France was the first country in Europe to recognize Finland’s independence, and political contacts between France and Finland have 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, the defence of human rights and the challenge of artificial intelligence. A French Finnish joint declaration on the subject was published in 2018, and in 2020, an agreement on strategic cooperation was signed between the French AI convergence institute (the DATAIA Institute) and the Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI).
Following the French President’s visit to Finland in August 2018, the two countries signed a framework document on defence cooperation. France and Finland converge strongly on many European subjects, such as Defence Europe, climate change, the rule of law and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Finland sees the EU more as a community of values than as an economic union and single market.
French consular section: Helsinki
French community in Finland: 3,488 people in 2023
Finnish community in France: about 7,000 people
Bilateral contact is regular and diverse.
President Emmanuel Macron made an official visit to Helsinki on 29 and 30 August 2018, meeting with President Sauli Niinistö and then Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. The most recent visit to France by the Finnish President was on 2 February 2021, where he met with President Macron. President Niinistö also took part in the Armistice Centenary ceremonies in November 2018, the first Paris Peace Forum, and the military parade on 14 July 2019. The French President also received current Prime Minister Petteri Orpo in Paris on 4 October 2023.
The former Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, travelled to Finland on 28 September 2023, where she met Prime Minister Petteri Orpo as well as her counterpart, Elina Valtonen. This meeting was an opportunity to commend the strong and stable links between the two countries and discuss the quality of French Finnish cooperation, particularly in the civil nuclear sector. In February 2022, the then Minister of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune met his Finnish counterpart in Paris, following a visit to Helsinki in November 2021 to present to him and President Niinistö the priorities of the French EU Presidency. Before that, the then Minister of State for European Affairs Amélie de Montchalin visited Finland in August 2019, where she met, among others, the then Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto, and the then Minister for European Affairs, Tytti Tuppurainen.
Ms Agnès Cukierman has been the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the French Republic to the Republic of Finland since September 2020.
Mr Matti Anttonen has been the Ambassador of the Republic of Finland to France since September 2022.
In 2022, France was Finland’s twelfth-largest supplier and ninth-largest customer (source: Directorate General of the Treasury). That same year, French exports reached €1.8 billion (up 3%), versus imports of €3.1 billion (up 12%). France’s trade deficit with Finland worsened in 2022, rising to €1.3 billion from €1 billion in 2021, notably due to the increased cost of commodities. The deficit can also be explained by our imports in three sectors: wood, paper and cardboard; mechanical, electronic, electric and computer equipment; and metallurgical and metallic products. Conversely, France has a considerable bilateral trade surplus when it comes to agrifood products, transport equipment and services, with €1.0 billion of services exported in 2022 (up 13%) and €574 million imported (down 7%).
French presence in Finland:
There are around a hundred French subsidiaries in Finland, employing more than 10,000 people. These companies are attached either to major groups such as Saint-Gobain, Sonepar, Schneider Electric, Sodexo and Airbus, or to SMEs like Smoove, which is specialized in bicycle-sharing systems and in recent years has won contracts in Helsinki and Espoo, the country’s second city. During the annual SLUSH event in 2019, which brings together start-ups, investors and major companies in Helsinki, 16 young businesses were represented on the French stand.
Finnish presence in France:
As regards the biggest paper manufacturers, Stora Enso has withdrawn from France and UPM has reduced its presence; but France remains a major market for Kone (lifts and escalators), Konecranes (cranes), and Wärtsila (electric generators).
The acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent by Nokia was finalized in November 2016. The company’s activities are carried out at Paris-Saclay, Nozay/Villarceaux (Essonne) and Lannion (Côtes-d’Armor).
Cultural, scientific and linguistic cooperation is handled by the Institut Français in Finland (IFF), which is attached to the Embassy of France.
France is Finland’s fifth-largest scientific partner. The two countries cooperate particularly closely in the fields of artificial intelligence, telecommunications and robotics, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies and sustainable development. In addition to the EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, France and Finland jointly offer the “Maupertuis” Hubert Curien Partnership, aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation for innovation and research. Bilateral cooperation on telecommunications research is also encouraged by the Nokia research chair.
Academic cooperation is growing through the signing of agreements for exchanges of students and teaching staff between French and Finnish universities. Some 1,200 French Erasmus students study in Finland every year, making them the joint largest contingent alongside German students. At PhD level, joint supervisions are increasingly encouraged under research partnerships. Six European universities are also part of this scheme, under the Erasmus+ programme.
French is the third most-taught foreign language in Finland, after English and German, with 21,000 learners. Educational provision includes two establishments approved by the French Ministry of National Education that offer French teaching at pre-school and primary levels, as well as three bilingual programmes with the FrancEducation label (the French-Finnish School of Helsinki and Franco-Finnish programmes in Turku and Tampere).
Concerning cultural and artistic cooperation, the IFF supports the distribution of French productions, including in the film sector, in partnership with several Finnish festivals and the Finnish National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI), and in literature through the Publication Support Programme. The Night of Ideas and Francophonie Month are major cultural events. What’s more, in 2021, the IFF established a new strategic focus on architecture and design. France’s cultural initiatives also have a European dimension, with participation in joint projects through the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) cluster.
Updated: February 2024