Finland: smooth adaptation to
European values and institutions
Finland joined the European Union together with Austria and Sweden at the beginning of 1995. At first glance, Finnish membership might appear as a rapid change of political orientation, given the inflexible policy of neutrality the country conducted until the early 1990s. In spite of the brevity of national adaptation and consideration, the decision to follow Sweden and submit an application for EU membership was based upon an overwhelming political consensus. All the major political elites, including party and interest organisations, the leadership, key actors in the private sector and the media were in favour of Finnish membership. In the referendum for EU membership in October 1994, the elites were supported by 57 per cent of the people which supported membership. One characteristic of the Finnish EU policy thus seems to be that it relies upon a firm and stable popular support. A division of the country, however, took place in the referendum and it is a division that has given expression to the limits of the governmental policy ever since. Membership in the Union was opposed by farmers and the rural population because it was seriously believed to risk their source of livelihood. The Farmers' Union was the most significant unitary force opposing Finnish membership in the campaign preceding the referendum. Its political importance has, however, been reduced by the reluctance of the agrarian Centre Party to join the opposition. The Centre Party leaders seem to have assumed that such a policy would block the party's road to government and, furthermore, the party will be increasingly dependent upon urban voters in the near future.
During the first years of membership the Finnish government adopted an enthusiastic and unreserved line of policy towards the Union. In the core issues of the Union's political future, Finland showed a high degree of flexibility and a preparedness to join the 'deepeners' of the Union rather than its Nordic neighbours conducting a more reserved policy.1 Despite the generally positive attitude towards the Union, this position
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Publication information: Book title: Fifteen into One? The European Union and Its Member States. Contributors: Wolfgang Wessels - Editor, Andreas Maurer - Editor, Jürgen Mittag - Editor. Publisher: Manchester University Press. Place of publication: Manchester, England. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 150.
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