President of France Emmanuel Macron and his spouse Brigitte Macron made an official visit to Finland on 29–30 August 2018. The visit was hosted by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö together with Mrs Jenni Haukio.
The visit begun with a welcoming ceremony and a gala dinner in the Presidential Palace on the evening of Wednesday 29 August. The public followed the welcoming ceremony from the Market Square.
President Niinistö and President Macron held their official discussions in the Presidential Palace on Thursday morning. Afterwards the Presidents held a joint press conference which focused particularly on European security.
President Niinistö thanked President Macron for his initiatives saying that he had been waiting for such a discussion for about ten years. “It is extremely important, not only for France, not only for Finland and not only for Europe but for the whole world that Europe begins to assume more responsibility for its own security and its role in the world. In today's world, strength is respected. And if we wish to bring out the topics that we respect, we have to appear strong. This is what it is about in Europe at present, I think. And it is important that you are carrying that flag.”
The circle of security is broken
President Niinistö said that as regards defence, concrete steps are being taken between France and Finland. Finland intends to participate in the European Intervention Initiative put forward by France, a Franco-Finnish Statement on European Defence was published during the visit and the two countries are also preparing a bilateral letter of intent on defence cooperation.
President Niinistö said that he is following President Macron’s recent thoughts about the European security architecture with interest.
“As recently as in the beginning of this millennium, we Europeans felt that we had a circle of security around us. There was a lot of dialogue with the Russians, including talks about visa liberalisation. With Turkey we discussed EU membership. We tried to introduce democracy in North Africa by helping them build schools, hospitals and so on. Such a circle of security was growing around Europe,” said President Niinistö.
“What happened then? We all know that this circle is now broken. And it is excellent that President Macron has now started to think whether it could be rebuilt,” President Niinistö said.
“The mere fact that everyone will know that we Europeans stick together will be an extremely strong strategic tool.”
The Presidents also discussed great power relations. President Niinistö emphasised the significance of an open dialogue with Beijing, Moscow and Washington. With an open dialogue, the voice of Europe will be heard more strongly in the world.
“This meeting has been a great experience for me. You have highlighted the topics that I have been pondering for a long time. We sincerely want to participate in the construction of European security and a Europe that will be heard globally and able to spread its positive message.”
After the press conference, President Macron visited Aalto University together with Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and learned about Finnish innovations. Prime Minister Sipilä and President Macron had a working lunch in Kesäranta, the Prime Minister’s official residence, where they discussed topical EU matters, such as the EMU, migration and EU defence policy. Following their lunch, Prime Minister Sipilä and President Macron held a press conference.
The spouses had their own programme on Thursday. Mrs Jenni Haukio and Mrs Brigitte Macron visited the soon opening New Children’s Hospital in Helsinki and the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. After the visits they had lunch in Mäntyniemi, the President’s official residence.
This was President Macron’s first visit to Finland. President Niinistö’s latest visit to France was in 2015 when he attended the Paris Climate Change Conference. He made an official visit to France in 2013.