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
Trade and economic cooperation form a central part of the relations between Finland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is Finland's largest export partner and import partner in the 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 local partner companies. There has been growing interest from Finnish companies to enter the United Arab Emirates market.
The UAE has shown interest in strengthening commercial cooperation with Finland. The strategic goals set by the UAE and the selected future sectors are very close to Finnish know-how and the core of what companies offer, which creates a basis for cooperation and opportunities for increasing trade. In addition, there are numerous significant state and private investors in the country, in whose strategy, for example, Finnish high-tech companies fit.
Finns and the 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 tourists 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 organize 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
Minister of Social Services 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 2020
Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto April 2021
Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä October 2021
Speaker of Parliament Anu Vehviläinen October 2021
Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari October 2021
Ministerial visits from the United Arab Emirates to Finland:
Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan 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 the 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 were 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.
In 1991, the consulate was upgraded to an Embassy, headed by the first Charge d'Affaires Alexei Lahti. Caj Söderlund served as the Charge d'Affaires from 1994 onwards. Matti Pullinen became the first Ambassador of Finland to Abu Dhabi 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. Currently the Ambassador posted in Abu Dhabi is also accredited to 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.