DNA, Saunalahti, IF, Nordea: “Backward-looking” rules and laws mirror Finland’s anti-foreign sentiment

by , under Enrique

A comment on Migrant Tales by Chef summed up pretty well how “several backward-looking” rules used arbitrarily by mobile phone and insurance companies continue to discriminate and make life difficult for immigrants. Why does this still happen in Finland, a Nordic welfare state country that promotes and bases its values on social equality (tasa-arvo)?

The suspicion that some Finns have of foreigners is very real. It hinges on our difficult history with the former Soviet Union and being under Swedish and Russian rule for over 650 years. Irrespective of such explanations, they sound more like excuses than proactive solutions.

Our suspicion of foreigners is not only evident in our actions and attitudes but in our laws.

Take for instance the Restricting Act of 1939 (law 219/1939), which became redundant in 1992. The aim of the law was to keep key sectors of the economy off limits to foreigners.

The act prohibited foreigners from owning real estate and acquiring a majority stake in Finnish companies – limiting this to 20% normally and 40% under special permission. It stipulated as well that foreigners could not own shares in key sectors such as forestry, securities trading, transportation, mining, real estate and shipping.

When I moved to this country permanently in December 1978, non-Finns weren’t allowed to establish a newspaper, organize demonstrations, no habeas corpus never mind appeal a deportation.

Until 1983, or about 65 years after gaining independence,  Finland got its first Aliens’ Act. Before and even after new act came into force, foreigners were at the mercy of the aliens office, whose aim  was to hinder immigrants from moving here.

Why was it so difficult for a foreigner to establish a business in Finland or move to this country in the last century? The answer is clear: They didn’t want you to invest or move here.

We rarely speak about how our anti-foreign sentiment continues to influence us today. How do you think an anti-immigration and anti-EU party, the Perussuomalaiset, was able to score a historic election victory in 2011?

Fortunately matters have changed for the better after we became EU members in 1995. Even so, the remnants of Finland’s anti-foreign sentiment can still be found in some of its rules, laws and what’s most important in attitudes.

“Several backward-looking” restrictions imposed by mobile phone companies, insurers and banks are some examples.

The sooner we throw them in the dustbin of history, the better.


  1. PS voter

    Why do you think it is wrong to protect key sectors? It is quite common for countries to prevent foreigners owning too large parts of key sectors, to protect national interests.

    For poor countries, it is quite common to prevent foreigners buying land and I don’t blame them. If they wouldn’t have these restrictions, more wealthy people from abroad could easily buy the land and natural resources, like water and then they would be on the mercy of the the new owners, who can ask extremely high prices for living on the land or getting any water. And if the buyers are from a hostile countries, then that could be even a military threat to the country. Even quite strong and influential countries, like USA, protects some of their key sectors.

    And I think that Finland has handled many of these matters historically better than many other countries. We haven’t been colonists, we don’t have terrorist attacks, we haven’t got slums etc.

  2. PS voter

    BTW, Åland Islands, prevents people from outside Åland Islands (including native Finns) from buying real estate and there are all kind of limitations for companies as well. Do you think Åland Islands should remove these restrictions (they are known as kotiseutuoikeus or hembygdsrätt) and permit using Finnish language?