Tarja Kaarina Halonen was elected the 11th President of Finland, and the country's first female head of state, in 2000. Throughout her long and active career in public service, issues such as human rights, democracy, and promotion of equality and social justice have been central themes on her agenda. She has also played an active role in the international solidarity movement.
Born in 1943, Halonen holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of Helsinki. She began her professional life with the National Union of Finnish Students, and then as a lawyer with the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions in 1970. After joining the Social Democratic party in 1971, Halonen was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister three years later. In 1979, she was first elected to Parliament, where she held her seat for five consecutive terms before assuming the Presidency in 2000. She was also a five-term member of the Helsinki City Council from 1977 to 1996.
Halonen served in three cabinets, as Minister of Social Affairs and Health from 1987 to 1990, Minister of Justice in 1990-91, and Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1995 to 2000.
On the international level, Halonen has played an active role at the Council of Europe, first as Deputy-Chair of the Finnish Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly from 1991-1995 and later in the Ministerial Committee. During her term as Foreign Minister, Finland held the EU Presidency for the first time, from July-December 1999.
With approval ratings between 94% and 97%, President Halonen has announced her candidacy for a second term in the 2006 elections.
Source: University Programs and Events Planning Resources, 12/2005