I congratulate Kazakhstan for organizing this fantastic Astana Expo. I thank President Nazarbayev for inviting me for my third visit to Astana. Finland is proud to participate in the Astana Expo. Personally it is a particular honour to be here for this special event, the National Day of Finland at the Expo.
Finland and Kazakhstan are important partners, both politically and economically. Today Finland is Kazakhstan's biggest trading partner in Northern Europe and, vice-versa, Kazakhstan is Finland's most important trading partner in Central Asia. Our dynamic trade relations provide a good basis for further cooperation in various sectors, including green technology, sustainable development, and education.
This year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence. Like Kazakhstan, we have worked hard during our independence to modernise our country. Today Finland is, among other things, known for its stability, a high standard of living, a clean environment and innovative technologies.
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries. During this period we have become close partners and witnessed the modernisation of Kazakhstan. I want to congratulate our hosts for the success you have achieved both domestically and internationally. The EXPO is a manifestation of your economic dynamism. Internationally Kazakhstan is rapidly rising in prominence. The non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council and hosting the crucial Syria peace talks are good indications of this.
A total of 72 Finnish companies are participating in this Expo. Some of the best know-how and expertise, along with innovations, that my country has to offer are taking part. I firmly believe that the basis of innovations is a solid education and university system. Finland has built one of the best education systems in the world and we are of course more than happy to share our experiences with you.
The general theme of the Astana Expo, “Future Energy”, is of utmost importance. We are facing enormous challenges relating to energy, sustainability and economic development. Most crucially we are facing a rapidly advancing climate change. This is already felt particularly severely in the Arctic which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. If the ice cover and permafrost melts in the North, we will all suffer irreparable damage.
It is a great joy for me to witness the many positive steps on display here at the Astana Expo. After the Expo new opportunities for cooperation will be opened here as the Astana International Financial Centre, the International Centre on the Development of Green Technologies and Investment Projects, and the International Technology Park of IT Start-ups are established.
I am really looking forward to visiting our pavilion, and I would like to invite everyone to do the same. Please join us at our pavilion and celebrate this special day devoted to Finland with us.