Does northern Finland care about the EU election?

The upcoming European Union elections are highlighting the gap between EU politics and high North affairs and it’s an issue that’s causing a bit of an identity crisis in northern Finland.


With the European Union parliamentary elections coming up, BarentsObserver went to Rovaniemi, Finland, to see how Finns feel about their place in the EU. 

Voter turnout in Finland is traditionally very high, with 74 per cent voter turnout in the 2006 presidential elections and 69 per cent in 2012. But it’s a different story for EU elections: the last EU parliamentary election brought out just 40 per cent of Finnish voters. 

“I don’t know that the EU has presented any real or genuine interest in these northern areas until, perhaps, rather recently,” says political scientist Petri Koikkalainen of the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi. 

Koikkalainen speculates that the reason for low engagement in the EU election process – in northern Finland particularly – could be that the locals identify more with the Arctic than with Europe.

“It’s possibly the least interesting election,” says Pirita Näkkäläjärvi, Head of Yle Sápmi, an all Sami-language radio and TV broadcast station in Inari, about 200km north of Rovaneimi.

“It seems so far away. It feels fairly distant and abstract.”

However, this year there are two Sami politicians running for a spot in EU parliament - something that has never happened before. This, Näkkäläjärvi feels, could boost nothern Sami interest, particularily, in the election.

Back in Rovaniemi, the public reaction to the vote varies between animosity, indifference and strong support.

“It sucks,” remarked one person BarentsObserver spoke with.

Polls open on Thursday for regular voting in Finland, but the advance polls have been accepting ballots for over a week. There is no word yet on the preliminary numbers from the advanced voting, but perhaps the over 250 Finnish candidate hopefuls will inspire a higher turnout in the high north this year.