Last updated in April 2018
Close political, economic and cultural ties have existed between Germany and Finland since the Hanseatic era and the Reformation.
The year 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. After the Second World War, the traditionally good relations between Finland and Germany were soon restored, to begin with mainly in the economic and cultural spheres. Official bilateral relations were resumed in 1953 with the setting up of trade missions in Cologne and Helsinki. Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Finland and the Federal Republic of Germany were re-established on 7 January 1973.
Finland celebrated the centenary of its independence in 2017. Germany played an active role in the celebrations through various events.
The quality of German‑Finnish relations is also reflected in the numerous consultations on a wide range of issues and the good personal contacts at the political level. In July 2013, Germany’s then Federal President Joachim Gauck paid an official visit to Finland, during which he visited Savonlinna, Naantali and Turku, accompanied by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. In May 2017, President Niinistö met with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin. Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä travelled to Berlin in June 2017 on the occasion of his country’s centennial celebration for talks with Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. In November 2016, Germany’s then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier hosted a visit to Berlin by his Finnish counterpart Timo Soini. The Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office, Michael Roth, held talks with Finland’s Minister for European Affairs, Sampo Terho, at the Federal Foreign Office in November 2017.
Close contacts also exist between the two countries’ federal and state parliaments. The German‑Nordic Parliamentary Friendship Group in the German Bundestag maintains long‑standing ties with the Finnish‑German Group of Parliamentarians in the Finnish Eduskunta. There is also intensive exchange between the two parliaments’ committees.
According to Federal Statistical Office figures, Germany is currently Finland’s most important trading partner, with imports from Germany amounting to 11 billion euros and exports to Germany worth 8.2 billion euros in 2017. During the same period, Finland recorded a trade deficit of 2.8 billion euros with Germany. More than 80 percent of imports reach Finland by sea, with the German ports of Hamburg, Rostock and Lübeck playing a key role.
Germany is one of the top destinations for Finnish investment. Around 440 Finnish businesses have invested in Germany, mainly companies in the paper industry (Stora Enso, UPM‑Kymmene Oyj and Metsä Group) that are already well established in Germany. The activities of German companies in Finland have increased in recent years. Some 330 German firms currently operate in Finland, including many long‑established companies.
A German‑Finnish Chamber of Commerce was set up in 1978 and now has around 700 Finnish and German member companies.
Finnish‑German relations are based on centuries-old traditions whose influence still makes itself felt, especially in academic life, culture and jurisprudence. However, since around 1960 German has ceded its status as the principal foreign language to English.
Besides fostering the German language, a key concern of German cultural policy in Finland is promoting Germany as a place to study.
Well received is the support provided in this area by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which has lectors working in Helsinki and Turku, the Educational Exchange Service (PAD), which has a German language advisor working in the country, as well as the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and other cultural intermediaries.
The Goethe‑Institut in Finland, which is based in Helsinki, makes a significant contribution to lively cultural exchange. Other major pillars of cultural relations are the Deutsche Schule Helsinki, the Deutsche Bibliothek Helsinki and the German Evangelical-Lutheran Congregation in Finland, all of which were established back in the second half of the 19th century.
In the non‑governmental sector, there are a whole host of other players involved in cultural exchange. In addition to numerous visits and personal contacts between artists, scientists and academics from the two countries, a wide range of cultural exchange programmes are conducted by the more than 30 Finnish‑German cultural associations in Finland as well as by the more than 70 local chapters of the Deutsch-Finnische Gesellschaft – one of the largest bilateral societies of its kind in Germany – and the Berlin‑based Finnish Institute in Germany. Activities are also carried out as part of the 70 or so town and municipality twinning arrangements, including exchanges for pupils and young people. Germany remains a popular place for Finnish students to study.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.