France and Finland



Political contacts between France and Finland intensified following Finland’s accession to the European Union. Finland’s EU Presidency in the second half of 2006, and France’s Presidency in the second half of 2008, were conducive to meetings at the highest level.

The last visit to France by the President of the Finnish Republic, Sauli Niinistö, was on 10 July 2013, where he was met by François Hollande and the Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault. The Prime Minister, François Fillon, visited Helsinki in May 2008. The Prime Minister, Juha Sipilä, visited Paris in June 2016 where he was met by Manuel Valls and visited 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.

For more information, visit the website of the French Embassy in Finland

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.

French exports to Finland increased by 4% in 2016 to reach €2 billion vs €1.91 billion in 2015. Exports are once again approaching their 2007 level (€2.01 billion) and have consolidated upon the good performance of 2015 where sales to Finland rose 33% notably due to the delivery of 3 Airbus A350-900 aircraft out of the 19 ordered by the Finnish airline Finnair. In 2016, 4 new Airbus aircraft were delivered, increasing exports of “transport equipment” by 17% and making it France’s leading export to Finland, representing 27% of France’s sales.

Imports of Finnish products increased by 3% to €2 billion in 2016 vs €1.96 billion in 2015. Imports of wood, paper and card, the leading import from Finland (€612 million, 30% of total imports in 2016), have dropped by 6%.

In 2016, France was Finland’s sixth-largest supplier, as in 2015, with a market share of 4.9%, up by 3.8% on 2015. In 2016, as in 2015, France was Finland’s eleventh-largest client with 2.8% of Finnish exports.

In 2015, France was the eighth-largest direct investor in Finland with a stock of €1.186 billion, up 56% on 2014 where it occupied 10th place with a stock of €0.76 billion. After peaking in 2009, where France held 2.6% of the foreign direct investment in Finland, France’s share fell to 1.6% in 2015. Statistics Finland listed 140 French companies present in Finland in 2015. They accounted for 13,411 jobs (13,079 in 2014) and €3,585 million in cumulative turnover (€3,637 million in 2014). France is thus the eight-largest foreign investor in terms of turnover, fifth-largest for jobs and the sixth-largest 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’s acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent should add around €0.7 billion in turnover and over 5,000 jobs). 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 (eletrical 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.

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.

2017 is an important year for Finland as it is the 100th 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 gives to their rights.

For more information, visit the website of the Institut Français

Updated: 30 October 2017