Freedom of association doctrine in Finland

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Neuvonen, Riku
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School of Law, University College Cork
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Finland has been called the promised land of associations. There are numerous associations in Finland in proportion to the population, and almost every Finn belongs to one or more. Despite or because of the number of associations, research on the legal status of associations has been focused on technical details and on the activities of associations. There is neither a contemporary nor a particularly developed doctrine of freedom of association. The most important distinction is between registered associations and non-registered associations. A registered association is a legal entity. Freedom of association is guaranteed in the Constitution of Finland. Finland is committed to international treaties of the United Nations and to the European Convention on Human Rights. It is also a member of European Union. In Finland, freedom of association means the right to form an association without a permit and the right to be a member of one or more associations. Freedom of association also means the right not to join any association and the right to resign, whenever one wishes, from an association that one has joined. Associations enjoy internal freedom of activity, which means that they have the right to independently draft their rules, within the framework of law, and decide on their internal operations. The most important norm regulating association activities is the Association Act (503/1989). Associations can be of all kinds in Finland. All trade unions and other interest organisations are associations. It is noteworthy that the Finnish word for trade union is ammattiyhdistys.4 Therefore, the Finnish word for an association, yhdistys, is part of the definition. An association is the natural way to organise activities in Finland. In this paper, freedom of association is analysed as part of Finnish constitutional doctrine. In Finnish constitutional law, the monitoring of the constitutionality of legislation differs from many other countries. Similarly, in Finland, the fundamental rights doctrine has developed in a peculiar way. In section 2 of this paper, freedom of association is combined as part of the Finnish Constitution and fundamental rights. The nature of the fundamental right of freedom of association and the Finnish doctrine of fundamental rights explains the regulation of associations and the possibilities for changes. The Finnish Associations Act and the practical regulation of associations are discussed in section 3. The regulation of political parties and religious associations is brought up for special consideration. Regarding the latter, there are problems with such regulation from the religious freedom viewpoint. Section 4 focuses on compulsory membership of university student unions. This is a significant exception to the principles of freedom of association and probably a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Chapter five reviews the changes in Finland's freedom of association that have resulted from legal practice.
Freedom of association , Finland
Neuvonen, R. (2024) ‘Freedom of association doctrine in Finland’, Societās Working Paper 11/2024 (18pp). Cork: School of Law, University College Cork.
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© 2023, the Author. Views expressed do not represent the views of the Societās project or the School of Law at UCC.