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The growing demand for different minerals and metals, combined with their rising prices on the international market, has made Finland more attractive to the mining industry. As a result, it has become apparent that Finnish mining legislation, notably the Mining Act, is in need of reform.
Parliament has passed two new national public procurement laws in order to implement two EU directives on procurement procedures. The new national procurement legislation explicitly enables the contracting authorities to take environmental criteria into consideration. It is hoped that the implementation of the directives will lead to increased use of environmental criteria in public procurement in Finland.
The Finnish government has issued new emission limit values for the discharge of waste water. The decree prohibits installations from releasing dangerous substances into a body of water or into the sewers of water supply and sewerage installations. The targeted substances are primarily used as solvents in the chemical and metallurgic industries.
A new interpretation of the concept of waste by the Supreme Administrative Court may lead to new opportunities for waste producers. Previously, the prevailing guidance on whether material should be considered as waste or a by-product came from two European Court of Justice cases featuring Finnish enterprises.
Finland has reviewed its national decree implementing the EU Large Combustion Plants Directive (1988/609/EEC) in order to include amendments made in 2001 regarding the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants.
Finland has finally implemented Directive 2004/44/EC on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds due to the use of organic solvents in certain paints, varnishes and vehicle-refinishing products, which controls the VOC emissions caused by paints. However, in practice the new implementing decree will apply to only a small fraction of the paint products on the Finnish market.
The environmental authorities have identified approximately 20,000 sites in Finland that are potentially contaminated to the extent that they need to be cleaned up so as not to cause any harm or danger to health or the environment. In recent decisions the Supreme Administrative Court has ruled that the party which possesses the property when the authorities detect contamination is liable for restoration.
Overseas companies often use branch offices to expand into new markets due to their relative simplicity and cost efficiency. The role of branch offices in potential insolvency situations is a significant issue for the creditors of such companies. In the event of Finnish bankruptcy proceedings involving a branch office of a foreign company, the Bankruptcy Act regulates the opening of proceedings.
According to the Supreme Court, a debtor's obligation to cooperate and disclose information is remarkably wide in its scope. Therefore, it is necessary that this obligation is specified in detail when a threat of enforcement measures is imposed. Fulfilment of the obligation should be possible with reasonable efforts.
Under the Bankruptcy Act, the bankruptcy estate must liquidate the assets of the estate in the manner most advantageous to the estate. The bankruptcy estate has the right to sell the collateral belonging to the estate only with the secured creditor's consent or, in the case of disagreement regarding the liquidation, if a court grants its permission.
Section 6 of the Act on the Recovery of Assets to a Bankruptcy Estate sets out the rules regarding the setting aside of gifts or gift-like transactions. This provision can have a significant impact on transactions that take place within a corporate group, or that are otherwise affiliated with a corporate group.
The opening of a secondary proceeding changes the lex concursus with regard to the assets which are within the scope of territorial secondary proceedings. This update introduces the key issues relating to the provisions in applicable Finnish legislation which regulate the priority of claims and the setting aside of transactions, which should be considered when a request for the opening of a secondary proceeding in Finland seems appropriate.
A Finnish debtor declared bankrupt in Finland may have foreign creditors and business partners. It is not uncommon that a transaction between an insolvent Finnish debtor and a foreign counterpart may give rise to a claim for recovery of assets. In such cases, the forum for handling the recovery claim will have a significant impact on both the bankruptcy estate as the claimant and the foreign counterpart as the defendant.
The Supreme Court recently questioned whether a savings life insurance policy was attachable when at the time of the attachment proceedings the policy had been in force for over 10 years, while considering that a precautionary seizure of the policy had been enforced before the 10-year period had elapsed. The court held that attachment and precautionary measures are different instruments.
The Nordic marine insurance market recently became standardised when the Nordic Marine Insurance Plan 2013 entered into force. The plan 2013 includes amendments and new clauses whereby references to Norwegian legislation have been deleted and adjusted to work in accordance with Danish, Finnish and Swedish legislation. It is not mandatory for insurance contracts parties, but they can modify any part of it.
As part of broader reforms to improve adaptation to climate change, the slow and complex state compensation system for flood damages will be abolished. State funding will come to an end in regard to damages caused to buildings and movables, and will be replaced by flood insurance offered by insurance companies.
The Insurance Court recently ruled that in order to fulfil the requirements of equal treatment imposed under EU Regulation 1408/71, parental allowance must be calculated by taking into account the income of an individual who is similarly employed in Finland and with comparable experience and qualifications.
The rate of payment defaults has been increasing in the last few years. The Insurance Contract Act was amended in 2010 in order to prevent insurance applications being rejected solely on the basis of applicants' public credit records, which are available from the public data registry. Such a rejection is acceptable only if the insurer can objectively assess that the applicant is likely to default on its payments in future.
The insurance industry must comply with good insurance practice. Usually, disputes are decided directly under the law and applicable insurance conditions. However, in some cases which are open to interpretation, good insurance practice may be the decisive factor. The Insurance Complaints Board's practice demonstrates that good insurance practice can sometimes be worth money to the claimants.
The government's initiative to tackle the grey economy has focused on the transport sector – especially on the transportation of goods by road. Several amendments to the Act on Commercial Transport of Goods by Road recently came into force, one of which increases the onus on a procurer of haulage services to ensure that the transportation contract is not concluded before it has made certain checks.
The Finnish Port Operators Association has repeatedly turned down the Transport Workers Federation's (AKT) demand that the lashing and unlashing of containers - traditionally undertaken by the vessel's own crew - be carried out by stevedores. In a recent decision the Labour Court found the AKT's threat that stevedores would take over the lashing work from February 4 2013 to be an illegal industrial action. Negotiations to settle the dispute are ongoing.
A Finnish appeal court recently dismissed criminal charges against the master and first mate of a vessel who had been fined for failing to ensure that their ship was seaworthy prior to a voyage from Germany. While the vessel's cargo of explosives had not been transported in accordance with the applicable regulations, the appeal court found that this had caused no risk to life and thus did not constitute a criminal offence.
In 2011 Finland and Sweden entered into a bilateral convention to strengthen the organisation of winter navigation services. The arrangement has enabled icebreakers to operate effectively and economically, to the benefit of both parties. The success of this cooperation hinges on careful planning by the authorities.
The Finnish Seaman's Union (FSU) has long subjected foreign flagged vessels to harassment. If a foreign vessel that applies a collective bargaining agreement which the FSU dislikes calls at a Finnish port, the FSU tends to claim the right to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement for the vessel. The FSU has almost never sought a mandate from the crew, but claims that it has a right to negotiate.
Despite efforts to encourage competition, Finland has remained one of the few EU countries where the goods transport network was operated by a single railway company. However, the first safety certificates were issued to private companies in 2011 and the Ministry of Transport and Communications recently issued a licence to Ratarahti, making it the first new official operator since the sector was opened to competition.