The ever globalizing world has offered Finland a lot of opportunities that have helped it overcome some of the challenges posed by its geographic location. Without the technological advances and the resulting interconnectedness Finland was almost like a remote island in the far north, even ice-bound most winters. In particular, modern information technology has made distances irrelevant in many senses, both inside and outside of the country.
But in addition to all the benefits of globalization for Finland, it has also made the country in some senses more immediately vulnerable to global changes and crises. The economic crisis of 2008 that started in the U.S. has had a long lasting impact on Finland. Finnish GDP did not grow as fast as in the other Nordic countries. The stagnation was partly due to the fact that Finland had become too reliant on Nokia and its success. However, now the Finnish economy is showing robust growth.
Nokia’s problems had a silver-lining, since it gave rise to many new tech companies. Consequently, Finland’s startup scene has grown rapidly. The Slush startup conference was organized for the first time in 2008. (By the way, the name comes from the fact that the conference takes place in November in Helsinki, and there is plenty of slush around!) Since its inception Slush has grown from a 300 person assembly to a unique startup event that attracts over 17,000 guests from 120 countries. Moreover, the Finnish government has been investing more in developing the startup environment by helping companies, promoting startups and encouraging universities to commercialize their ideas.
The gaming industry has created some of the most well-known Finnish brands today. Rovio released the Angry Birds mobile game in 2009, and it became an instant hit. By 2015, different versions of the game have been downloaded more than three billion times, making Angry Birds the most downloaded freemium game series of all time.
Another huge hit from Finland is Clash of Clans. The mobile game was created by Supercell and released in 2012. In 2015, the game was the top grossing app on both the App Store and Google Play, with an estimated revenue of 1.5 million dollars per day. The last five years have seen the Finnish game industry almost breaking the two billion euro turnover barrier, with over 260 game companies established. Gaming industry is just one of the high tech branches where Finland is a leading country in the world.
During the past decade, Finland has done extremely well in different international studies that measure how well a society functions. Finland scores high in global studies that measure things such as equality, transparency, competitiveness, innovativeness and press freedom. According to the annual Fragile States Index, Finland is the least failed state in the world.
In the 2010s, the world witnessed many dramatic conflicts. The Arab Spring, the crisis in Ukraine, the Syrian civil war, the rise of Isis, the terrorist attacks in Europe and the refugee crisis posed big and complicated challenges. The Ukraine crisis - the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia and the war in eastern Ukraine - took Europe by surprise and proved that in addition to the new and modern security threats, the more traditional ones are relevant as well. As President Sauli Niinistö said in his New Year’s speech in 2016, “Our understanding of security has changed. We only woke up to war when it was upon us in Europe, where Russia's reprehensible actions in Crimea and Ukraine disrupted our oasis of peace.”
During the recent years the Arctic has emerged as a crucial area with regard to climate change and also as a major playing field in world politics. During the Cold War, the area had an important role in the strategic nuclear relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union collapsed, there was less interest in the Arctic for two decades. Now that has changed.
Finland is an active Arctic player that wants to strengthen multilateral Arctic cooperation - such as under the Arctic Council, take part in the shaping of the EU's Arctic policy and raise Finland's profile as an expert in Arctic issues. In addition, Finland wants to ensure that the livelihoods of the indigenous Sámi people are respected.
Actions to combat climate change have been incorporated into Finnish foreign policy, security policy, trade policy and development policy. Finland ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change in November 2016. But more broadly, Finland takes sustainable development very seriously, and has put in place robust approaches with regard of the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals.
Good and close relations with the United States have continued to be very important for Finland. The countries cooperate in areas such as foreign and security policy, economic and trade relations, defense cooperation and educational exchanges. During the 2010s, Americans have been curious to find out more about the Nordic model, and especially the Finnish education system has been praised widely.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini said in a speech in October 2016, “Finland is known in the United States as a nation that paid its debts and fought for her freedom, a nation that practices a skillful foreign policy. Our hallmarks are that of a modern, highly educated and open information society.”
In May 2016, President Barack Obama hosted the Nordic leaders at the White House to discuss how to deepen cooperation between the Nordic countries and the U.S. President Obama praised the Nordic countries as extraordinary friends who punch above their weight. “I really do believe that the world would be more secure and more prosperous if we just had more partners like our Nordic countries,” he concluded.
President Niinistö returned back to the White House in August 2017 to meet with President Donald Trump. According to President Trump, the Finnish-U.S. partnership is rooted in shared interests and common values. He congratulated Finland on the 100th anniversary of its independence on behalf of all Americans. The United States presented a centennial gift of an additional $500,000 to the Fulbright Finland Foundation. President Niinistö noted that Fulbright is the cornerstone of the Finnish-American academic and cultural collaboration, and congratulated Fulbright Finland for its significant achievements.