The President makes all formal decisions in the Presidential sessions of the Government which is usually held at 11 a.m. on Friday. The Presidential decisions are drafted by the relevant ministry and submitted to the President by the minister concerned. Such a draft is first approved by the cabinet at a meeting usually held at 12 noon on Thursday and then submitted to the President. Each Presidential decision is put in writing in an official document (Government bill, act of Parliament, decree, so-called open letter, letter of appointment, and so on) which is signed by the President and countersigned by the minister concerned. The Government has a duty to implement the President’s decisions.
When the President is deciding on a matter in the Presidential sessions of the Government, at least five ministers and the Chancellor of Justice must be present. This is the prevalent procedure for Presidential decisions. The only exceptions are matters dealt with at in camera presentations and de facto decision-making preceding formal decision-making.
If the President does not agree with a draft decision submitted for his or her approval at the first reading, the decision is returned to the Government for redrafting. On the second reading the President’s decision may deviate from the position of the Government except in legislative matters.
The President makes the following decisions without submittal of a Government-approved draft:
The President decides on military orders and appointments at an in camera meeting where business is presented by the Chief of Defence, and on matters concerning the Frontier Guard upon submittal by the Minister of the Interior. The main rule in both cases is that this is done without the involvement of the Government.
Decisions concerning military orders are made by the President in conjunction with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence, at an in camera meeting where business is presented by the Chief of Defence. As a rule this is done outside the Government. The Minister of Defence is required to be present, whilst the Prime Minister is entitled, but not required to attend and express views at in camera meetings of this kind. The President may, on his or her own initiative or on the recommendation of the Minister of Defence, refer any matter arising at an in camera meeting for decision in the Presidential sessions of the Government, where it is presented by the Minister of Defence. The President’s decisions are then made without any recommendation on the Government’s part as to what the decision should be. The Chief of Defence is entitled to attend meetings of this kind and to express views at them.
The President in conjunction with the Minister of Defence, decides on military appointments at an in camera meeting, where matters are presented by the Chief of Defence. The Minister is entitled, but not required to be present and express views at a meeting of this kind. The President makes in camera decisions on appointments that do not have to be made together with the Government. This includes appointing and assigning officers up to the rank of colonel.
The President decides on Frontier Guard military orders and on the appointment and assignment of Frontier Guard officers up to and including the rank of colonel at in camera meeting outside the Government, with the presentation of business performed by the Minister of the Interior. The Prime Minster is entitled, but not required to be present and express his or her views. Higher officers are appointed and assigned to their tasks by the President at the Presidential sessions of the Government, on the recommendation of the Government as presented by the Minister of the Interior.
The President’s actual decision-making in initiating handling of matters or during their processing must be done in consultation with the Government if what is involved is a significant foreign-policy decision or measure (a speech, a letter, extending or accepting an invitation), but this is done informally. The Government’s input into those of the President’s other decisions and actions in the sphere of foreign policy which are not required to be discussed at the Presidential sessions of the Government can be effected through the cabinet committee for foreign and security policy, other informal consultations or discussions with the Prime Minister and/or one or several other Ministers.
In matters of major and far-reaching significance, it may be necessary to consult with the whole Government, but it is generally sufficient to discuss matters at a meeting between the President and the Cabinet Foreign and Security Policy Committee or to hold discussions with the Prime Minister and/or the Minister in question - in most cases the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The President follows this procedure to discuss such matters as state and official visits abroad or to Finland by a foreign Head of State and meetings of the European Council, at which Heads of State or Government of the European Union countries gather, usually twice a year.