Finland is the Northernmost country in the European Union. It is also the most sparsely populated country in the European Union, with a population of 5.5 million spread over 338,145 square kilometres. North of the Arctic Circle, Finland rises into the low mountains of Lapland, and the country is punctuated by 188,000 lakes. The archipelago of Aland Islands is in the middle of the Gulf of Bothnia between Finland and Sweden.
Finland’s early history saw it associated with the Kingdom of Sweden. In 1809 it became an independent grand duchy of the Russian Empire. In 1917 Finland declared its independence and fought a civil war the next year. Finland fought against the Soviet Union and Germany during World War II. Finland’s population increased after the Second World War, but the economic problem surfaced in the 1980s into the 1990s. A campaign to revitalise the economy began in in 1994, the year before it joined the European Union.
Economically, Finland is slowly emerging from a long-drawn-out recession. Structural reform programs aim to reduce labour costs and improve competitiveness while pension reforms prolong working careers. Reforms to improve public health and social services are now in place.
Finland has a strong and modern industrialised economy despite it being fairly rural and sparsely populated. The nation’s considerable high-tech manufacturing, electronics and chemical sectors operate alongside a substantial forestry and paper industry.
Finland is ranked number one for safety and security in two world and travel forums, making it a top travel and tourism destination. It earned first place in the most recent World Happiness Report among 156 countries, based on GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and corruption.
Finland offers seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, six of which are cultural, and one being natural. These are the Bronze Age Burial Site, the Fortress of Suomenlinna, the Old Rauma, Petajavesi Old Church, Struve Geodetic Arc, the Verla Groundwood and Board Mill and the Kvarken Archipelago.
Father Christmas lives in Lapland, which is also home to the reindeer. Winter offers skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling and husky dog teams. Hiking trails and white-water rafting are a drawcard in summer. With 75% of the country made up of forests of firs, birches and oaks, it is a scenic wonder and a great destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts all year round.
Although you cannot bank on definitely seeing the Northern Lights, Finland is among the ideal places on Earth to observe the Aurora Borealis. You may catch the mysterious light display if you happen to be in Finland during Autumn and Spring.
Finland is one of the 26 Schengen countries and of the 22 that is also a member of the European Union. As such Australians are among the global nationals, who benefit from the visa liberation policy and can travel to Finland with only a passport.
The European Commission has proposed a visa waiver system which will impact Australians when it is implemented around 2021. The system is similar to Australia’s ETA, European Travel Authority, and is called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).
The reason behind this pre-authorisation system is the troubling impact terrorism, and the influx of uncontrolled immigrants and refugees has had on the European countries. ETIAS will identify these and associated risks when potential travellers apply online for authorisation to visit Europe before they even appear at the borders.
An improved level of security across Europe is envisaged after the rollout, although current Schengen restrictions will still apply.
Most of the earlier immigrants from Finland began their lives in Bonegilla, a former military camp in northern Victoria. Next to Canada, Australia is Finland’s second favourite destination for immigration. The first Finnish immigrants arrived to work in the gold mines in the 1850s. The 1920s saw a second major wave this time in greater numbers. After World War II 20,000 Finns relocated to Australia.
An economic crisis in Finland in the 1950s saw a fresh influx spurred by Australia’s reinvigorated assisted passage scheme. Around 24,145 Australians claim Finnish ancestry.
The two countries signed a bilateral social security agreement which provides improved social security protection to those living or working in both Australia and Finland. They also have a Working Holiday Maker Arrangement and a Double Taxation Agreement.
Australia’s exports precious metals and alcoholic beverages to Finland who export paper and paperboard and civil engineering equipment and parts. Australian investment in Finland surpasses three-and-a-half billion dollars while Finland invested four hundred million dollars in Australia.
Australians over the age of 18 visiting Finland will need to apply to ETIAS after 2021. The authorisation is granted to all eligible people within minutes and is valid for three years or until the applicable passport expires, whichever comes first.