, besides reducing the non-conditional funding in the EU recovery package, wanted to link the perception of the economic aid to the accomplishment of the rule of law

What is clear is that she intends to improve Finland’s social and environmental policies, as well as strengthen its position in the EU. And by doing so, Marin is improving her popularity. 

What does this mean for you?

Answer: Sanna Marin is opening the doors to a new generation of leading women in politics, and this affects all of us.

It is no coincidence that the countries with the highest rate of happiness and social development are led by women. Or at least that’s what it seems after seeing the management of the coronavirus crisis. Sanna Marin is an example of the new political generations to come. A politician of vocation with the intention of doing politics, not to gain fame or followers. As citizens, we deserve such politicians, no matter what ideology they have, what is essential is that they care about their electorate. 

With honesty and hard work, this Finnish politician is gaining the trust of many people throughout the world. It seems to be part of the Ardern effect. Such politicians have the potential to make a very positive impact on the way agreements are reached at the international level, as well as to set an example to young women with below-average income levels that have not been reflected in international politics up to now. Let us hope that the ripple effect of women leaders will spread beyond progressive economic powers and become the “new normal”.

Claudia María Yáñez Sangil

Research and Analysis Intern