Late on Wednesday, mobile telephone manufacturer Nokia announced unexpectedly that its report for the period of January to September will be released a week earlier than usual. Analysts are expecting positive news, and there are speculations that the recent setback for rival Motorola was an indication that Nokia's market share had strengthened in Europe. The interim report on Thursday exceeded all expectations. Nokia's profit result in the third quarter was EUR 1.335 billion (profits from January to September totalled EUR 4.1 billion). Compared to the same period last year, the growth was 42 per cent. The turnover rose by 50 per cent to almost EUR 7.6 billion (January to September turnover was EUR 21.1 billion). The results also gave a boost to the entire Finnish stock market.
Introducing the euro
The Bank of Finland and The Finnish Bankers Association have prepared a plan for the introduction of the EUR (euro). The FIM (Finnish markka) will be phased out over a two month transfer period. Finns use less cash compared to other EMU members, thus the transition to the EUR should be easier than in other countries. The Bank of Finland will cash in FIM for ten years, before the currency is abolished. In grocery stores, the prices are already marked in EUR, and specialized stores will begin this practise next year. A large number of Finnish companies have not prepared at all for the transfer, and IT experts at the Ministry of Finance are now urging them to update their computers for the new currency.
The introduction of the EUR in 2002 is dividing Finnish opinions, however. According to a poll, 49 per cent of Finns are in favour, while 40 per cent are opposed to the common currency, and the rest have no clear stance on the issue. Most favourable to the new currency are the young and the well-educated, while farmers and pensioners have the most negative attitude towards the EUR. Those opposing the single currency are a majority only in the Väli-Suomi region, while the number of supporters is highest in the southern region of Uusimaa. The poll was taken after Denmark's EMU referendum.
To serve, or not to serve?
Finns who opt to do a civil service instead of joining the army must serve longer than those who chose to join the military. The European Parliament has, however, recommended that non-military service should be as long as military service. Minister of Labour Tarja Filatov has said that Finland is closer to Central and Eastern European policies on this issue. But, according to a survey conducted by television channel Nelonen, a majority of MPs in Finland do not support the shortening of non-military service.
The EU has a separate MEDA (Mediterranean Aid) program for supporting the twelve Mediterranean countries outside the Union. It aims to increase economic welfare in the area, which, in turn, will prevent disturbances. The annual budget for the program is presently FIM four billion (EUR 0.67 billion), but the Commission has proposed to increase it to FIM six billion (EUR 1.01 billion).
Finland and many other member states oppose this. Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja has received a report, which shows that only one-fourth of the planned projects have actually been carried out. According to Tuomioja, it would be unwise to reserve more money for the projects, as long as they are not used effectively. Another reason why Finland is not willing to increase the funding for Mediterranean projects is that the money would be taken from funds aimed at rebuilding the Balkan area.
Enlarging the union
Finnish European Commissioner Erkki Liikanen said that to create a traditions of independent administrations and an independent systems of law in the new member countries will be the most difficult issue in EU enlargement negotiations. Liikanen thinks that enlargement can be started under the mandate of the current institutions if all goes as planned, meaning by 2004 or 2005. Also, many candidate countries doubt the EU is ready to accept new members right from the beginning of 2003, as was indicated at the Helsinki summit last December.
And in other news...
- The inflation rate in EMU countries was 2.3 per cent in August, while in the EU it was two per cent overall. In September, inflation in Finland rose to 4.2 per cent.
- There are more female entrepreneurs in Finland than in other EU countries, and the number is still growing. At the moment, about one-third of entrepreneurs are female.
- The two-year presidency of the Arctic Council was handed over to Finland during the council meeting in Alaska. The members of the Arctic Council are the Nordic countries, Canada, Russia and the United States.
- An opinion poll shows that the three biggest political parties are running fairly even in popularity, with approximately one week until the municipal elections.
- Minister of Trade and Industry Sinikka Mönkäre is confident that the Vuotos reservoir in Lapland will be built. Mönkäre said that the EU will not determine whether the reservoir will be built or not. The EU is currently preparing a second proceeding against Finland concerning the issue.
- The number of real estate sales to first time buyers has dropped to between ten and 15 per cent of all sales, due to high flat prices and interest rates. Last year, the number was approximately 33 per cent.
- Nordic banking group MeritaNordbanken closed a deal to buy Norway's Christiania Bank for FIM 19.7 billion (EUR 3.31 billion).
- Finland is behind its Scandinavian neighbours in the creation of broadband Internet connections for private homes. Only 19 per cent of Finnish homes are expected to have broadband by the year 2005
Aleksi Vakkuri, 20 October 2000
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Yle Ykkönen, Radio Suomi