Finland. The revelations about the doping of the Finnish
ski stars during the Lahti World Cup in February shook the
nation. The scandal also led to very negative publicity for
Finland internationally and affected the sporting relations
with the outside world.
Countryaah, relations with neighboring countries were also
temporarily strained for other reasons. The debate over the
construction of a possible fifth nuclear power plant in
Finland led to tough exchanges of views between Prime
Minister Paavo Lipponen and the Norwegian environmental
organization Bellona. The war of words began when Lipponen
made an official visit to Norway in March.
Although no cases of foot-and-mouth disease were detected
in Finland, both Sweden and Norway closed their import
limits for Finnish meat during the spring. Agriculture
Minister Kalevi Hemilä did not rule out trade wars against
Swedish and Norwegian goods if the import ban on meat was
upheld. However, the prohibitions were lifted gradually.
In March, Finland's ÖB Gustav Hägglund was elected the
first chairman of the EU military committee, which will form
a force for EU crisis management.
Mumindalen's creator, the Finnish-Swedish author Tove
Jansson, died at the end of June 86 years old.
The Finnish Parliament voted in September for a
much-debated bill on registered partnerships for
homosexuals, which came into force at the New Year. Denmark
got a similar law in 1989, Norway in 1993 and Sweden in
Finland's largest asset manager Sampo tried during the
year in vain to acquire the Norwegian insurance group
Storebrand. The deal was blocked by Storebrand's co-owner
Den norske Bank, which in turn is largely state-owned. The
Norwegian government wanted to keep the company under
Norwegian ownership. The conflict was described as a
"international fight", as the Finnish state is a partner in
Employment in Finland was positive at the beginning of
the year, but business cycles were noticeably worsening and
pessimism among small and medium-sized companies was not
said to have been so severe since the crisis year of 1991.
The major groups were also affected. Leading telecom company
Sonera went on the stock market.
The Finnish export flagship Nokia, which has drawn the
Helsinki Stock Exchange throughout the 1990s, has long
resisted the international downturn in the mobile and
telecom industries. However, in June came a profit warning
and a negative forecast for Nokia's sales of mobile phones.
The Group, which has over 60,000 employees in the world,
gave notice of layoffs in several countries during the year.
The Finnish doctors went on strike for higher salaries
between March and August. The strike was distributed in
different locations during different periods, but in
Helsinki two of five operations were canceled during the
conflict. The doctors initially demanded a 20% pay rise but
accepted a mediation proposal of just over half before the
strike was canceled.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Finland in the
autumn for official discussions with President Tarja Halonen
and Prime Minister Lipponen. The conversations were about
The EU's planned enlargement to the east and Russia's
relations with the EU. On the Russian side, it was hoped
that Moscow's relations with Finland would be a model for
Russia's relations with the rest of the EU.
In December, it was clear that Finland was affected by
its first case of mad cow disease. On New Year's Eve,
Finland, together with Greece, became first among the EU
countries to introduce the euro as the official currency.