Sunday, 12 July 2009

Finland: Some History, Part Four

The 1980s saw Finland expand economically.  Finland's growth in the 1980s came at the top of the performance levels of OECD countries.  Some Finns referred to their country as the Japan of Europe.  

During this time, Finland wished to assert a more European identity.  For example, Finland joined the European Free Trade Association in 1989, despite pressures from the USSR.  The persistence of the Cold War meant that Finland had to tiptoe around such matters.  

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 had both favorable and adverse consequences for Finland. However, politically, the dissolution of the USSR opened the door for European Union membership.  Finland could now coordinate its politics with the rest of Europe and not worry about Soviet relations.  The first of January, 1995, Finland became a member of the European Union.  

Economically, Finland suffered because of close trade ties with the former USSR.  A recession, lasting from 1991 to 1993, saw a virtually full rate of employment plummet to a rate of 20%.  430,000 jobs were lost at that time.  The recession so deeply affected Finland that many Finnish economists liken it to the Great Depression of the 1930s.  

It took until 1996 for Finland's economy to recover and eventually to fulfill the criteria for the European Monetary Union.  Finland transfered its currency from the Finnish Mark to the Euro in 1999.  A report in 2003 by the OECD praised Finland for high levels of investment in research and development, a strong financial sector, and a post-recession economic growth rate double that of the OECD as a whole.  

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