Finland has learned from the OECD and the OECD has learned from Finland; both sides have benefited from Finland’s 40-year membership of the organisation. Secretary-General Ángel Gurría listed Finland’s achievements measured according to the OECD’s own indicators while also pointing out that the way in which the country confronted and resolved its own economic crisis in the early 1990s is a valuable lesson for other member countries wrestling with the current economic crisis.
Gurría also drew attention to Finland’s present economic situation, which is much better now than before the previous slump, thanks to foresight and prudent economic planning.
Ángel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, visited Finland on 19–20 January at the invitation of Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen. Gurría met with Finland’s top government leaders and spoke at the Solemn Seminar to mark 40 Years of Peer Learning by Finland in the OECD. The energetic Gurría wished Finland a “happy OECD birthday”.
The commemorative seminar was opened by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen, who is responsible for inter-agency coordination of OECD affairs in Finland. Minister Väyrynen stressed that membership was a logical step in strengthening Finland’s economic and trade relations: “Now, 40 years later, we can reasonably conclude that our motivations and goals expressed at the time of our accession were well-founded, realistic and timely.”
Secretary-General Gurría emphasised peer learning and the exchange of information as core functions of the OECD. He thanked Finland’s open attitude towards multilateral negotiations and solutions, which Gurría also considers important for the whole of the OECD.
Other topics that came up during the seminar were Finland’s social cohesion, little corruption, development aid and know-how in increasing coherence between different policy sectors. Other OECD member countries can learn from the work and innovations in these areas, Gurría stated.
The economic crisis now burdens all OECD countries. The crisis, however, should not lead to neglecting development aid, eradication of poverty, promotion of free trade and the struggle against climate change, which in the long term guarantee success, also economically, Gurría pointed out at the end of his speech.
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen thanked the support for policy planning and the statistics offered by the OECD, which have been highly valuable. Support and know-how are especially needed now, so that economic recovery and long-term growth can be achieved in a sustainable way.
In his review of recent history, Vanhanen stated that the OECD has been very important for Finland’s development after the Second World War. Membership helped anchor Finland among the Western industrialised nations, Finnish civil servants plucked up the courage to internationalise and the stream of reliable information and expertise from the OECD helped to build a stable foundation supporting difficult decisions.
Vanhanen listed the sectors where assistance from the OECD has been considerable. Employment and social policy, science and technology policy, regional development policy and especially research and development policy and education policy have benefited greatly from OECD support and peer learning by Finland.
In their comments, Dr Seppo Lindblom and Pertti Salolainen, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament, thanked the joint achievements of Finland and the OECD, as did those who spoke before them. Lindblom emphasised the significance of membership in the process of building the welfare state and Finland’s more international identity.
In Salolainen’s view, membership of the OECD, alongside EFTA, was an important precondition and initial step towards Finland’s accession to EU membership. He also thanked Gurría for his kind words about Finland and jokingly offered the Secretary-General a place on the high-level delegation appointed to create a country brand for Finland, which brought laughter from the seminar audience. Immediately following the Secretary-General’s speech, Director General Petri Tuomi-Nikula, who chaired the seminar, had remarked humorously that Gurría’s praise made Finland sound like a sort of “waiting room to paradise.”