Finland. According to
Countryaah, the debate about the school's compulsory Swedish
education continued during the year. President Sauli
Niinistö visited Lappeenranta in January, who wants to
replace the Swede with Russian because the municipality is
at the Russian border and has a strong influx of Russian
tourists. Five other municipalities near the border have the
same wishes, but the government has said no. According to
the president, Russian and Swedish should not be compared to
each other, but knowledge in both languages is necessary in
Finland. Six out of ten Finns want the Swedish language as a
compulsory language, an opinion poll showed. The true Finns'
voters were strong opponents.
The debate about the Swedish was heated, and in May two
Finnish Swedish journalists were murdered because they
defended the position of the Swedish language. The Swedish
Parliament's office in Helsinki was also bombed.
Opponents of compulsory Swedish education collected over
50,000 signatures for a proposal on voluntary Swedish for
Finnish-speaking pupils in primary and secondary schools.
This so-called citizens' initiative meant that the Finnish
parliament eventually had to consider the proposal.
The economy fared worse than the government expected.
Exports did not take off, and the forest industry and steel
production experienced problems. The steel group Outokumpu
notified 3,500 employees around the world during the autumn.
Economists warned that continued weak growth and rising
costs for an aging population threatened the Finnish
economy's position as one of the strongest in the euro zone.
In August, the government announced a comprehensive and
long-term plan for cuts in Finland's welfare system, one of
the world's most generous. Among other things, it was
planned to raise the retirement age as well as reduce
student grants to get students to apply for jobs earlier.
The plan had been preceded by tough negotiations in the
six-party coalition, but moderate Prime Minister Jyrki
Katainen and Social Democratic Finance Minister Jutta
Urpilainen both supported the need for so-called structural
reforms. The true Finns in opposition were very critical
that the government wanted to tighten up after giving tax
cuts to large companies.
As a sign of the Finnish economy's difficulties, the
telecom company Nokia announced in September that it had
decided to sell its mobile phone unit to Microsoft. Nokia,
which was once a world leader in telecom, had since lost
Apple's iPhone® in 2007 in mobile sales and made huge
The sale of Nokia meant a psychological hardship for
business, not least because of Nokia's importance for
research and development in Finland. But in November it was
announced that Google will invest an additional EUR 450
million in its data center in Finland, where EUR 350 million
has already been invested in the server rooms built in Stora
Enso's closed paper mill in Fredrikshamn.
In the autumn, Finland signed a gas agreement with the
Russian Federation which was more favorable than the
agreements concluded by the Russian Federation with other
countries in central and western Europe.
In October, an opinion poll showed that the true Finns
were Finland's second largest party with 18.9% support. The
center was the largest and received 21.8%. The Assembly
Party was in third place, followed by the Social Democrats.
Heidi Hautala (The Greens) was forced to leave her post
of development minister, after it was revealed that she had
acted to stop a police report against Greenpeace activists
who boarded a state-owned icebreaker. Former presidential
candidate Pekka Haavisto became new minister.