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Finnish managers disagree about EU

results are revealed in Sitra’s study Disappointments - Finnish Management and the EU

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Press release 16 December 2004 A clear majority of Finnish managers take a favourable attitude towards Finland’s member­ship of the European Union. Nonetheless, there is fairly widespread criticism of the EU and the way it operates. Particularly damning is the criticism of EU bureaucracy. Harmonisation of taxation heads the list of wishes among managers who are reserved in their feelings about the Union. These results are revealed in Sitra’s study Toiveita ja pettymyksiä – suomalainen yritysjohto ja EU [Hopes and Disappointments – Finnish Management and the EU]. The study examines the views of Finnish management on the country’s membership of the EU and the changes that have taken place during the period of membership as well as on managers’ experiences of EU operations and their hopes for the future. In addition, managers assess how well Finnish EU actors have succeeded from a man­age­ment perspective. Criticism has increased during membership Although most managers see Finnish membership of the EU as positive, the proportion of those in favour has dropped. Whereas 72 per cent were favourably disposed before member­ship, the figure is now 62 per cent. The service sector takes a more approving attitude than industry. The EU also seems to have an ideological dimension. Managers believe that membership has brought more benefits to Finnish business as a whole than to their individual companies or branch. Seven out of ten (69%) are of the opinion that membership has had a beneficial effect on the position and competitiveness of Finnish companies but only a third (36%) believe that their own company has benefited. Monetary union good, bureaucracy bad The sigle most advantageous characteristic of the EU is monetary union and the euro. Three out of four (74%) agree with this. A majority also consider that progress has been satisfactory or good with regard to freer competition, increased dynamism and the free movement of labour. Criticism of the EU’s bureau­cracy and decision-making processes, however, is fairly wide­spread. Many are disappointed, too, with the way in which corporate taxation and environ­ment­al regulations, for example, are advancing. Competitiveness and harmonisation of taxation top the list of wishes A lighter EU administration in the future is Finnish management’s principal hope. Practically all (98%) consider this important. All managers in Finland are united on the need for greater European competitiveness (98%) and harm­on­isa­tion of corporate taxes (94%). Even among those critical of the EU more than half support harmonisation of taxes. Things that they do not want to see include EU-wide labour agreements and further steps along the road towards a European federation. Those responsible for influencing matters in Brussels need to wake upCompany managers are lukewarm in their view of the efforts of Finnish EU actors. The Ministry of Trade and Industry is rated highest but even there less than half (38%) regard its efforts as good. Those who have been least successful in promoting the interests of Finnish companies are Finland’s Members of the European Parliament. What is striking is that the category “not good, not bad” includes important Finnish bodies: the country’s govern­ment (43%), business organisations in general (46%) and their branch’s own interest organisation (46%). “The results are interesting”The study has been carried out by Peter Ekholm, who heads Sitra’s Europe 2020 project, and he thinks that the results are interesting. There is relatively little well-researched public in­form­ation about the views of Finnish management. That in itself justifies studies such as this even though management’s enthusiasm to supply answers for the study is no greater than the Finnish pub­lic’s eagerness to vote in the European Parliamentary elections. “Everybody seems to have his own opinion of what management thinks. The European Union has been seen as a corporate affair but this study shows that the picture is much more complex.” Further information Peter Ekholm, Sitra’s Europe 2020 project, tel. +358-9-618 991 Concerning methodology Pentti Kiljunen, Yhdyskuntatutkimus Oy, +358-3-367 7112 Publication details Toiveita ja pettymyksiä – suomalainen yritysjohto ja EU, Peter Ekholm, ISBN 951-37-4360-8, ISSN 1457-571X (Sitra) 52 pages. Sitra Reports 43. Published by Edita Prima Oy. Helsinki 2004. The report (in Finnish) is available free of charge from Sitra, tel. +358-9-618 991, e-mail: julkaisut@sitra.fi. Available also in PDF form at www. sitra.fi> julkaisut.

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