Foreign relations of Finland
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politics and government of
The foreign relations of Finland are the responsibility of the President of Finland, who leads foreign policy in cooperation with the government. Implicitly the government is responsible for internal policy and decision making in the European Union. Within the government, preparative discussions are conducted in the government committee of foreign and security policy (ulko- ja turvallisuuspoliittinen ministerivaliokunta), which includes the Prime Minister and at least the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence, and at most four other ministers as necessary. The committee meets with the President as necessary. Laws concerning foreign relations are discussed in the parliamentary committee of foreign relations (ulkoasiainvaliokunta, utrikesutskottet). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs implements the foreign policy.
During the Cold War, Finland's foreign policy was based on official neutrality between the Western powers and the Soviet Union, while simultaneously stressing Nordic cooperation in the framework of the Nordic Council and cautious economic integration with the West as promoted by the Bretton-Woods Agreement and the free trade treaty with the European Economic Community. Finland shares this history with close neighbour Sweden, which Finland was a part of until the split of the Swedish empire in 1809. Finland did not join the Soviet Union's economic sphere (Comecon) but remained a free-market economy and conducted bilateral trade with the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Finland unilaterally abrogated the last restrictions imposed on it by the Paris peace treaties of 1947 and the Finno-Soviet Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance. The government filed an application for membership in the European Union (EU) three months after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and became a member in 1995. Finland did not attempt to join NATO, even though post-Soviet countries on the Baltic Sea and elsewhere joined. Nevertheless, defence policymakers have quietly converted to NATO equipment and contributed troops.
President Martti Ahtisaari and the coalition governments led Finland closer to the core EU in the late 1990s. Finland was considered a cooperative model state, and Finland did not oppose proposals for a common EU defence policy. This was reversed in the 2000s, when Tarja Halonen and Erkki Tuomioja made Finland's official policy to resist other EU members' plans for common defense. However, Halonen allowed Finland to join European Union Battlegroups in 2006 and the NATO Response Force in 2008.
Relations with Russia are cordial and common issues include bureaucracy (particularly at the Vaalimaa border crossing), airspace violations, development aid Finland gives to Russia (especially in environmental problems that affect Finland), and Finland's energy dependency on Russian gas and electricity. Behind the scenes, the administration has witnessed a resurrection of Soviet-era tactics. The National Security Agency, SUPO, estimates that the known number of Russian agents from Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and GRU now exceeds Cold War levels and there are unknown numbers of others.
After independence from Russia in 1917, the Finnish Civil War, including interventions by Imperial Germany and Soviet Russia, and failure of the Communist revolution, resulted in the official ban on Communism, and strengthening relations with Western countries. Overt alliance with Germany was not possible due to the result of the First World War, but in general the period of 1918 to 1939 was characterised by economic growth and increasing integration to the Western world economy. Relations with Soviet Russia from 1918 to 1939 were icy; voluntary expeditions to Russia called heimosodat ended only in 1920. However, attempts to establish military alliances were unsuccessful. Thus, when the Winter War broke out, Finland was left alone to resist the Soviet attack. Later, during the Continuation War, Finland declared "co-belligerency" with Nazi Germany, and allowed Northern Finland to be used as a German attack base. The peace settlement in 1944 with the Soviet Union led to the Lapland War in 1945, where Finland fought Germans in Northern Finland.
From the end of the Continuation War with the Soviet Union in 1944 until 1991, the policy was to avoid superpower conflicts and to build mutual confidence with the Western powers and the Soviet Union. Although the country was culturally, socially, and politically Western, Finns realised they had to live in peace with the USSR and take no action that might be interpreted as a security threat. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 opened up dramatic new possibilities for Finland and has resulted in the Finns actively seeking greater participation in Western political and economic structures. The popular support for the strictly self-defensive doctrine remains.
In the 2000 constitution, where diverse constitutional laws were unified into one statute, the leading role of the President was slightly moderated. However, because the constitution still stipulates only that the President leads foreign policy and the government internal policy, the responsibility over European Union affairs is not explicitly resolved. Implicitly this belongs to the powers of the government. In a cohabitation situation as with Matti Vanhanen's recent second government right-wing government and left-wing President Tarja Halonen, there can be friction between government ministers and the president.
The arrangement has been criticised by Risto E.J. Penttilä for not providing a simple answer of who's in charge.
Finnish foreign policy emphasises its participation in multilateral organisations. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and the European Union in 1995. As noted, the country also is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace as well as an observer in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. The military has been prepared to be more compatible with NATO, as co-operation with NATO in peacekeeping is needed, but military alliance does not have popular support.
In the European Union, Finland is a member of the Eurozone, and in addition, the Schengen treaty abolishing passport controls. 60% of foreign trade is to the EU. Other large trade partners are Russia and the United States.
Finland is well represented in the UN civil service in proportion to its population and belongs to several of its specialised and related agencies. Finnish troops have participated in United Nations peacekeeping activities since 1956, and the Finns continue to be one of the largest per capita contributors of peacekeepers in the world. Finland is an active participant in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and in early 1995 assumed the co-chairmanship of the OSCE's Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Cooperation with the other Scandinavian countries also is important to Finland, and it has been a member of the Nordic Council since 1955. Under the council's auspices, the Nordic countries have created a common labor market and have abolished immigration controls among themselves. The council also serves to coordinate social and cultural policies of the participating countries and has promoted increased cooperation in many fields.
In addition to the organisations already mentioned, Finland is a member of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the International Finance Corporation, the International Development Association, the Bank for International Settlements, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Council of Europe, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Finland has moved steadily towards integration into Western institutions and abandoned its formal policy of neutrality, which has been recast as a policy of military nonalliance coupled with the maintenance of a credible, independent defence. Finland's 1994 decision to buy 64 F-18 Hornet fighter planes from the United States signalled the abandonment of the country's policy of balanced arms purchases from Communist countries and Western countries.
In 1994, Finland joined NATO's Partnership for Peace; the country is also an observer in the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Finland became a full member of the EU in January 1995, at the same time acquiring observer status in the EU's defence arm, the Western European Union.
Generally, Finland has abided by the principle of neutrality and has good relations with nearly all countries, as evidenced by the freedom of travel that a Finnish passport gives.
Finland's main language, Finnish, is related to Estonian, and there is and has been a certain feeling of kinship. 76% of Finns have visited Estonia and in 2004, 1.8 million Finns reported visiting Estonia. Finnish and Swedish investors are the largest foreign investors in Estonia. Finland and Estonia are members of the European Union and the Schengen agreement, freeing international travel and trade between the countries.
Finland's government recognised Estonia's independence in 1920. In response to the Soviet invasion, diplomatic missions were de facto removed. However, when Estonia declared independence, this "temporary obstruction" was resolved. Both countries restored diplomatic relations on August 29, 1991. Finland has an embassy in Tallinn and an honorary consulate in Tartu. Estonia has an embassy in Helsinki and five honorary consulates in Oulu, Turku, Raseborg, Tampere and Kotka.
Finland contributed and continues to contribute military aid to Estonia, e.g., training of officers, provision of equipment.
- Finland recognised Latvia's independence de facto on September 23, 1919, and de jure on January 21, 1921.
- Finland has an embassy in Riga.
- Latvia has an embassy in Helsinki and four honorary consulates (in Åland, Satakunta, Kymenlaakso and Oulu).
- Both countries are full members of the Council of the Baltic Sea States and of the European Union.
- Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs: relations with Latvia
- Latvian Ministry for Foreign Affairs: relations with Finland
- Finland recognised Lithuania's independence de facto on November 14, 1919, and de jure on October 14, 1921.
- Finland has an embassy in Vilnius and an honorary consulate in Klaipėda.
- Lithuania has an embassy in Helsinki.
- Both countries are full members of the Council of the Baltic Sea States and of the European Union.
- Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs: relations with Lithuania
- Germany recognised Finland's independence on January 4, 1918.
- Germany gave direct military support to Finnish independence by training Finnish Jägers and successfully intervened in Finnish Civil War in favor of the nationalist Whites.
- During World War II, the secret protocol in Molotov-Ribbentrop pact enabled Winter War (1939–40), a Soviet attack on Finland. Finland and Nazi Germany were "co-belligerents" against Soviet Union during Continuation War (1941–44), but a separate peace with Soviet Union led to the Finnish-German Lapland War (1944–45).
- The Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic (West and East Germany) were both recognised on January 7, 1972 by Finland.
- Diplomatic relations between Finland and West Germany were established on January 7, 1973.
- Germany has an embassy in Helsinki.
- Finland has an embassy in Berlin, a consulate general in Hamburg, two honorary consulates general in Düsseldorf and Munich and other honorary consulates in Bremen, Dresden, Frankfurt am Main, Hanover, Kiel, Lübeck, Rostock, Stuttgart, and Wilhelmshaven.
- German Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Germany: relations with Finland
- Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs: relations with Germany
- Finland has an embassy in Warsaw and an honorary consulate in Gdynia.
- Poland has an embassy in Helsinki.
- Both countries are full members of the Council of the Baltic Sea States and of the European Union.
- Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs: relations with Poland
Relations with Russia are peaceful and friendly. Finland imports a lot of goods and basic necessities, such as fuel, and the two nations are agreeing on issues more than disagreeing on them. Russia has an embassy in Helsinki, a consulate-general in Turku and consulates in Lappeenranta and Mariehamn.
Finland was a part of the Russian Empire for 108 years, after being annexed from the Swedish empire. Discontent with Russian rule, Finnish national identity, and World War I eventually caused Finland to break away from Russia, taking advantage of the fact that Russia was withdrawing from World War I and a revolution was starting in earnest. Following the Finnish Civil War and October revolution, Russians were virtually equated with Communists and due to official hostility to Communism, Finno-Soviet relations in the period between the world wars remained tense. Voluntary activists arranged expeditions to Karelia (heimosodat), which ended when Finland and the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Tartu in 1920. However, the Soviet Union did not abide by the treaty when they blockaded Finnish naval ships. Finland was attacked by the USSR in 1939. Finland fought the Winter War and the Continuation War against the Soviet Union in World War II. During these wars the Finns suffered 90,000 casualties and inflicted severe casualties on the Russians (120,000 dead in the Winter War and 200,000 in the Continuation War).
Contemporary issues include problems with border controls causing persistent truck queues at the border, airspace violations, pollution of the Baltic Sea, and Russian duties on exported wood to Finland's pulp and paper industry. Russia also considered large swathes of land near the Finnish border as special security area where foreign land ownership is forbidden. A similarly extensive restriction does not apply to Russian citizens. The Finnish Defence Forces and Finnish Security Intelligence Service have suspected that Russians have made targeted land purchases near military and other sensitive installations for intelligence or special operations purposes. Right-wing commentators accuse the government of continuing the policy of Finlandisation.
Relations With the Soviet Union
The principal architect of the post-1944 foreign policy of neutrality was J.K. Paasikivi, who was President from 1946 to 1956. Urho Kekkonen, President from 1956 until 1981, further developed this policy, stressing that Finland should be active rather than passive neutral. This policy is now popularly known as the "Paasikivi-Kekkonen Line".
- confirmed Finland's concessions in the Moscow Peace Treaty with exception for the Soviet lease of Hanko Peninsula in south-westernmost Finland
- limited the size of Finland's armed forces
- ratified the cessions after the Winter War and the Continuation War
- gave the Soviet Union a naval base at Porkkala 30 kilometres (19 mi) west of Helsinki including rights of free transit
- contained provisions directed against "Fascism in Finland"
- called for Finland to pay to the Soviet Union war reparations amounting to an estimated $570 million in 1952, the year the payments ended.
The development from the Abyssinia crisis, indicating the failure of the League of Nations, to the Paris Peace Treaty, when the last hope of more than oral support from the ideologically akin Western countries faded, convinced the Finns that they had absolutely no-one other than themselves to rely on in their problematic relations with the Soviet Union.
The Finnish Army, which in defence against the Soviet Union had numbered to over 500,000, was to be limited to 34,400 men, the navy to 4,500 men and 10,000 tons, and the air force to 3,000 men and 60 planes. With this provision the Western Allies had, seemingly, left Finland in the Soviet Union's power.
The political clauses of the Paris Peace Treaty were particularly alienating. Through this clause, the Allies agreed to the Kremlin view that the Soviet Union represented "Liberty" and Finland represented "Fascism". The peace treaty stipulated that the country should take all measures necessary to secure "human rights and the fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, of press and publication, of religious worship, of political opinion and of public meeting." Finland's government undertook further to prevent the resurgence of Fascist organisations or any others, "whether political, military or semi-military, whose purpose it is to deprive the people of their democratic rights." In practice, the "anti-fascist" clauses had few practical effects. Most significantly, the extreme left was no longer officially banned and was allowed to participate in elections (as SKDL). The victor's interpretation of "Fascist organisations" turned out to be wide: the voluntary reserve training organizations Suojeluskunnat and Lotta Svärd were banned.
- (See also: Finlandization)
For the survival of Finland as an independent sovereign country, firmly embracing the values of democracy, human and civil rights, Finland had to find a formula to convince Joseph Stalin and his successors that the Soviet Union's vital interests could be met voluntarily by the Finns. This was the gist of the Paasikivi doctrine.
In April 1948, Finland signed an Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union. Under this mutual assistance pact, Finland was obliged—with the aid of the Soviet Union, if requested by Finland, not unilaterally by the Soviet Union—to resist armed attacks by Germany or its allies against Finland or against the Soviet Union through Finland. At the same time, the agreement recognised Finland's desire to remain outside great-power conflicts. This agreement was renewed for 20 years in 1955, in 1970, and again in 1983 to the year 2003. In practice, this prevented Finland from joining NATO. Also, President Urho Kekkonen gained a disproportionate political advantage over his opponents by monopolizing this policy.
Finland responded cautiously in 1990–91 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. They unilaterally abrogated restrictions imposed by the 1947 and 1948 treaties, joined in voicing Nordic concern over the coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and gave increasing unofficial encouragement to Baltic independence.
At the same time, by replacing the Soviet-Finnish mutual assistance pact with treaties on general cooperation and trade, Finns put themselves on an equal footing while retaining a friendly bilateral relationship. Finland now is boosting cross-border commercial ties and touting its potential as a commercial gateway to Russia. It has reassured Russia that it will not raise claims for Finnish territory seized by the USSR, and continues to reaffirm the importance of good bilateral relations.
Although the Karelian question in Finnish politics remains in the public debate, irredentists have persistently failed to gain support from the majority of the populace, political establishment or political parties.
Finland and Sweden have always had very close relations, resulting from shared history, numerous commonalities in society and politics, and close trade relations. A newly appointed Foreign Minister makes his or her first state visit to Sweden. Finnish politicians often consider Sweden's reaction to international affairs first as a base for further actions, and thus finally both countries often agree on such issues. If there has ever been any dissonance between the two countries those were the Åland question in the early 1920s and the Swedish neutrality during the Winter War. Finland and Sweden are members of the European Union and the Schengen agreement, freeing international travel and trade between the countries. Furthermore, both participate in the Nordic Council, which grants Swedish nationals slightly more extensive rights than the EU/Schengen treaties alone.
Other European states
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Austria||July 19, 1918||See Foreign relations of Austria|
|Belgium||July 9, 1919||See Foreign relations of Belgium|
|Bulgaria||August 5, 1918||
|Croatia||February 19, 1992||See Foreign relations of Croatia|
|Cyprus||September 2, 1961||
|Czech Republic||January 1, 1993||See Foreign relations of the Czech Republic|
|Denmark||February 18, 1918||
|France||January 24, 1918||
|Hungary||May 20, 1947||
|Iceland||August 15, 1947||See Finland–Iceland relations
|Ireland||November 2, 1961|
|Italy||September 6, 1919||
|Kosovo||February 3, 2009|
|Luxembourg||October 25, 1921||
|Netherlands||August 18, 1918||
|Norway||April 6, 1918||
|Portugal||January 10, 1920||
|Romania||October 14, 1949||
|Slovakia||January 1, 1993||
|Slovenia||February 17, 1992||
Tensions between the countries rose in late 2008 when a news program on Finland's national broadcasting company station YLE accused Finnish weapons manufacturer Patria of bribing Slovenian officials to secure an arms deal. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa formally complained to the Finnish ambassador in Ljubljana. This controversy became known as the Patria case.
|Spain||August 16, 1918||
|Ukraine||February 26, 1992||
|United Kingdom||May 6, 1919||
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Argentina||May 11, 1918||
|Antigua and Barbuda||September 26, 2008|
|Bahamas||December 2, 2005|
|Barbados||December 1, 1977|
|Belize||June 19, 1997||
|Bolivia||September 21, 1963|
|Brazil||December 26, 1919||See Foreign relations of Brazil|
|Canada||November 21, 1947||See Foreign relations of Canada|
|Chile||June 17, 1919||See Chile–Finland relations
Chile recognised Finland's independence on June 17, 1919. Diplomatic relations between them were established in 1931 and have been continuously maintained, despite pressures at times to discontinue them. The two countries maintain resident ambassadors in both capitals.
|Colombia||May 26, 1954||
The relations between Colombia and Finland are harmonious as both countries share a similar ideology based on democracy, human rights and a lasting peace. It's because of this that Colombia has decided to open an embassy in Helsinki. Colombia also defines Finland as a key player on Colombia's accession into the OECD and the ratification of the Colombia-European Union Trade Agreement.
|Costa Rica||August 23, 1966|
|Cuba||January 23, 1959||
|Dominica||August 18, 2009||
|Dominican Republic||January 2, 1984||
|Ecuador||February 5, 1965|
|El Salvador||April 14, 1967||
|Grenada||June 1, 1980||
|Guatemala||August 18, 1967||
|Guyana||April 2, 1979||
|Haiti||September 29, 1966||
|Honduras||January 30, 1976|
|Jamaica||December 1, 1977|
|Mexico||December 5, 1937||See Finland–Mexico relations
Mexico recognized the independence of Finland in July, 1920.
|Nicaragua||December 22, 1975||See Finland–Nicaragua relations|
|Panama||December 1, 1975||
|Paraguay||November 20, 1963|
|Peru||March 29, 1963|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||September 22, 2009||
|Saint Lucia||September 22, 2009||
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||January 30, 1976||
|Suriname||June 28, 2005|
|Trinidad and Tobago||December 17, 1971||
|United States||May 30, 1919||See Finland – United States relations
Relations between the United States and Finland are warm. Some 200,000 US citizens visit Finland annually, and about 3,000 US citizens are resident there. The US has an educational exchange program in Finland that is comparatively large for a Western European country of Finland's size. It is financed in part from a trust fund established in 1976 from Finland's final repayment of a US loan made in the aftermath of World War I.
Finland is bordered on the east by Russia and, as one of the former Soviet Union's neighbours, has been of particular interest and importance to the US both during the Cold War and in its aftermath. Before the USSR dissolved in 1991, longstanding US policy was to support Finnish neutrality while maintaining and reinforcing Finland's historic, cultural, and economic ties with the West. The US has welcomed Finland's increased participation since 1991 in Western economic and political structures.
Economic and trade relations between Finland and the United States are active and were bolstered by the F-18 purchase. US-Finland trade totals almost $5 billion annually. The US receives about 7% of Finland's exports — mainly wood pulp and paper, ships, machinery, electronics and instruments and refined petroleum products — and provides about 7% of its imports — principally computers, semiconductors, aircraft, and machinery.
|Uruguay||March 21, 1935||
|Venezuela||March 31, 1954|
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Algeria||January 18, 1963|
|Angola||September 18, 1976|
|Botswana||July 1, 1978|
|Burkina Faso||July 1, 1978|
|Burundi||January 1, 1980|
|Egypt||See Foreign relations of Egypt|
|Ethiopia||July 17, 1959||See Ethiopia–Finland relations
Ethiopia is represented in Finland through its embassy in Stockholm, Sweden. Finland has an embassy in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is one of Finland's long-term development partners and in the water and education sectors. On 29 April 2009, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development announced that the Finnish government had made a grant of 11.4 million euros to enable the Benishangul-Gumuz Region to upgrade its capacity to plan and manage its rural water supply and sanitation program to achieve universal access for all Ethiopians.
|Kenya||June 14, 1965||
|Morocco||July 17, 1959||
|Mozambique||July 18, 1975||
|Namibia||March 21, 1990||See Finland–Namibia relations
Finland recognised Namibia on March 21, 1990. Both countries established diplomatic relations on the same day. Namibia is represented in Finland through its embassy in Stockholm, Sweden. Finland has an embassy in Windhoek and an honorary consulate in Walvis Bay.
|South Africa||May 15, 1949||See Finland – South Africa relations
A South African legation was established in 1967 and relations were then upgraded to ambassadorial level in March 1991. Finland has an embassy in Pretoria, a general consulate in Johannesburg, and a consulate in Cape Town. South Africa has an embassy in Helsinki. During World War II South Africa declared war on Finland.
South African exports to Finland include fresh and dried fruits, wine, pulp, paper, iron, steel, and coal. South Africa imports telecommunication equipment, paper, board products, and machinery from Finland.
|Tanzania||June 14, 1965||
|Tunisia||July 17, 1959||
|Zambia||March 8, 1968||
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Afghanistan||May 11, 1956||
|Armenia||March 25, 1992||
|Georgia||July 8, 1992||
|India||September 10, 1949|
|Indonesia||September 6, 1954||
|Iran||See Finland–Iran relations|
|Israel||November 14, 1950||See Finland–Israel relations
|Japan||September 6, 1919||
|Malaysia||1972||See Finland–Malaysia relations|
|Nepal||August 30, 1955||
|People's Republic of China||See People's Republic of China – Finland relations
The two international trade organisations are the Finland-China Trade Association and the China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT). One of the fastest growing areas of trade between the two countries is in environmental protection. and information technology. Nokia is the largest Finnish investor in China.
|Saudi Arabia||September 23, 1969||
|South Korea||August 24, 1973|| See Finland – South Korea relations
|Syria||May 22, 1953||
|Thailand||June 21, 1954||
|Turkey||May 20, 1920||
|Vietnam||January 5, 1973||
Diplomatic relations were established on May 31, 1949. Australia is represented in Finland through its embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, and through an honorary consulate in Helsinki. Finland has an embassy in Canberra and a consulate in Sydney.
International organization participation
- List of diplomatic missions in Finland
- List of diplomatic missions of Finland
- Minister for Foreign Affairs (Finland)
- Ministry for Foreign Affairs (Finland)
- Politics of Finland
- Pulp mill conflict between Argentina and Uruguay (for the ongoing conflict over the installation of a pulp mill by the Finnish company Botnia in Uruguay, across the Uruguay River)
- Visa requirements for Finnish citizens
- Arctic policy of Finland
- "Finland's foreign policy idea" ("Suomen ulkopolitiikan idea"), Risto E. J. Penttilä, 2008
- Helsinki again a centre of international espionage
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Diplomatic relations were re-established in 1949. A South African legation was established in 1967 and relations were upgraded to ambassadorial level in March 1991. Finland and South Africa enjoy excellent relations and a Declaration of Intent was signed in June 2000 to facilitate bilateral consultations between South Africa and Finland.
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From 1966 to 1987 when the Parliament of Finland unanimously adopted the South Africa Act prohibiting trade with South Africa the history of Finnish-South ...
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