Finland. In January, the 200-year commemoration of
Finland and Sweden was celebrated. Among other things,
President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen
visited Stockholm at a ceremony in Parliament and royal gala
dinner at the palace.
A protest storm blew up against the government at home
when Prime Minister Vanhanen in February revealed plans to
raise the retirement age from 63 to 65. This was to take
place gradually between 2011 and 2022, and the intention was
to counteract the shortage of labor as the proportion of
pensioners grows. The union had not been allowed to
influence the proposal and threatened with a general strike.
After negotiations, the government withdrew its proposal.
Instead, a working group was set up with representatives of
government, trade unions and employers to investigate
whether the working life could be extended in the long term
by three years. According to Vanhanen, three years longer
working life would improve the Treasury as much as if the
income tax were increased ten percentage points. But the
opposition condemned the government's handling of the
pension issue and demanded a vote of no confidence in
Parliament. However, the government won with the numbers 108
After a tough political battle in March, Parliament voted
for the so-called Lex Nokia, a law that gives companies the
right to control but not read employee e-mails. The
government also disagreed; a few members of the Greens voted
against the controversial proposal. The law gives companies
the right to handle identification information for e-mail
and other data traffic if there are serious grounds for
suspecting that important corporate secrets are leaked.
Mobile giant Nokia had demanded to check the company's
network traffic since suspected leaks of secret information
to a Chinese company.
In June, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the
Russian Federation. The atmosphere was not said to be the
best in the meeting between Putin and Vanhanen, who
explained, among other things, that the mines in the Gulf of
Finland must be cleared before the Russian-German gas
pipeline Nord Stream can be built. It also stifled the
negotiations on Russian timber chairs, which Finland and
Sweden fought against. The Russian Federation later decided
not to raise export duties on timber in 2010.
countryaah, Prime Minister Vanhanen explained during the year that
the Finnish Language Act does not work in practice, since
Swedish-speaking people do not receive the Swedish-speaking
community service to which they are entitled under the law.
In September, the opposition demanded that Vanhanen
resign and a new election was announced when it became known
that a number of politicians in the Center Party and the
Samling Party had received election contributions that were
not reported. Among these were Vanhanen, who among other
things received large contributions from the nonprofit Youth
Foundation, where he himself chaired. Media reports also
claimed that Vanhanen had received special wood for his
private villa by a company that wanted a contract for work
for the Youth Foundation. Vanhanen rejected the information
and allowed media and experts to investigate his villa.
However, the scandal accusations forced Vanhanen through
the second distrust vote for the year, which was requested
by the Social Democrats. It was held in October, when a
clear majority voted against the demand for Vanhanen's
departure. In a survey that was conducted afterwards,
Vanhanen received his worst popularity figures to date as
prime minister. Of the respondents, 41 percent said they
were unhappy with him. Vanhanen announced at the end of the
year that in 2010 he intended to step down as party leader
of the Center Party and thus probably also as prime
On New Year's Eve, Finland suffered the third massacre in
just a couple of years. The school massacres in Jokela and
Kauhajoki were then followed by the death of six people in a
shopping center in Espoo outside Helsinki. A man shot to
death his former partner, four of her workmates and herself.
The tragedy immediately sparked a debate about further
tightening of the gun laws.