H.E. Ms. Tarja Halonen was
elected President of the Republic of Finland in February 2000 and assumed
office on 1 March. President Halonen is internationally recognized for
her valuable work in promoting human rights. She has also had a strong
influence in development of the Finnish social security legislation.
Born in 1943, Ms. Halonen holds a Master of Laws degree and is a trade union lawyer by profession. She has long been a prominent figure in the political life of Finland and was a Member of Parliament from 1979 to 2000, as well as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1995 to 2000.
Prior to her career as an MP, Ms. Halonen served as the Social Affairs Secretary and General Secretary of the National Union of Finnish Students from 1969 through 1970. From 1970 until 1979, she was a lawyer with the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, and a member of the Helsinki City Council from 1977 to 1996.
President Halonen's political career started in 1974 when she served as the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary through 1975. After being elected to Parliament, she was Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee (1984-1987), Vice-Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee (1991-1995) and Chairman of the Grand Committee of Parliament in 1995.
President Halonen has played an active role in the Council of Europe, first as Vice-Chairman of the Finnish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly from 1991 to 1995, and, later, in her capacity as the Minister for Foreign Affairs during the Finnish presidency of the Council of Europe Ministerial Committee in 1997. She was a member of the Council's Committee of Wise Persons for 1998-1999.
Among her ministerial assignments, President Halonen served as Minister at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (1987-1990), as Minister of Justice (1990-1991), as Minister for Nordic Cooperation (1989-1991), and as Minister in charge of gender equality (1989-1991).
President Halonen has paid close attention to human rights, democracy and civil society issues. She is interested in theatre and has held several positions of trust in the theatrical field. Children's and young people's theatre is close to her heart. Her other interests include the history of arts, and she herself does some painting and drawing. She has also been involved in rhythmic competition gymnastics and has served as a member of the Board of the Finnish Gymnastics and Fitness Association.
Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information
DPI/2144/A - August 2000