HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
Northern European state. At the 2000 census the population was 5,181,115 residents, Rising to 5,223,440 at an estimate of mid- 2005: the demographic trend remains relatively lively for a developed country, where a birth rate of 10.4 ‰ (2006) against a mortality rate of 9.6 ‰ and an active migratory balance brought the average annual increase to 0.14 %, with a projection to 2025 calculated in 5,300,000 residents. All socio-economic indicators denote consolidated well-being: infant mortality is minimal (4‰ per year in the 2000-2005 interval) and the average life expectancy at birth (75 years for the male component, 82 years for the female component) among the highest in the world. In the ranking of the Human Development Index (2006), based on the parameters not only of wealth but also of the quality of life, Finland occupies the eleventh place. The population, mainly concentrated in the south of the country (about one tenth of the total area), is urban for over 60 %; the most dynamic centers are the capital, Helsinki (559,050 residents in 2004), but above all Espoo, Turku and Vantaa.
In the first years of the new millennium, the Finnish economy was characterized by a moderate growth (3 % in 2004 and a similar percentage in 2005), sustained above all by domestic demand and, in particular, by the consumption of households, which were able to enjoy an increase in their incomes determined both by the reduction of the tax burden and by the revaluation of wages. The situation of the production indicators (industrial production and investments) is more irregular, with years of growth alternating with years of decline. After the crisis of the nineties, the government had engaged in a rigorous budget adjustment policy (welfare reform, privatization of public services, and more), thanks to which Finland became the European country with the highest surplus., the latter intended for the settlement of the state debt. However, the employment situation remains negative: in 2004the unemployment rate was 9.1 %, one of the highest in the EU countries.
Given the environmental conditions and the concentration of the population in the most urbanized region of the country, agriculture has an increasingly modest weight in the Finnish economy, and affects about 6 % of the workforce. Among the important products, barley (1,845,500 t in 2004), oats (1,246,300 t), fruit and vegetable crops and sugar beet (1,002,000 t). The industrial exploitation of the rich forest heritage was planned through reforestation programs: in 2003 the production of wood was over 53.7 million m 3³ and contributed about a fifth of the total exports. The picture of the primary sector is completed by advanced animal husbandry (977,000 cattle and 1.4 million pigs) and a decent fish sector (159,940 t in 2002), the main product of which is a fish similar to herring, the Baltic sprat. The secondary remains represented by a wide range of sectors, still largely focused on heavy industry, even if biotechnologies are very dynamic (preparation of dietetic foods, pharmaceutical products industries, industries related to environmental protection, etc.): the development of this sector, for which philosophy ranks first in Europe, is largely linked to a very active policy in the field of research. The electronic and telecommunications industries, in particular mobile telephony, make use of advanced technologies. Of interest are the science parks in Oulu, in northern Finland, and in Espoo, near Helsinki. Tourism, which registered 2,601,000 presences in 2003 (German, Russian and American Swedes), is an expanding sector, especially in the lakes area and in Lapland. In terms of energy, Finland, to support the strong needs of its industries, in May 2002 approved the construction of a new third generation EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) nuclear reactor in Olkiluoto, on the south-western coast of the country. where a ‘traditional’ two-reactor nuclear power plant was already in operation. The commissioning of the new plant, which has a power of 1600 MW – and is the first commissioned in Europe (except for France) after the Chernobyl´ catastrophe in 1986 – is scheduled for the end of2009: afterwards it is assumed that the share of nuclear energy produced will go from the current 27 % to 35 % of total electricity.
At the start of the new century, presidential elections were held (Jan.-Feb. 2000) which awarded the victory to T. Halonen, candidate of the Social Democratic Party (Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue, SDP), the first woman to hold the post of president of the Republic in the history of the country. In March of the same year an important reform of the Constitution was introduced, according to which the executive power of the President of the Republic was significantly reduced to the advantage of the Parliament; to this, according to the new norm, was assigned the task of electing the prime minister (who from 1919 was, instead, presidential nomination), while the president was responsible for the nomination of the other ministers, on the basis of candidates presented by the prime minister. The new law also provided for greater cooperation between the President of the Republic and the Council of Ministers in foreign policy. For Finland history, please check ehistorylib.com.
The municipal elections (Oct. 2000) marked a decline in preferences for the two main parties of the coalition – the Social Democratic Party and the conservative Kok (abbr. Of Kansallinen Kokoomus, National Rally) – to the advantage of the main opposition party, the Kesk (abbr. by Suomen Keskusta, Center Party), temporarily headed by A. Jäättenmäki (replacing E. Aho), who obtained the relative majority of votes (23.8 %), becoming the largest party at the municipal level. In the summer of 2002following Aho’s resignation, the post of party secretary was permanently handed over to Jäättenmäki. The proposal to build a fifth nuclear power plant, put forward by a national electricity company (Nov. 2000), appeared to threaten the stability of the ruling coalition. Contested by the Green League (Vihreä Liitto), the proposal was approved by the Council of Ministers (Jan. 2002), despite the opposition of a large part of the Parliament (107 votes against 92). The League left the coalition which, however, continued to maintain a majority in parliament with 130 seats. The legislative elections, in March 2003,they marked further growth in support for Kesk ; the electoral program – improving health care, increasing employment and easing legal obligations for small businesses – earned the party 24.7 % of the votes and a relative majority in Parliament (55 seats), against 24, 5 % (53 seats) of the SDP, while the Kok suffered the greatest losses obtaining 18.5 % of the preferences (40seats, 6 fewer than in previous votes). The post of prime minister went to Jäättenmäki, but his term was very short. Accused of using confidential documents of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discredit outgoing Prime Minister P. Lipponen, Jäättenmäki resigned (June) from both the office of prime minister and secretary of Kesk ; however, in March 2004 she was acquitted of the charge. At the head of the government she was replaced by M. Vanhanen, deputy secretary of the same party. In the presidential elections of January 2006, the majority of the votes (46.3 %) went to the outgoing president, Halonen, who was thus reconfirmed in office.
Member of the European Union since 1995, but linked by a traditional friendship with Russia, Finland continued to maintain a neutral position in foreign policy. In July 1999 the country assumed the presidency of the EU and, during the six months of his mandate, the then president of the republic M. Ahtisaari obtained international appreciation for the diplomatic role played in the solution of the conflict in Kosovo. Finland did not take part in the military operations in Afghānistān decided following the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States and, in 2003, opposed the invasion of Irāq to overthrow the regime of Ṣ. Ḥusayn, while offering readiness for UN Security Council ratified military action and peacekeeping operations.