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Country profile: Finland

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Map of Finland

Around two-thirds of Finland is covered in forest and about a tenth by water.

In the far north the sun does not set for around 10 weeks during the 'White Nights' of summer while in winter it does not rise above the horizon for nearly eight weeks.

This wild northern landscape inspired Finland's greatest composer Jean Sibelius. His work came to symbolise the country's struggle for independence in the early 20th century after centuries under the domination of its neighbours.


Hundreds of years of Swedish rule were followed by a further century of Russian control. The country displays distinctive elements of past Scandinavian and Russian links in its style and culture.

Helsinki, cathedral 
and square
Helsinki Cathedral a landmark in the capital

Independence in 1917 failed to stem the demands of Finland's giant eastern neighbour. World War II saw fierce fighting along Finland's eastern border.

Finnish troops mounted a vigorous response to Soviet forces and stalled their advance but the country was eventually forced to cede 10% of its territory and make extensive war reparation payments to the Soviets.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s allowed Finland to step out of the Cold War shadow. It applied for membership of the EU soon after its friendship treaty with the Soviet Union became void in 1991 becoming a full member in 1995.

Finland is the only Nordic EU member to use the euro as the national currency.

The country spends heavily on education training and research - investment which pays dividends by delivering one of the best-educated and trained workforces in the world.

This has been a key factor in the development of a modern competitive economy in which a cutting-edge telecommunications sector has been added to the traditional timber and metals industries.


  • Full name: Republic of Finland
  • Population: 5.3 million (UN 2009)
  • Capital: Helsinki
  • Area: 338145 sq km (130559 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Finnish Swedish
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 76 years (men) 83 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 euro = 100 cents
  • Main exports: Machinery and electronics paper and paper products chemicals
  • GNI per capita: US $48120 (World Bank 2008)
  • Internet domain: .fi
  • International dialling code: +358


President: Tarja Halonen

Finnish president
President Halonen re-elected in 2006

Tarja Halonen became Finland's first woman president in 2000 and was re-elected in January 2006.

She comes from the centre-left of the country's politics.

The role of the president is focused mainly on foreign policy.

Prime minister: Matti Vanhanen

Matti Vanhanen took over as prime minister in June 2003 after his predecessor
Anneli Jaatteenmaki resigned amid an election campaign scandal.

He belongs to the Centre Party which won the March 2007 parliamentary elections by a
razor-thin margin and governs in a centre-right coalition with the conservative National
Coalition Party the Greens and the Swedish People's Party.

Mr Vanhanen has made tackling unemployment one of his priorities and his government
has succeeded in reducing the jobless rate. It has also cut taxes. The prime minister says
he wants to boost benefits for the sick and the elderly. Finnish prime minister

Mr Vanhanen a former journalist was defence minister before becoming prime minister
at the age of 47. He has been described as having a reserved austere manner.

He was a candidate in the presidential election in January 2006 but was knocked out of the race when he came third in the first round. 


Centre Party's Matti Vanhanen
promised to tackle joblessness


Finland's broadcasting sector is very dynamic and the country is digitising its transmission network. Analogue terrestrial TV broadcasts were switched off in September 2007.

Public YLE funded by licence fees operates radio and TV networks. New stations have emerged in a market once dominated by YLE and the established private broadcaster MTV. Pay-TV channels are provided by pan-Nordic operator Canal+.

Finnish law gives every citizen the right to publish printed material and guarantees the right of reply. Newspapers are privately owned and reflect a range of political views.

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