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 losses.
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.
The Finnish climate is temperate. Finland lies on the border between the maritime and continental climates. The low pressure areas of the west wind zone can bring about damp and changing weather conditions. On the other hand, the Scandinavian Mountains shield Finland from the Atlantic, so that stable continental high pressure zones ensure cold winters and comparatively hot summers. The Baltic Sea, the inland lakes and especially the Gulf Stream make the climate in Finland much milder than in other places at the same latitude due to their moderate influence.
The total amount of precipitation in southern Finland is 600–700 mm. In the north it is significantly lower, which is compensated for by the low evaporation due to the cool temperatures. The least precipitation falls in the entire country in March, most in July or August.