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Finland [Suomi]

Finland
Head of State President:
Tarja Halonen
Head of Government: Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen
Foreign Minister: Erkki Tuomioja
Area: 338,000 km2
Population: 5.2 million
Language: Finnish 93%, Swedish 6%
Capital: Helsinki
Currency: Euro
GDP per capita: 25,695 €
GDP growth: 0.7% (2001)

Constitution - Domestic politics

Finland is a republic in which supreme executive power is vested in the president. Elected for a six-year term, the president is responsible for foreign affairs, has the right to initiate legislation and to approve and sign the laws voted by Parliament. The Parliament (Eduskunta) consists of a single chamber of 200 deputies, elected every four years through a proportional voting system.

President Tarja Halonen took office on 1 March, 2000. On the same day, a new constitution entered into force which, among other things, limits the executive powers of the president. The post-war era has been dominated by a series of coalition governments. Since parliamentary elections in 1999, Paavo Lipponen, chairman of the Social Democratic Party, has headed a broad coalition. The next general election will be held in March 2003.

Economy

In terms of high growth rates, Finland has been at the top of the EU in recent years, following a period of deep recession (1991-1993) caused in part by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Finland's economic growth has been based on exports, which suffered in 2001 because of the global economic downturn. Nokia, the world’s leading producer of cellular telephones, accounted for approximately one fourth of the value of Finland's exports in 2001.

The main economic priorities for the present government are reducing the unemployment rate (which has remained relatively high despite rapid economic growth), increasing the labour market participation rate to guarantee the financing of welfare services, social security and pensions, and continuing to consolidate public finances.

Foreign Policy

Finland acceded to the EU in 1995, one year after a referendum. The country has a seat on the board of the European Central Bank and received widespread praise for its first EU Presidency from 1 July to 31 December 1999.

Finland maintains military neutrality and an independent defence. While the country is not currently seeking NATO membership, it has kept the option open. In addition to Nordic co-operation, Finland attaches particular importance to regions in its immediate vicinity, especially Estonia, due to the two states’ linguistic kinship. An important foreign policy issue for Finland is the EU Northern Dimension, which aims to intensify cross border cooperation between the EU and its neighbouring countries and regions in northern Europe in sectors such as the environment, trade, transport and energy.

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