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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Basic Information

Full country name: The Republic of Finland
Area: 338,000sq km
Population: 5.4 million
Capital City: Helsinki - population 564,000 (1.25 million in greater Helsinki area)
Language(s): Finnish (92%) and Swedish (5.5%) are official languages. English is widely spoken. There is a small Sami (Lapp) speaking community and an increasing Russian-speaking minority.
Religions: Lutheran 82.4%, Orthodox Christianity 1%.
Currency: Euro
Major political parties: National Coalition, Social Democratic Party of Finland, True Finns, Centre Party of Finland, Left Alliance, The Green League, Swedish People’s Party, Christian League fo Finland
Government: Republic
Head of State: President Sauli Niinisto
Prime Minister: Jyrki Katainen
Minister for Foreign Affairs: Erkki Tuomioja
Membership of international groups/organisations: Finland is a member of many international groups and organisations including European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), all the organisations of the United Nations family, the Council of Europe (COE), World Trade Organisation (WTO), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Nordic Council, the Barents Euro Arctic Council, the Council of Baltic Sea States and other regional bodies, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

HEALTH

Infant mortality rate: 2.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2009)
Life expectancy: males 76.5 years, females 83.2 years. (2009)

DID YOU KNOW?

-- The Finns hold more Olympic medals per capita than any other nation - Paavo Nurmi and Lasse Viren are the best known Finnish athletes.

-- Finns drink more coffee per capita than any other nationality in the world. Belgium are second and Norway third.

-- Finnish speeding fines are based on your annual income. In 2004 the 27-year-old heir to a family-owned sausage empire received a record €170,000 ticket for driving at 80 kph in a 40 kph zone.

-- Finnish musical traditions are extremely strong, from Sibelius onwards. Finns such as Esa-Pekka Salonen conduct many of the world's leading orchestras.

-- The Finnish alphabet does not use the letters b, c, d, f, q, w, x or z. So in a 600-page dictionary only 3 pages are taken up by B, C and D – and only 9 words begin with C – all imported words, such as “CD-ROM”.

-- Finland is home to the World Mosquito-Killing Championship, the World Mobile Phone-throwing Competition and an annual National Wife-carrying Competition (for which the first prize is the woman’s weight in lemonade).

-- Novelist JRR Tolkien was heavily inspired by the Kalevala, the Finnish National Epic, when writing his Middle-Earth stories. Tolkein’s acquaintance with and fascination for Finnish at Oxford led to his creation of the High Elvish language.

-- Finnish architects and designers such as Alvar Aalto have a very high international reputation.

-- Finland was the first country in the world to elect women MPs.

-- 10% of Finland’s land area is covered by water and 69% by forest.

-- Finland has 187,888 lakes and 179,584 islands. The surface area of Finland is growing by about 7 sq km a year due to uplift following the last ice age.

-- Finland is a market leader in IT and the mobile phone company Nokia is Finnish. Did you also know that Nokia started off as a factory making wellington boots?

-- Finland tops international league tables for education, literacy, honesty, and the sustainable use of natural resources, is in the top 3 for technological innovation, research and development, and internet use, and is one of the world's top 6 most competitive economies.

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP: € 171.3 bn (2009) (source: Statistics Finland)
GDP per capita: € 32 088 (2009)
Annual growth: 0.9% (2008)
Inflation: 1.1% (July 2010)
Unemployment: 8.8% (June 2010)
Major Industries: Telecommunications; Electronics & Electrical Industry; Forest Industry; Machinery & Transport vehicles; Chemical Industry; shipbuilding; textiles and clothing.
Major trading partners: EU (Germany, Sweden, UK), Russia, USA
Finland has a largely free-market economy which is highly industrialised. Exports are important, and Finland is internationally competitive in areas such as telecommunications, electronics and engineering. A largely forested country, wood exports are also significant. Finland’s economy weathered the worst of the global financial crisis, and Finland continues to be one of the EU’s better performing economies, being ranked 6th in the Geneva based Global Competitive Index (GCI). The financial crisis did however deeply affect Finland’s international trade and this caused Finland to move from a strong budget surplus into deficit. Finland is engaging with the UK and its Nordic and Baltic neighbours on the economic and social challenges of an aging population.

Germany was Finland's main export market in 2009. €4,625 million or 10.3% of Finnish goods and services are exported to Germany. After Germany, Sweden is the second largest Finnish export market with €4,405 million or 9.8% of share of Finland’s total exports. Russia is the third largest export market for Finland, and it is the main importer to Finland.

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HISTORY

Recent History

Finland's recent history has been a time of enormous change with the transformation from a poor, primarily agricultural, society in the 1920s to one of the world's most advanced nations in the space of one lifetime. The late 1990s were dominated by the growth of the Finnish economy and Finland's development as an EU Member State.

The rapid growth of the 1980s was abruptly checked by the collapse of the Soviet Union as Finland’s primary trading partner. Between 1991 and 1993, Finnish GDP fell by 10%, unemployment quadrupled to 20% and public debt rose to record levels. This encouraged the Finns to refocus the economy towards high technology products aimed at Western Europe - a decision that has now paid off handsomely.

The collapse of the Soviet Union also led to Finland re-focussing foreign policy towards the West. From 1999 to 2003, the Finnish, led by Paavo Lipponen, pursued economic policies which would help it to meet the Maastricht Criteria for entry into the EU. This included reducing public spending and cutting unemployment benefits despite strong union opposition. Finland went on to join the EU as a full member in 1995. Finland was among the first wave of EU member states to adopt the euro.

Finland also held the two-year chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) until 15 November 2007, when they handed over to the Russian Federation. Finland held the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) chairmanship in 2008.

Longer Historical Perspective

The earliest Finns lived in isolation until the Viking incursions around AD 800. Swedish-Russian rivalry over the area stamp much of subsequent Finnish history. For over 500 years, from the 12th century, Finland was a Swedish dependency. Close Finno-Swedish ties are today a legacy of those times. As a result of the Treaty of Tilsit in 1809 Finland became part of Russia as a Grand Duchy of the Czar, enjoying a high degree of autonomy. The 19th century was a period of national assertion, against the ancient dominance of the Swedish language, and from the 1890s against Czarist measures to impose Russian culture and political control.

On 6 December 1917 following the overthrow of the Kerensky Government in Russia, Finland declared its independence. In the civil war of 1918 a Finnish-German alliance defeated the Finnish Communist faction and drove out the Russians. In 1919 the Finnish Republic was established and a new constitution introduced. In 1920 Finland joined the League of Nations. Mutual suspicions strained Finnish-Soviet relations in the 1920s and 1930s and on 30 November 1939 the Soviet Union invaded Finland, starting the Winter War which was concluded with the Treaty of Moscow in March 1940. When Hitler’s Germany attacked the USSR in June 1941 the Finns were co-belligerents.

In 1944 Finland signed an Armistice with the USSR, ceding 12% of its territory to the Soviet Union agreeing to pay heavy reparations, and to expelling Nazi German troops from its territory (Lapland War). In 1947 Finland concluded a Peace Treaty with the Allied Powers; and in 1948 the Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance with the USSR (the FCMA). It committed Finland to repelling attacks mounted by Germany or its allies on Finnish territory or on the Soviet Union through Finnish territory. It provided for joint military consultations in face of an 'established' threat of attack.

In 1955 Finland joined the Nordic Council and the United Nations. In 1956 Urho Kekkonen succeeded Paasikivi as Finland’s president, continuing his foreign policy of combining Finnish neutrality with special relations with the USSR (the 'Paasakivi-Kekkonen Line'). In October 1961 Finland resisted Soviet pressure to invoke the consultation clause of the 1948 FCMA Treaty (the Note Crisis). Finland became an associate member of EFTA in the same year, joining the OECD in 1967 and entering agreements with the EEC on trade and with CMEA on scientific and economic co-operation in 1973.

In 1975 Helsinki was host to the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), a tribute to Finland's neutral standing in the international community. In 1982 Social Democrat Prime Minister Mauno Koivisto took over the Finnish Presidency and committed to maintaining the Paasikivi-Kekkonen Line in foreign policy. Fears of Soviet objections to the transition proved groundless. In 1986 Finland became a full member of EFTA and joined the Council of Europe in 1989. The Finns joined the European Union in 1995 and were founder members of the Eurozone.

BBC Timeline of Finland (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/newsid_1032000/1032683.stm)

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Relations with Neighbours

Co-operation with the other Nordic countries is important to Finland, and it has been a member of the Nordic Council since 1955. Under the council's auspices, the Nordic countries have created a common labour market and have abolished immigration controls among themselves. The council also serves to co-ordinate social and cultural policies of the participating countries and has promoted increased co-operation in many fields.

Finland also focuses on the Baltics where historical and cultural links are also strong. Since the Baltic States regained their independence, Finland has given considerable aid and technical assistance, and supported the Baltic States accession to the EU. Under the Finnish Presidency of the EU both Latvia and Lithuania began formal negotiations to join the EU.

Finland shares the EU’s largest land border with Russia. The two countries share a close relationship and there is much bilateral activity. A lot of activity is also conducted through the European Union.

Relations with the International Community

Finland joined the United Nations (UN) in 1955, is well represented in the UN civil service in proportion to its population, and belongs to several of its specialised and related agencies. Finnish troops have participated in UN peacekeeping activities since 1956, and the Finns continue to be one of the largest per capita contributors of peacekeepers in the world.

Finland is a keen participant in NATO's Partnership for Peace Programme and a strong proponent of the EU's enhanced Security and Defence Policy. It is also an observer in the North Atlantic Co-operation Council.

Relations with the UK

The UK and Finland enjoy a strong and friendly relationship, both bilaterally and within multi-lateral organisations, across a broad range of political, economic, cultural and commercial fields. Although Finland is not a member of NATO, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace programme provide a good basis for both multilateral and bilateral co-operation between states. Military co-operation between Finnish and UK Armed Forces is well established. Culturally, Finland and Britain’s close cultural ties result in a vibrant exchange of musicians, theatre and dance groups, artists and writers between the two countries. Much of this is the result of the work of the British Council and the Finnish Institute. Each year, large numbers of Finnish tourists visit the UK, and similarly Finland is an increasingly popular destination for UK holidaymakers, with Lapland being a particularly popular trip for British families at Christmas.

Recent Visits

Inward

-- Former Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen met the Prime Minister in London on 9 October 2008.

-- Justice Minister Tuija Brax met Secretary of State for Justice in London on 20 October 2008.

-- Minister of Health and Social Services Paula Risikko met Minister of State for Public Health on 26 January 2009.

Outward

-- Then Minister for the Cabinet Office, Ed Miliband, visited 10-12 February 2008

-- Then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, visited 18-19 March 2008

-- Then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families Kevin Brennan, visited 1-3 September 2008.

-- House of Commons Justice Committee visited 4-6 November 2008.

-- Minister for Communications, Technology, and Broadcasting Lord Stephen Carter of Barnes visited 11-12 May 2009.

-- House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee visited 16-17 June 2009.

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GEOGRAPHY

With a total area of 338,000 sq km, Finland is the seventh largest country in Europe and is also one of the most northerly countries in the world: one quarter of its total area lies north of the Arctic Circle. The distance between the northernmost and southernmost points is 1,160km. Relative to its size, Finland has more lakes than any other country, 187,888. 10% of Finland’s area is water and 69% is forested.

The country has land frontiers with Russia (1,269km/833 miles), Norway (716km/457 miles) and Sweden (586km/381 miles), and a coastline of approximately 1,100km/684 miles.

Principal commercial centres and towns and their populations:
Helsinki - 564,000
Espoo - 235,000 (part of the Helsinki conurbation but administrated separately)
Tampere - 206,000
Vantaa - 189,000 (part of the Helsinki conurbation but administrated separately)
Turku - 175,000
Oulu - 130,000

Climate

Winters are long with an average temperature between 0 degrees Centigrade and -15 degrees Centigrade (but can go much lower). Average Summer temperatures are between 16 degrees centigrade and 25 degrees centigrade.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

UK Exports to Finland (Goods)

According to Finnish Customs, 3.4% of Finnish imports in 2009 originated from the UK, making it Finland’s 8th largest import market. Finland mainly imports motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals and electronic equipment from the UK. Imports decreased by 44% in 2009. According to UK National Statistics, Finland is the UK's 26th largest export (goods) market and the 25th largest export market for services.

Finnish Exports to the UK (Goods)

The UK is Finland’s sixth largest exports market with a 5.2% share after Germany, Sweden, Russia, the US and the Netherlands. Finland’s main export goods to the UK are paper and paper products, telecommunications-related goods and wood/wood-based products. Exports decreased by 35% in 2009.

The UK is Finland’s fourth largest export market after Russia, Sweden and Germany, with 6.5% of Finnish exports going to the UK. Finland continues to enjoy a surplus on her trade in goods with the UK with an increased figure of £989,675,972. Finland is the 27th largest source of imports into the UK.

Trade in Services

The UK's export of services to Finland in 2009, was worth €1,259million, while Finland's export of services to the UK in 2009 was worth €647 million. The UK's balance of exports in services to Finland has traditionally been strong and 2009 was no exception with a balance of €612 million in the UK's favour.

Overseas Direct Investment

Bank of Finland estimates that the value of investment of Finnish companies in the UK was EUR 1.12 billion in 2009. However, in 2009 net foreign direct investment into the UK was EUR 61 million on the negative. According to Statistic Finland, in year 2008 the number of Finnish with majority ownership in companies in UK was 171. These companies employed 18 480 persons and had a turnover of €7,782.

In 2009, the UK was the second biggest foreign investor in Finland behind Sweden in terms of new companies. Net Direct Investment into Finland by UK companies in 2009 was EUR 1.23 billion. This is a significant increase to the previous two years. According to Invest in Finland, 26 UK companies were established in Finland in 2009.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Finland (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/finland)

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POLITICS

Finland is a Republic with a 200-seat single-chamber Parliament (Eduskunta). Elections take place every four years through a system of proportional representation. In the last election on 17 April 2011, the seats were distributes as:

National Coalition - 44
Social Democratic Party of Finland - 42
True Finns - 39
Centre Party of Finland - 35
Left Alliance - 14
The Green League - 10
Swedish People’s Party -10
Christian League of Finland - 6

The current government is a coalition of National Coalition, Social Democratic Party of Finland, The Green League, Swedish People’s Party, Left Alliance and Christian League of Finland. The Prime Minister is Jyrki Katainen and the Foreign Minister is Erkki Tuomioja.

A President is elected for a 6-year term by direct popular vote, for a maximum of two terms. Sauli Niinisto will be inaugurated as President on 1 March 2011, taking over from Tarja Halonen, the country's first female President.

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Last Updated: February 2012

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