Speaker Chapter 3
4-5 May 2023, A Coruña, Spain
11th President of Finland (2000-2012)
Tarja Halonen started her career before graduating, working as a lawyer for the collection agency Luotonvalvonta oy in 1967. A couple of years later she left to become Social Affairs Secretary and General Secretary of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL). In 1970 Halonen was employed by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), becoming the organisation’s first ever female lawyer.
Tarja Halonen was inaugurated in March 2000 on the same day that a new Constitution entered into force. Although the new Constitution limited the powers of the President, she defended her powers with determination, especially in questions relating to foreign policy and in her role as Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces. President Halonen defined her role by stating that the President should be legitimate, strong and cooperative. Halonen handled her military and state duties as meticulously as her predecessors but placed greater emphasis on equality issues and was more straightforward in her conduct.
In March 2002 Halonen was appointed head of the UN Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation.
Halonen was inaugurated for a second term in March 2006 after a tight election campaign. After her victory Halonen announced that she planned to take bolder steps during her second term to address the problems of the welfare society. The start of her second term was dominated by debate about revisions to the Constitution and further limiting presidential powers in favour of the Government. She emphasised social responsibility, equality and the importance of vocational education. Halonen has said that the best thing about her work as President was dealing with issues that are important in the everyday lives of people. During her two terms as President, Halonen made 270 official foreign visits.
During her last years in office President Halonen became more closely involved with UN activities. In 2009 Halonen was appointed Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and in 2011 Chair of the Advisory Council to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Tarja Halonen’s second term as President of the Republic of Finland ended on 1 March 2012. In her last press conference Halonen stated that she would continue to participate in the social debate. “I am the kind of person who always lives in the moment.”
In 2011 Tarja Halonen had a variety of shrub rose named after her, which she herself planted in the Torkkelinpuisto park in Kallio. In 2013 she also had a small park next to the Helsinki City Theatre named after her on the occasion of her 70th birthday.