The Ministry of Justice aims to promote a stable rule of law in Finland and especially in its neighbouring areas. International cooperation seeks to reinforce cross-border legal protection, and it also brings new angles to the reform work carried out in Finland.
In the Council of Europe, the Ministry of Justice participates in the development of pan-European rule of law for the purpose of promoting democracy and human rights. Among the most important cooperation forums in the international activities of the Ministry of Justice are also the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the OECD, and the UN. The Ministry’s public officials participate in the work of various committees and working groups of these international organisations.
The legal basis for Nordic cooperation is the so-called Helsinki Treaty, concluded in 1962, which also defines principles for judicial cooperation. The Nordic ministers of justice convene annually, in addition to which ministers from the Nordic countries meet with ministers from the Baltic States every two years.
The Ministry of Justice has agreed on bilateral cooperation programmes with the judicial authorities of Russia, Ukraine and China.
Bilateral cooperation carried out by the Ministry of Justice aims to promote stability in the areas neighbouring Finland and the EU and to support the international rule of law development. The Ministry of Justice has agreed on bilateral cooperation programmes with the judicial authorities of Ukraine and China. In addition, the Ministry of Justice provides expert assistance to other judicial experts in foreign states and participates in bilateral conferences and seminars.
Relations with Russia
Due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Ministry of Justice has limited the scope of its bilateral cooperation with Russia to matters necessary for the legal protection of citizens.
The objective of the Ministry of Justice’s cooperation with Russia is to promote the realization of cross-border legal protection, and the support to the rule of law development in Russia. The Ministry is engaged in cooperation with the Russian Ministry of Justice in areas such as the development of free legal aid, anti-corruption work, development of enforcement and the criminal sanctions system, and provision of international legal assistance in criminal and civil matters. This cooperation has been agreed upon in the 1998 cooperation agreement between the Finnish and Russian Ministries of Justice and in the cooperation programmes based on it. The current cooperation programme covers the years 2019–2021. The Ministry of Justice has also agreed on cooperation in extradition and legal assistance in criminal matters with the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation in the 2006 Memorandum of Understanding.
Promoting judicial reforms in Ukraine
The Ministry of Justice emphasises the importance of judicial reforms in the EU's Eastern Partnership countries, which lay down the foundation for the stability, democracy and good governance of societies. In 2005, the Ministry of Justice concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice. To promote the rule of law development in Ukraine, expert meetings concerning different areas of the judicial sector are organised and information on legislation is exchanged.
Supporting the rule of law development in China
According to Finland’s Governmental Action Plan on China 2021, Finland supports the development of the rule of law in China and the building of its legal system. Since the mid-1990s, Finland has contributed to the structural reforms of China’s judicial system, including the improvement of access to judicial services and the introduction of alternative criminal sanctions. The aim of judicial cooperation is to influence Chinese legal thinking, Chinese legislation and the functioning of the legal system, as well as the legal and ethical choices made in China. Judicial cooperation provides a channel for promoting Finland’s core principles in China. The cooperation provides a practical opportunity to discuss topical issues in China in a solution-oriented manner at different levels of administration. In practice, the cooperation is based on the 1995 cooperation agreement between the Finnish and Chinese Ministries of Justice and the cooperation programmes drawn up under it. The current cooperation programme covers the years 2017–2020/2021.