Finland - Political situation
During the first liberal wave (1988-1997), Finland prepared for European integration, joined the EU and as a result organised a new alcohol policy system. In 1995, a new, more liberal alcohol law (1143/1994) came into force, and during this time a strong public debate was made on the introduction of mild wines into grocery stores.
The issue was also discussed in Parliament. For example, in 1997, a majority of MPs asked in a written question what measures the government intends to take to allow the retail sale of mild wines in grocery stores (KK 308/1997).
The new liberal wave took place in 2013–2018 when the public debate on alcohol policy was marked by the preparation of the new alcohol policy bill by two different governments. The population's alcohol policy opinions changed rapidly and were at its most liberal in 2015 when 40% of the population was in favour of changing the existing alcohol policy and only 38% supported it. At the beginning of 2018, alcohol policy was relaxed with the new Alcohol Act (1102/2017), and the most recent opinion poll from January 2018 showed that 49% of respondents supported the new alcohol policy while only 13% wanted for more stricter alcohol policy. 32% of the respondents still felt that the restrictions on alcohol policy should be relaxed. (Source: Näin Suomi Juo report).
Alcohol Act 2018
The new Alcohol Act was approved by Parliament on 19 December 2017 and by the President of the Republic on 28 December 2017. The new Alcohol Act entered into force on 1 March 2018. Some of the amendments entered into force already on 1 January 2018.
The political work on the comprehensive Alcohol Act reform began in February 2016, when Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Juha Rehula presented his preliminary proposal to the ministerial working group on the promotion of health and wellbeing. The preliminary proposal sought a balance between reducing the negative effects of alcohol and taking into account the needs of the industry.
Next, the parliamentary groups of the government parties discussed the preliminary proposal, and key policies regarding the reform were outlined in further negotiations between the group representatives in May 2016.
At the beginning of November 2016, the ministerial working group on the promotion of health and wellbeing discussed the draft government proposal for an Alcohol Act and other related Acts. The proposal was circulated for comment to all the relevant stakeholders from 22 November 2016 to 16 January 2017, and a summary of the comments was completed in March 2017.
The proposal was finalised in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The government proposal on a new Alcohol Act was submitted to Parliament in September 2017. Parliament adopted the bill on 19 December 2017. The President of the Republic approved the bill on 28 December 2017.
The new Alcohol Act was voted in December 2017 with a result of 98-94 to back the change, even though Parliament’s own committee for social affairs and health, and other lawmakers opposed lifting the limit. Government parties had agreed that MPs could vote according to their conscience and that showed also in a very close result. Final voting took place on December 19 and then the result was 124–65 because at that vote representatives of government parties were bound by group discipline.
Centre Party (Keskusta, seats 49; after 2015 elections; 30 supported the change, 18 was against and 1 were absent)
National Coalition Party (Kokoomus, seats 37; 34 supported the change, 1 was against and 2 were absent) group had made a group decision to vote to raise the level to 5.5%.
Blue Reform (Sininen tulevaisuus, seats 18; supported 12, against 4 and 2 was absent)
Social Democratic Party of Finland (SOSIALIDEMOKRAATIT, seats 35; 1 supported, 33 was against and 1 was absent)
Green League (Vihreät, seats 15; 4 supported, 10 was against and 1 was absent)
Christian Democrats (Kristillisdemokraatit, seats 5; all 5 was against)
Left Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto, seats 12; 1 supported and 11 was against)
Swedish People's Party of Finland (Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue, seats 10; 3 supported and 7 was against)
Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset, seats 17; 13 supported and 4 was against)