Finland. According to Countryaah.com, Finland population in 2020 is estimated at 5,540,731. The Russian attack on Ukraine had repercussions in Finland, partly through a lively debate on NATO. However, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen and President Sauli Niinistö rejected the idea of Finnish NATO membership. Instead, the President called for increased defense cooperation with Sweden, including in the defense industry. At the same time, a Finnish research report criticized the disarmament of Sweden’s defense and described it as a weak link in the security policy in the Baltic Sea region.
Defense Minister Carl Haglund felt that Finland should consider NATO membership and he proposed a referendum on the issue after the next parliamentary election. A poll showed that 75% wanted Finland to have military cooperation with Sweden, NATO or the EU.
Moscow responded to NATO discussions in Finland. President Vladimir Putin’s personal envoy accused the Finns of “Russophobia” and warned against thoughts of Finnish NATO membership. President Niinistö dismissed the statements, but Russian state media accused Finland of deteriorating relations with the Russian Federation. When the Russian Foreign Minister visited Finland in June, he expressed sharp criticism of NATO’s “eastern expansion” and of EU foreign policy, but he described relations with Finland as excellent.
In March, the Left Federation left the government coalition in protest against the new draft budget with cuts in child allowance and freezing of student support and guarantee pension. As a result, the coalition had shrunk to five parties.
In May, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen announced from the Conservative Party that he intended to leave both the government and the party leader post and embark on a career in the EU. Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen also decided to resign after she was voted out as party leader for the Social Democrats.
The election to the European Parliament was won by the Assembly Party before the Center, but both parties were given three seats each. The major voting magnet was the Foreign Trade Minister Alexander Stubb, who did not, however, sit in the European Parliament. Instead, in June, he was appointed new party leader for the Collective Party and succeeded Katainen as prime minister. Prior to his government formation, Stubb declared that Finland should join NATO.
Stubb was approved by Parliament as Prime Minister with the votes 98 against 76 and presented a new five-party coalition: the Socialist Party, the Social Democrats, the Swedish People’s Party, the Green League and the Christian Democrats. The Social Democrats’ Erkki Tuomioja continued as Foreign Minister, while the new Social Democratic leader Antti Rinne became Finance Minister.
In August, President Niinistö visited the Russian Federation and met with President Vladimir Putin for talks on the crisis in Ukraine. Niinistö then went on to Ukraine. In retrospect, it emerged that during the summer, Finland hosted secret unofficial talks between the US and the Kremlin on the Ukraine crisis.
After a couple of years of GDP decline, the government expected some economic growth during the year but had to change its forecast to a new GDP minus. EU sanctions against the Russian Federation due to the Ukraine crisis affected Finland’s economy. Russian counter-sanctions with stops for food imports from the EU reduced Finland’s exports across the border to the east by about three-quarters. Cheese made for export reades on the domestic market and dairy giant Valio announced layoffs of hundreds of employees. Finland also feared reduced tourism from the Russian side. In August, the government presented a budget deficit.
Finland tried to slow the expansion of EU sanctions against the Russian Federation, but in September new measures were decided, including against the energy giant Gazprom. Prime Minister Stubb expressed concern about counter-sanctions.
The nuclear issue shared the government coalition. In September, ten ministers voted for and seven against permits for the construction of a new nuclear power plant. The Greens who voted no left the coalition, while other opponents stopped. As a result, it was a four-party government with only three votes overweight in Parliament. The new nuclear power plant will be built in Pyhäjoki, opposite Skellefteå, with the state-owned Russian company Rosatom as supplier and partner.
In November, the Riksdag held a vote of confidence following the opposition’s criticism of the government’s job policy and the economy’s decline for the third consecutive year. However, the government won the vote by 97 votes to 94.