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Finland: country overview

06 June 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 30 January 2017

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. The most important sectors of Finland's economy in 2015 were public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (21.8 %), industry (20.6 %) and wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (17.0 %). Finland's main export partners are Germany, Sweden and the US, while its main import partners are Germany, Sweden and Russia.


Finnish flag

Capital: Helsinki

Geographical size: 338 440 km2

Population: 5 471 753 (2015)

Population as % of total EU: 1.1 % (2015)

Gross domestic product (GDP): € 207.220 billion (2015)

Official EU language(s): Finnish, Swedish

Political system: parliamentary republic

EU member country since: 1 January 1995

Seats in the European Parliament: 13

Currency: Euro. Member of the eurozone since 1 January 1999

Schengen area member? Yes, Schengen Area member since 25 March 2001.

Presidency of the Council: Finland has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU twice, in 1999 and 2006. The next time will be in 2019.

Map of Finland

Country overview

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).

Economy overview

Finland has a highly industrialized, largely free-market economy with per capita GDP almost as high as that of Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, or Sweden. Trade is important, with exports accounting for over one-third of GDP in recent years.

Finland is historically competitive in manufacturing - principally the wood, metals, engineering, telecommunications, and electronics industries. Finland excels in export of technology for mobile phones as well as promotion of startups in the information and communications technology, gaming, cleantech, and biotechnology sectors. Except for timber and several minerals, Finland depends on imports of raw materials, energy, and some components for manufactured goods. Because of the cold climate, agricultural development is limited to maintaining self-sufficiency in basic products. Forestry, an important export industry, provides a secondary occupation for the rural population.

Finland had been one of the best performing economies within the EU before 2009 and its banks and financial markets avoided the worst of global financial crisis. However, the world slowdown hit exports and domestic demand hard in that year, causing Finland's economy to contract from 2012-14. The recession affected general government finances and the debt ratio.

Finland's main challenges will be reducing high labor costs and boosting demand for its exports. In the long term, Finland must address a rapidly ageing population and decreasing productivity in traditional industries that threaten competitiveness, fiscal sustainability, and economic growth. The depreciating ruble and Russia's general economic slowdown will dampen exports to Russia.

Useful links

The Commission's Representation in Finland

European Parliament office in Finland

Finnish Government

Tourist information

Source: Your Europe, European Commission, World Factbook

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