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France and Finland

France was the first country to recognize Finland’s independence in January 1918. Political contacts between France and Finland intensified following Finland’s accession to the European Union. The two countries enjoy especially close cooperation in the fields of security and defence, the fight against global warming, defending human rights and the challenge of artificial intelligence (French-Finnish joint statement on the issue in August 2018).


President Emmanuel Macron made an official visit to Helsinki on 29-30 August 2018, where he met with President of the Republic of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. The most recent visit to France by President Niinistö was on 11 November 2018 for the 1918 Armistice Centenary ceremonies and the Paris Peace Forum. Prior to that, he visited Paris on 10 July 2013 where he was welcomed by President François Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. Prime Minister Sipilä visited Paris in June 2016 where he was met by Prime Minister Manuel Valls and again on 22 September 2017 where he was met by the French President, Emmanuel Macron. Jean-Marc Ayrault participated in a bilateral visit to Helsinki on 9 December 2016, where he was met by his counterpart, Timo Soini, but also President Niinistö. Timo Soini was received in Paris on 5 October 2017 by Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Economic relations

Bilateral economic relations between France and Finland are less developed than the ties France has with other EU Member States of a similar size to Finland. The relatively closed nature of public procurement and the concentration of distribution channels represent barriers which, when added to the small size of the market, make Finland relatively unattractive for large French groups.

France is Finland’s sixth-largest supplier and ninth-largest customer. Total bilateral trade is worth some €4.1 billion. In 2017, France’s trade deficit with Finland increased by €296 million. This drop was due to exports (+3%) growing more slowly than imports (+18%). Although there is a trade surplus for agrifood products, trade once again fell in 2017 (by 5%), after dropping by 8% the previous year. Exports of transport equipment remained stable (€697 million) following the delivery of four Airbus A350-900 to the Finnish airline Finnair in 2017. The increase in Finnish imports can be explained by more robust sales of assembled cars in Finland (€229 million versus €68 million in 2016).

In 2015, France ranked eighth among foreign investors in terms of turnover, fifth for jobs and sixth in terms of subsidiaries. There are 123 Finnish subsidiaries in France who employ 12,000 people and generated turnover of €3.7 billion. In 2015, Nokia acquired Alcatel Lucent. As regards the biggest paper manufacturers, Stora Enso has withdrawn from France and UPM has reduced its presence. France remains an important market for Kone (lifts and escalators), Konecranes (cranes), Wärtsila (electrical generators), Outokumpu (steel), Ensto (electrical systems), Huhtamäki (packaging), Metso (mines and quarries) and Valmet (services and technologies for the paper industry).

The acquisition of Alcatel was finalized in November 2016. Nokia has committed to giving France a role in managing its R&D activities, recruiting 500 new researchers in France and creating an investment fund of €100 million to invest in French start-ups specialised in new network technologies. Nokia currently has 5,500 employees in France, of which 2,000 are involved in research. Nokia employs 110,000 people around the world.

More than a hundred French companies are present in Finland, along with big groups such as Saint-Gobain and Sodexo and SMEs such as Smoove.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

France and Finland are now very close as regards scientific and technological partnerships, and France is Finland’s fifth-largest scientific partner. Above and beyond the EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, France cooperates with Finnish research teams under COST Actions (European cooperation in science and technology) and European and international research bodies. We cooperate particularly closely in biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, ICT and robotics, and forests, energy and sustainable development.

Academic cooperation is growing through the signing of agreements for exchanges of students and PhD candidates, as well as of teaching staff, between French and Finnish universities. Some 1,200 French Erasmus students head to Finland to study every year, making them the joint largest contingent alongside German students.

In the cultural sector, the “100% Finland” cultural season in France in spring 2008 was extremely successful, with more than 500 artists travelling to France for 270 events organized across the country. France’s contemporary culture is very sought-after and present in the Finnish summer’s many festivals, in the areas of visual arts, circus and theatre, and contemporary and urban music. France was the guest of honour at the October 2010 Helsinki Book Fair, as part of a series of events organized during the “French Autumn”, including films, exhibitions, concerts and seminars, from August to November 2010. France was also the Guest of honour at the Turku International Book Fair in October 2014.

Since 2016, the Institut Français in Finland has become the leading partner for local cultural institutions wanting to create large-scale projects such as the first exhibition of Niki de Saint Phalle at the Taidehalli Museum or the Amadeo Modigliani exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum.

The year 2017 was important for Finland as it marked the centenary of Finnish independence. The Institut Français is therefore co-organising a seminar together with the Finnish authorities on the future of Europe’s last indigenous population, the Samis or Laplanders, at the Quai Branly Museum in March, thus demonstrating the importance that France places on their rights.

Updated: 15 November 2018