Statehood requires the recognition of other states. International and bilateral agreements between states reinforce the status of a state within the international community.
Finland is currently a signatory in approximately 500 international agreements. Most of them are double taxation agreements with another state. The earliest treaty still in force is probably the international Metre Convention of 1875, which was drawn up for the purpose of co-ordinating international metrology and for co-ordinating the development of the metric system. Finland joined the convention in 1920.
The decision for Finland to become a party to a treaty is made by the President of the Republic in co-operation with the Government. Legislative treaties and treaties that are significant in scope require approval by the Parliament. Such approval is required when, for example, a treaty would incur permanent expenditure or concern redrawing of national borders.
Treaties are enacted following their ratification by separate decisions. The enactment is nowadays executed through either an act and government decree or solely through a government decree , if approving the treaty does not require approval by the Parliament. The purpose of the enactment is to incorporate the obligations provided in the treaty into national legislation.
The international agreements signed by Finland are having an increasing impact on her national legislation. According to Jarmo Kiuru, lecturer in law and informatics, government proposals increasingly state that the purpose of amending a law is to enact obligations imposed on Finland by an international agreement. For example, the government proposal on the Guardianship Services Act (HE 1998/146) referred to the United Nations General Assembly Resolution of 17 December 1991.
Through international agreements, Finland has become part of the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations. This has brought limitations to Finland’s sovereignty, as the legislators are compelled to take into account the provisions of these agreements. At the same time, the agreements have improved the opportunities for civic engagement. Citizens can refer to international agreements and bring actions before the European Court of Human Rights, if they think that the State of Finland has violated their rights.
The impact of Finland in the international community is difficult to quantify. In the European Union, the decision-making process is dependent primarily on the size of a Member State’s population. When the Council of the European Union reaches a decision with a qualified majority, a minimum of 260 votes out of 352 is required. Finland has seven votes in the Council. Of the 766 Members of the European Parliament, 13 are elected from Finland, as determined by its population.
However, all real influence is not based on just figures. For example, Finland's say within the European Union is partly due to its relatively stable economy even though Standard & Poor's has downgraded its rating for Finnish government bonds from the previous AAA. Even so, the prospects for Finland's long-term debt remain steady.
The question remains as to what degree are these auditors, evaluators and credit rating agencies, who operate outside democratic control and international agreements, able to influence national policies.