France was the first European 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, defence of 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 the President of the Republic of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. The most recent visit to France by President Niinistö was on 14 July 2019 for the military parade (on European defence cooperation and the European Intervention Initiative launched by France). He also took part in the Armistice Centenary in November 2018 and the 1st Paris Peace Forum. The Prime Minister, Juha 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.
Bilateral economic relations between France and Finland are less developed than the ties France has with other European Union Member States of a similar size to Finland.
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%). Exports of transport equipment remained stable (€697 million) following the delivery of four Airbus A350-900 to the Finnish airline Finnair in 2017.
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 a 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 As regards the biggest paper manufacturers, Stora Enso has withdrawn from France and UPM has reduced its presence.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.
More than a hundred French companies are present in Finland, along with big groups such as Saint-Gobain et Sodexo and SMEs such as Smoove.
Since 2005, Areva S.A., in consortium with Siemens, has been building the European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) known as OL3 for the Finnish nuclear power company TVO. The Finnish government recently confirmed that the nuclear operating licence has been issued. The plant is due to have a lifetime of 60 years, i.e. until 2080.
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 travel to Finland to study every year, making them the joint largest contingent alongside German students.
The year 2017 was important for Finland as it marked the centenary of Finnish independence. The Institut Français therefore co-organized a seminar together with the Finnish authorities on the future of Europe’s last indigenous people, the Samis or Laplanders, at the Quai Branly Museum in March 2017, thus demonstrating the importance that France places on their rights.
Updated: November 2019