Finland: country overview06 June 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 12 February 2013
Finland has a highly industrialized, largely free-market economy with per capita output roughly that of the Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Trade is important with exports accounting for over one third of GDP in recent years.
Year of EU entry: 1995
Member of Schengen area: Yes
Political system: Republic
Capital city: Helsinki
Total area: 338 000 km²
Population: 5.3 million
Finland, a country of forests and lakes, is perhaps best known for its unspoilt natural beauty. In the far north, the White Nights, during which the sun does not set, last for around 10 weeks of the summer. In winter the same area goes through nearly eight weeks when the sun never rises above the horizon.
As a result of Finland being a part of Sweden for seven centuries (from the 12th century until 1809) some 6% of the population is Swedish-speaking. Finland became an independent state following the Russian revolution in 1917. Since this date Finland has been a republic. It has a one-chamber parliament whose 200 members are elected every four years.
The country has developed a modern, competitive economy, and is a world leader in telecommunications equipment. Main exports include telecoms equipment and engineering products, paper, pulp and lumber, glassware, stainless steel and ceramics.
Its remote northern beauty has inspired many artists, including the composer Jean Sibelius and the designer Alvar Aalto. Finland has also produced a number of top sports stars, including Formula One drivers Mika Häkkinen and Kimi Räikkönen.
Finnish cuisine has been influenced by continental, Russian and Swedish food. Traditional specialities include fish (especially salmon and turbot roe), as well as reindeer meat. Dishes to look out for include karjalanpiirakka (rice or potato pastry) and kalakukko (fish and pork fat baked inside a loaf).
Finland has a highly industrialized, largely free-market economy with per capita output roughly that of Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Trade is important with exports accounting for over one third of GDP in recent years. Finland is strongly competitive in manufacturing - principally the wood, metals, engineering, telecommunications, and electronics industries. 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. Finland had been one of the best performing economies within the EU in recent years and its banks and financial markets avoided the worst of global financial crisis. However, the world slowdown hit exports and domestic demand hard in 2009, with Finland experiencing one of the deepest contractions in the euro zone. A recovery of exports, domestic trade, and household consumption stimulated economic growth in 2010-11. The recession affected general government finances and the debt ratio, turning previously strong budget surpluses into deficits, but Finland has taken action to ensure it will meet EU deficit targets by 2013 and retains its triple-A credit rating. Finland's main challenge in 2013 will be to stimulate growth in the face of weak demand in EU export markets and government austerity measures meant to reduce its budget deficit. Longer-term, Finland must address a rapidly aging population and decreasing productivity that threaten competitiveness, fiscal sustainability, and economic growth.
Source: Your Europe