The bilateral relations between Finland and the United Arab Emirates have traditionally been good, even though the two countries are relatively remote geographically and culturally. Trade and economic cooperation have long been a key element of the relationship. Increasing mutual interest in further developing cooperation in different fields is reflected for example in commercial cooperation, high-level visits and tourism.
Trade and economic relations
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is Finland's second largest export partner and largest import partner in the Persian Gulf region. Trade balance has been clearly in surplus for Finland. There is around 70 Finnish companies operating in the UAE. Many Finnish companies registered in the country handle their regional operations from the UAE office, in addition to the local market. Numerous Finnish companies operate in the country through agents. There has been growing interest from the Finnish companies to enter the United Arab Emirates market.
The total trade value combining the imports and exports between the two countries in 2020 was €482 million. The total value of Finnish exports to the UAE in 2020 was €283 million (cf. €312 million in 2019) and the total value of imports from the UAE to Finland was €199 million (cf. €227 million in 2019).
In 2020, the UAE was the second largest export partner for Finnish goods (€188 million) among the Persian Gulf countries after Saudi Arabia, and third largest import partner (€17 million). Trade in goods accounted for 66 percent of exports. The main products that Finland exported to the UAE were machineries and equipment, pulp, paper, cardboard and cardboard products, as well as iron and steel. Trade in services accounted for 34 percent of exports. In terms of trade in services, the UAE was Finland's second largest export partner (€95 million) and the largest import partner (€182 million) in the Persian Gulf region.
Of the total value of UAE imports, trade in services accounted for 91 percent and trade in goods for 9 percent in 2020. The UAE's main imports to Finland were mineral oils and mineral oil products, aluminum and aluminum goods, machineries and equipment, plastic and plastic products.
Source: Finnish Customs Board - Foreign Trade Statistic
Statistics - International Trade in Services
Finns and, Finnish language
Approximately 1400 Finns live in the United Arab Emirates more or less permanently. In addition, every year tens of thousands of Finnish tourists visit the country, Approximately ten thousand tourists visit Finland from the United Arab Emirates each year. The number of tourits has increased in recent years. Currently there are no Finnish curriculum schools in the United Arab Emirates. In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Finnish communities are organizing after school activities for children ("Finnish schools").
Agreements between Finland and the United Arab Emirates
- Agreement on Economic, Industrial and Technical Cooperation (1982)
- Agreement between the Republic of Finland and the United Arab Emirates for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income (1996)
Agreement Between the Government of the United Arab Emirates and the Government of Finland on the promotion and reciprocal protection of investments (1996)
Air services agreement (2013)
Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Finland and the Government of the United Arab Emirates for the exchange of information relating to tax matters (2016)
In addition, several Memorandums of Understanding have been concluded between the parties.
- President of the Republic Martti Ahtisaari in 1996
- President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö in April 2015
Ministerial visits from Finland to the United Arab Emirates:
- Foreign Trade Minister Jari Vilén in November 2002
- Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paula Lehtomäki in January 2007
- Minister of the Environment Paula Lehtomäki in January 2009
- Minister of Economic Affairs Mauri Pekkarinen in January 2010
- Minister of Communications Suvi Lindén in May 2010
- Defense Minister Jyri Häkämies in August 2010
- Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen in January 2011
- Minister of Education Henna Virkkunen in February 2011
- Defense Minister Jyri Häkämies in February 2011
- Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen / Minister for Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb in March 2013
- Minister of Housing and Communications Krista Kiuru in March 2013
- Prime Minister Susanna Huovinen in January 2015
- Minister of Economic Affairs Olli Rehn in October 2015
- Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Lenita Toivakka in November 2015
- Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen in October 2016
- Speaker of Parliament Maria Lohela in December 2016
- Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Kai Mykkänen in January 2017
- Minister of Social Affairs and Health Pirkko Mattila in January-February 2017
- Minister of Social Affairs and Health Pirkko Mattila in January-February 2018
- Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari July 2019
- Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto July 2019
- Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä February 2019
- Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto April 2021
Ministerial visits from the United Arab Emirates to Finland:
- Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahya in May 2009
- Minister for Energy Mohamed bin Dhaen Hamli 2010
- Minister of Education Humaid Mohammad Al Qutami in September 2011
- Development Minister Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi in October 2013
- Minister of Social Affairs Maryam Al Roumi in September 2014
- Minister of Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri in February 2015
- Minister for the Environment Rashid Ahmad bin Fahad in September 2015
- Minister of State, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, May 2017
In addition, several government and business delegation visits take place yearly between the countries.
The United Arab Emirates was recognized by Finland in 1972, and in 1975 countries established formal diplomatic relations. The first Ambassador of Finland Carolus Lassila, was appointed that year. Two years later, Kai Helenius became his successor. Both Ambassadors accredited to the country from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
From 1982 onward Ambassador Pertti Ripatti was accredited to Abu Dhabi from Kuwait. Then, Esko Kunnamo served as Ambassador of Finland in Kuwait and Abu Dhabi during 1985–1989. Tero Lehtovaara was his successor. Due to the Gulf War in 1990, Ambassador Lehtovaara was forced to move to Helsinki from where he served as a roving Ambassador. Pertti Kaukonen was the last Ambassador to be accredited to Abu Dhabi from Kuwait during 1992-1997.
Finland received its first diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi in 1980. The development of trade relations in particular required an active presence in Abu Dhabi. Harri Lahti started as first Commercial Councellor and in 1984 Pekka Laitio became his successor. Rainer Wegelius then took up his duties in 1988.
Matti Pullinen became the first ambassador to Abu Dhabi in 1997. He has been followed by Risto Rekola, Raimo Anttola, Matti Lassila, Ilkka-Pekka Similä and most recently by Riitta Swan.
In 1991, the consulate was upgraded to an Embassy, heade by the first Charge d'Affaires Alexei Lahti. Caj Söderlund served as the Chanrge d'Affaires from 1994 onwards. Matti Pullinen became the first Ambassador of Finland to the United Arab Emirats in 1997. He was succeeded by Ambassadors Risto Rekola, Raimo Anttola, Matti Lassila, Ilkka-Pekka Similä and Riitta Swan. Ambassador Riitta Swan was the first Finnish lady Ambassador to be posted in Abu Dhabi.
Today the Embassy is headed by Ambassador Marianne Nissilä who succeeded Ambassador Swan in June 2019. The Embassy hosts two other Finnish diplomats, two specialists, eight locally hired staff members and also Finnish university trainees from time to time. In 1999 the Embassy moved from Istiqlal Street to its current location on Hamdan Street. Since 2003 the Ambassador posted in Abu Dhabi has also been accredited to Qatar and Bahrain.
The Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Stockholm was accredited to Finland until the country decided to establish an Embassy in Helsinki in 2017.