Right of initiative
The Constitution lays down provisions on the right of individuals to participate in and influence the development of society and their living conditions. Pursuant to the Constitution, the public authorities shall promote the opportunities for individuals to participate in societal activity and have a say in decisions that affect them. Finnish citizens entitled to vote have the right to launch an initiative for the enactment of a new act or for amending or repealing an existing act.
Under the Local Government Act, municipal residents and service users have the right to participate in and influence the activities of a municipality. Local councils must ensure that there are diverse and effective opportunities for participation available. All residents of a municipality, as well as corporate entities and foundations operating in the municipality, and those who own or control real property located in the municipality, are entitled to submit initiatives on matters concerning the municipality’s activities. Service users also have the right to submit initiatives in matters concerning the municipal service in question. The provisions of the new Local Government Act concerning participation entered into force on 21 May 2021.
The responsibility for organising health, social and rescue services will be transferred municipalities and joint municipal authorities to 21 wellbeing service counties as of the beginning of 2023. An exception to this is the City of Helsinki, which will remain responsible for organising its healthcare, social welfare and rescue services. Separate provisions have been laid down for Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) on its responsibility for organising tasks related to specialised healthcare in its area.
Under the Act on Wellbeing Services Counties, stakeholders and service users of a wellbeing services county have the right to participate in and influence the activities of their county. County councils shall ensure that there are diverse and effective opportunities for participation. The stakeholders of a wellbeing services county, i.e. the residents, municipalities, corporations and foundations whose domicile or registered office is in a municipality in the county, and those who own or control real property located in the county, have the right to submit initiatives on matters concerning the county’s activities. Service users also have the right to submit initiatives in matters concerning the county service in question.
The Ministry of Justice and the Legal Register Centre are preparing a new online service, where initiatives can be submitted concerning tasks and services that belong to wellbeing services counties. The online service will be introduced in 2023.
The Regulation 2019/788 of the European Parliament and of the Council lays down provisions on the right of EU citizens to participate and to shape EU policy. The European citizens’ initiative enables a minimum of one million EU citizens to call on the European Commission to propose legislation on matters where the Commission is competent.
A European citizens’ initiative may be launched by a group of organisers consisting of at least seven EU citizens of voting age who reside in at least seven different Member States. An initiative is valid if at least one million EU citizens of voting age have supported it by signing a statement of support. The Digital and Population Data Services Agency is responsible for verifying the signatures of Finnish citizens and EU citizens living in Finland.
Instructions for launching or supporting a European citizens’ initiative are available on the website of the European Commission.
Niklas Wilhelmsson, Ministerial Adviser
Ministry of Justice, Department for Democracy and Public Law, Democracy and Elections civic activity participatory rights democracy policy civic society Telephone:0295150348