In essence, the name of the game during the last two decades has been Finland maximising its international influence

Political System

Finland is a parliamentary republic with a multiparty political system. Finland is a typical Nordic welfare state. The supreme executive power is vested in the President who is elected for a semester of six years. The last Presidential election was held in January 2006. The present President is Mrs. Tarja Halonen. The legislative power is vested in a 200-member, unicameral parliament. Members of parliament are elected every four years by a system of proportional representation.

Minister of the Interior Päivi Räsänen (Christian Democrats) (left), Minister of Defence Stefan Wallin, (Swedish People's Party), Minister of Finance Jutta Urpilainen (Social Democrats), Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen (National Coalition Party), Minister of Culture and Sport Paavo Arhinmäki (Left Alliance) and Minister of the Environment Ville Niinistö (Green League).

Finland has always possessed a fascinating and unique foreign policy because of its proximity to Russia. More recently, the Finns have emphasised an active profile in the EU and in global challenges.

Now, the Elections are focus on eurozone crisis.The hottest topic in the pre-election debates in Finland has been the bailouts provided to rescue the mismanaged economies of Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

The party leaders raise their voices and jab their fingers as they try to explain to the voters the support packages offered to the indebted euro countries, and why and how Finland should or shouldn’t get involved in the related complex systems of guarantees. This situation is exceptional. Finland has been a member of the European Union since 1995, but this is the first time EU issues have dominated their national parliamentary elections.

Who would have guessed that what this man said could have an effect on Finnish parliamentary election debates? Prime Minister José Sócrates of Portugal talks economics.

EU supporters celebrate on October 16, 1994 in Helsinki after Finland voted yes to EU membership in a referendum.

Finnish way of life

Like any country, Finland has a set of priorities that it seeks to promote – you can call them national interests if you like. The obvious priority is the protection of national security, or what could more pompously be called “the preservation of the Finnish way of life”. Yes, there is indeed such a way of life, and it includes much more than visiting the sauna twice a week. In essence, it means safeguarding the republic and its political institutions.

But in the 21st century security is, more and more, framed in terms of individuals, and Finnish foreign policy is no exception. So it’s increasingly concerned with the wellbeing and safety of Finnish citizens, or human security. This emphasis was highlighted in the aftermath of the tragic tsunami in Southeast Asia in December 2004, when some Finns were angry with their government for not protecting and helping the survivors better in their distress on the other side of the globe.

We should bear in mind that Finland is a small country. With a population of 5.3 million it is not exactly a major powerhouse in the global games of brinkmanship. Finland is clearly constrained in its ability to effect change on the wider political and normative structures in the world.