About  |   Contact  |  Mongabay on Facebook  |  Mongabay on Twitter  |  Subscribe
Rainforests | Tropical fish | Environmental news | For kids | Madagascar | Photos

Finland-Chapter 4 - Government and Politics

Mongabay.com seeks to raise interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging trends in climate, technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development (more)


Finland Index


Parliament building, Helsinki

SINCE THE ESTABLISHMENT of its present system of government in 1919, Finland has been one of the more fortunate members of the Western community of democratic nations. Compared with other European states, the country was only moderately affected by the political turmoil of the interwar period; it passed through World War II relatively unscathed; and, although right on the line that divided Europe into two hostile blocs after the second half of the 1940s, it survived as an independent nation with its democratic institutions intact.

This enviable record was achieved against formidable odds. Although the constitutional basis of their government grew out of long-established institutions, Finns had never been fully free to govern themselves until late 1917 when they achieved national independence. Swedish and Russian rulers had always ultimately determined their affairs. Finnish society was also marked by deep fissures that became deeper after the brief civil war (1918), which left scars that needed several generations to heal. In addition to class and political divisions, the country also had to contend with regional and linguistic differences. These problems were eventually surmounted, and by the 1980s the watchword in Finnish politics was consensus.

A skillfully constructed system of government allowed Finns to manage their affairs with the participation of all social groups (although there were some serious lapses in the interwar period). Checks and balances, built into a system of modified separation of powers, enabled the government to function democratically and protected the basic rights of all citizens. The 200-member parliament, the Eduskunta, elected by popular vote, was sovereign by virtue of its representing the Finnish people. An elected president wielded supreme executive power and determined foreign policy. Although not responsible politically to the Eduskunta, the president could carry out many of his functions only through a cabinet government, the Council of State, which was dependent upon the support of the Eduskunta. An independent judiciary, assisted by two legal officials with broad independent powers--the chancellor of justice and the parliamentary ombudsman--ensured that government institutions adhered to the law.

Working within this system during the 1980s were a variety of political parties, an average of about a dozen, ranging from sect-like groups to large well-established parties, the counterparts of which were to be found all over Western Europe. The socialist wing consisted of a deeply split communist movement and a moderate Finnish Social Democratic Party that by the late 1980s was a preeminent governing party. The center was occupied by an agrarian party, the Center Party, which had been in government almost continuously until 1987; the Swedish People's Party; and a formerly right-wing protest party, the Finnish Rural Party. The right was dominated by the National Coalition Party, which was fairly moderate in its conservatism. In the 1970s and the 1980s, the mainstream parties, and even a good part of the Communist Party of Finland, had moved toward the center, and the political spectrum as a whole was slightly more to the right than it had been in previous decades.

A constitutional system that was conservative in nature had allowed these parties to work together, yet within constraints that permitted no single group to usurp the rights of another. Nevertheless, the variety of parties had made it very difficult to put together coalitions that could attain the strict qualified majorities needed to effect fundamental changes. Only since the second half of the 1960s had it been possible, though at times difficult, to find a broad enough multiparty consensus.

Powerful interest groups were also involved in Finnish politics, most noticeably in the negotiation and the realization of biannual income policy settlements that, since the late 1960s, had affected most Finnish wage-earners. Interest groups initially negotiated the terms of a new wage agreement; then it was, in effect, ratified by coalitions of parties in government; and finally the Eduskunta passed the social and economic legislation that underlay it. Some observers complained that government's role had become overly passive in this process and that the preeminence of consensus actually meant that Finnish politics offered the populace no real alternatives. Yet most Finns, remembering earlier years of industrial strife and poverty, preferred the new means of managing public affairs.

There was also broad agreement about Finnish foreign policy. The country was threatened with extinction as an independent nation after World War II, but presidents Juho Paasikivi and Urho Kekkonen, both masters of realpolitik, led their countrymen to a new relationship with the Soviet Union. The core of this relationship was Finland's guarantee to the Soviet Union that its northeastern border region was militarily secure. Controversial as the so-called Paasikivi-Kekkonen Line was initially, by the 1980s the vast majority of Finns approved of the way Finland dealt with its large neighbor and were well aware, too, of the trade advantages the special relationship had brought to their country.

Working in tandem with good Finnish-Soviet relations was the policy of active and peaceful neutrality, the backbone of Finnish foreign policy. Advocating, as a neutral state, the settlement of disputes through peaceful, legal means was a role Finns adopted willingly. A high point of this policy was the part the country played in planning and in hosting the 1975 Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Another facet of active neutrality was a committed membership in the United Nations, most notably in the organization's peacekeeping forces.

Data as of December 1988

BackgroundFinland was a province and then a grand duchy under Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and an autonomous grand duchy of Russia after 1809. It won its complete independence in 1917. During World War II, it was able to successfully defend its freedom and resist invasions by the Soviet Union - albeit with some loss of territory. In the subsequent half century, the Finns made a remarkable transformation from a farm/forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy; per capita income is now among the highest in Western Europe. A member of the European Union since 1995, Finland was the only Nordic state to join the euro system at its initiation in January 1999.
LocationNorthern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland, between Sweden and Russia
Area(sq km)total: 338,145 sq km
land: 303,815 sq km
water: 34,330 sq km
Geographic coordinates64 00 N, 26 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 2,654 km
border countries: Norway 727 km, Sweden 614 km, Russia 1,313 km

Coastline(km)1,250 km

Climatecold temperate; potentially subarctic but comparatively mild because of moderating influence of the North Atlantic Current, Baltic Sea, and more than 60,000 lakes

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Haltiatunturi 1,328 m
Natural resourcestimber, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, chromite, nickel, gold, silver, limestone
Land use(%)arable land: 6.54%
permanent crops: 0.02%
other: 93.44% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)640 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)110 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 2.33 cu km/yr (14%/84%/3%)
per capita: 444 cu m/yr (1999)
Natural hazardsNA
Environment - current issuesair pollution from manufacturing and power plants contributing to acid rain; water pollution from industrial wastes, agricultural chemicals; habitat loss threatens wildlife populations
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - notelong boundary with Russia; Helsinki is northernmost national capital on European continent; population concentrated on small southwestern coastal plain
Population5,250,275 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 16.4% (male 438,425/female 422,777)
15-64 years: 66.8% (male 1,773,495/female 1,732,792)
65 years and over: 16.8% (male 357,811/female 524,975) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 42.1 years
male: 40.5 years
female: 43.7 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)0.098% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)10.38 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)10.07 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)0.68 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 63% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.8% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.68 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 3.47 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.78 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.15 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 78.97 years
male: 75.48 years
female: 82.61 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)1.73 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Finn(s)
adjective: Finnish
Ethnic groups(%)Finn 93.4%, Swede 5.6%, Russian 0.5%, Estonian 0.3%, Roma (Gypsy) 0.1%, Sami 0.1% (2006)

Religions(%)Lutheran Church of Finland 82.5%, Orthodox Church 1.1%, other Christian 1.1%, other 0.1%, none 15.1% (2006)
Languages(%)Finnish 91.2% (official), Swedish 5.5% (official), other 3.3% (small Sami- and Russian-speaking minorities) (2007)

Country nameconventional long form: Republic of Finland
conventional short form: Finland
local long form: Suomen tasavalta/Republiken Finland
local short form: Suomi/Finland
Government typerepublic
Capitalname: Helsinki
geographic coordinates: 60 10 N, 24 56 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions6 provinces (laanit, singular - laani); Ahvenanmaan Laani (Aland), Etela-Suomen Laani (Southern Finland), Ita-Suomen Laani (Eastern Finland), Lansi-Suomen Laani (Western Finland), Lapin Laani (Lapland), Oulun Laani

Legal systemcivil law system based on Swedish law; the president may request the Supreme Court to review laws; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President Tarja HALONEN (since 1 March 2000)
head of government: Prime Minister Matti VANHANEN (since 24 June 2003); Deputy Prime Minister Jyrki KATAINEN (since 19 April 2007)
cabinet: Council of State or Valtioneuvosto appointed by the president, responsible to parliament
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 15 January 2006 (next to be held in January 2012); the president appoints the prime minister and deputy prime minister from the majority party or the majority coalition after parliamentary elections and the parliament must approve the appointment; Prime Minister VANHANEN reelected 17 April 2007
election results: percent of vote - Tarja HALONEN (SDP) 46.3%, Sauli NIINISTO (Kok) 24.1%, Matti VANHANEN (Kesk) 18.6%, Heidi HAUTALA (VIHR) 3.5%; a runoff election between HALONEN and NIINISTO was held 29 January 2006 - HALONEN 51.8%, NIINISTO 48.2%; Matti VANHANEN reelected prime minister; election results 121-71
note: government coalition - Kesk, KOK, VIHR, and SFP
Legislative branchunicameral Parliament or Eduskunta (200 seats; members are elected by popular vote on a proportional basis to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 18 March 2007 (next to be held March 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - Kesk 23.1%, Kok 22.3%, SDP 21.4%, VAS 8.8%, VIHR 8.5%, KD 4.9%, SFP 4.5%, True Finns 4.1%, other 3.4%; seats by party - Kesk 51, Kok 50, SDP 45, VAS 17, VIHR 15, SFP 9, KD 7, True Finns 5, other 1

Judicial branchSupreme Court or Korkein Oikeus (judges appointed by the president)

International organization participationADB (nonregional member), AfDB (nonregional member), Arctic Council, Australia Group, BIS, CBSS, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EMU, ESA, EU, FAO, G-9, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MINURCAT, NC, NEA, NIB, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, PFP, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNMOGIP, UNTSO, UPU, WCO, WEU (observer), WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Flag descriptionwhite with a blue cross extending to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag); the blue represents the thousands of lakes scattered across the country, while the white is for the snow that covers the land in winter

Economy - overviewFinland has a highly industrialized, largely free-market economy with per capita output roughly that of the UK, France, Germany, and Italy. Its key economic sector is manufacturing - principally the wood, metals, engineering, telecommunications, and electronics industries. Trade is important; Finland's ratio of exports to GDP has risen from a quarter to 37% over the past 15 years. Finland excels in high-tech exports such as mobile phones. Except for timber and several minerals, Finland depends on imports of raw materials, energy, and some components for manufactured goods. Because of the climate, agricultural development is limited to maintaining self-sufficiency in basic products. Forestry, an important export earner, provides a secondary occupation for the rural population. Although Finland has been one of the best performing economies within the EU in recent years and its banks and financial markets have avoided the worst of global financial crisis, the world slowdown has hit export growth and domestic demand and will serve as a brake on economic growth in 2009 and 2010. The slowdown of construction, other investment, and exports will cause unemployment to rise. During 2009, unemployment will climb to over 8% of the labor force. Long-term challenges include the need to address a rapidly aging population and decreasing productivity that threaten competitiveness, fiscal sustainability, and economic growth.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$194 billion (2008 est.)
$192.4 billion (2007 est.)
$184.8 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$271.9 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)0.8% (2008 est.)
4.1% (2007 est.)
4.9% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$37,000 (2008 est.)
$36,700 (2007 est.)
$35,300 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 2.8%
industry: 32.4%
services: 64.9% (2008 est.)
Labor force2.703 million (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture and forestry 4.5%, industry 18.3%, construction 7.3%, commerce 16%, finance, insurance, and business services 14.5%, transport and communications 7%, public services 32.4% (2008)
Unemployment rate(%)6.4% (2008 est.)
6.9% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line(%)NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 3.6%
highest 10%: 24.7% (2007)
Distribution of family income - Gini index29.5 (2007)
25.6 (1991)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)20.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $143.8 billion
expenditures: $132.3 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)4.1% (2008 est.)
2.5% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$NA (31December 2008)
$NA (31 December 2007)
note: see entry for the European Union for money supply in the euro area; the European Central Bank (ECB) controls monetary policy for the 16 members of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU); individual members of the EMU do not control the quantity of money and quasi money circulating within their own borders
Stock of quasi money$NA (31 December 2008)
$NA (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$241.1 billion (31 December 2008)
$225.4 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$NA (31 December 2008)
$369.2 billion (31 December 2007)
$265.5 billion (31 December 2006)
Public debt(% of GDP)33.7% of GDP (2008 est.)
46.8% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - productsbarley, wheat, sugar beets, potatoes; dairy cattle; fish
Industriesmetals and metal products, electronics, machinery and scientific instruments, shipbuilding, pulp and paper, foodstuffs, chemicals, textiles, clothing

Industrial production growth rate(%)0.4% (2008 est.)

Current account balance$5.518 billion (2008 est.)
$10.12 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$96.62 billion (2008 est.)
$90.2 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)electrical and optical equipment, machinery, transport equipment, paper and pulp, chemicals, basic metals; timber
Exports - partners(%)Russia 11.6%, Sweden 10%, Germany 10%, US 6.4%, UK 5.5%, Netherlands 5.1% (2008)
Imports$87.51 billion (2008 est.)
$78.22 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)foodstuffs, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, transport equipment, iron and steel, machinery, textile yarn and fabrics, grains
Imports - partners(%)Russia 16.3%, Germany 15.7%, Sweden 13.6%, Netherlands 6.3%, China 5.1%, UK 4.2% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$8.346 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$8.385 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$339.5 billion (31 December 2008)
$314.1 billion (31 December 2007)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$84.44 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$88.69 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$116 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$114.2 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Exchange rateseuros (EUR) per US dollar - 0.6827 (2008 est.), 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004)

Currency (code)euro (EUR)

Telephones - main lines in use1.65 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular6.83 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: modern system with excellent service
domestic: digital fiber-optic fixed-line network and an extensive cellular network provide domestic needs
international: country code - 358; submarine cables provide links to Estonia and Sweden; satellite earth stations - access to Intelsat transmission service via a Swedish satellite earth station, 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions); note - Finland shares the Inmarsat earth station with the other Nordic countries (Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden)
Internet country code.fi; note - Aland Islands assigned .ax
Internet users4.383 million (2008)
Airports148 (2009)
Pipelines(km)gas 694 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 78,141 km
paved: 50,914 km (includes 700 km of expressways)
unpaved: 27,227 km (2009)

Ports and terminalsHamina, Helsinki, Kokkola, Kotka, Naantali, Pori, Raahe, Rauma, Turku
Military branchesFinnish Defense Forces (FDF): Army, Navy (includes Coastal Defense Forces), Air Force (Suomen Ilmavoimat) (2007)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18 years of age for male voluntary and compulsory - and female voluntary - national military and nonmilitary service; service obligation 6-12 months; mandatory retirement at age 60 (2008)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,169,910
females age 16-49: 1,121,187 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 962,479
females age 16-49: 920,297 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 33,784
female: 32,621 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)2% of GDP (2005 est.)
Disputes - internationalvarious groups in Finland advocate restoration of Karelia and other areas ceded to the Soviet Union, but the Finnish Government asserts no territorial demands

Electricity - production(kWh)77.24 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 39%
hydro: 18.7%
nuclear: 30.4%
other: 11.8% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)86.9 billion kWh (2008)
Electricity - exports(kWh)3.335 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)16.11 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)9,789 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)215,600 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)133,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)347,400 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Economic aid - donorODA, $1.023 billion (2007)

Oil - proved reserves(bbl)0 bbl
Natural gas - production(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)4.735 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)less than 0.1% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS2,400 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deathsfewer than 100 (2003 est.)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 100%
male: 100%
female: 100% (2000 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 17 years
male: 17 years
female: 18 years (2006)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)6.4% of GDP (2005)

Copyright mongabay 2000-2013