The Republic of Finland is a Nordic country with coastlines on the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia and Gulf of Finland. It has land borders with Sweden to the northwest, Norway to the north and Russia to the east. Estonia lies to the south across the Gulf of Finland.
Finland is a parliamentary republic and a highly diversified, modern industrial economy, with a per capita income that is among the highest in Western Europe and a comprehensive welfare state system. It has been a member of the EU since 1995 and was the only Nordic state to join the Euro at its initiation in 1999. Historically, the country has been competitive in manufacturing – principally wood, metal, engineering, telecommunications and electronics industries. It excels in the export of technology and encourages start-ups in information and communications technology, gaming, clean-tech and biotechnology sectors. Exports have accounted for over one-third of Finland’s GDP in recent years.
The geography of the country is explained by the Ice Age and the eroding effects of glaciers, which have left the landscape chiefly flat with few hills and mountains. Coniferous taiga forests and fens cover 78% of the landscape – Finland is the largest producer of wood in Europe. The vast majority of Finns live in the south west of the country and particularly in the capital, Helsinki. The Northern Lights can be seen from the country's Arctic Lapland province, a vast wilderness with national parks and ski resorts.