Caption: Children greeting the Icelandic presidential couple with flags. Photo: Juhani Kandell/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland
The Arctic Council, Brexit, Nordic cooperation and the global security situation were among the topics discussed when the President of the Republic of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, met with the President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, at the Presidential Palace on 15 May 2018. The President of Iceland and his spouse Eliza Reid were on a state visit to Finland from 14 to 17 May 2018.
Finland currently holds the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council and will be succeeded by Iceland. “Finland has highlighted the importance of restricting black carbon emissions in the Arctic region. I have often said that if we lose the Arctic, we lose the globe,” President Niinistö stated in a press conference after the discussions.
President Niinistö said that the administrations of the two countries are working very closely together and helping each other due to the successive chairmanships: “You have raised the issue of sea pollution and especially plastic waste. We wish you all the best in tackling that problem and we are willing to help.”
Concerns over global security
The Presidents discussed the security situation both globally and in the nearby regions. President Niinistö described the situation as worrying. President Niinistö discussed the consequences of the United States withdrawing from the United States-Iran Nuclear Agreement: “The withdrawal of the United States might badly hurt transatlantic relations, and this would have an impact that is hugely wider than just Iran or the Nuclear Agreement.”
Equality is the recipe for success
Both Presidents talked about the success of the Nordic countries, the Nordic brand and the significance of gender equality. “We still have so many things to do better. But when people ask us how come we in the Nordic countries are doing so well, we can answer that gender equality is one very important factor for making our countries successful. If you want to succeed, adopt policies that strengthen gender equality,” President Jóhannesson stated.
President Jóhannesson and President Niinistö are both Impact Champions in the HeForShe campaign run by UN Women, a UN organisation dedicated to gender equality. The campaign promotes gender equality and encourages men and boys in particular to become engaged in gender equality issues. “Together, we are trying to advance the status of women and girls globally,” said President Niinistö.
The Arctic matters
On 15 May, President Jóhannesson met with the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament, Paula Risikko, and the Prime Minister of Finland, Juha Sipilä. The day was concluded with a gala dinner hosted by President Niinistö and Mrs Jenni Haukio at the Presidential Palace.
On Wednesday 16 May, the Presidents visited the icebreaker Urho where they attended a roundtable discussion on Arctic matters.
The discussions focussed on the global significance of the Arctic region. President Niinistö noted the importance of being ready for the increasing interest in Arctic matters outside the eight Arctic Council Member States. The President emphasised that environmental protection is the most important theme concerning the Arctic region. Concrete progress is more important than words. The Arctic Council has a leading role in promoting this hands-on cooperation.
Other speakers also noted the importance of peace in the region and that the region’s development must be sustainable. The region’s ice extent is only half of what it used to be 50 years ago. Plastic debris, which Iceland has chosen as a central theme for its Chairmanship, also poses a threat to the Arctic region.
After the discussions, the Presidents were given a tour around the icebreaker Urho while Timo Aaltonen, Master of icebreaker, told them about the operation and history of the icebreaker.
President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson also participated in a seminar organised by the Confederation of Finnish Industries and the Federation of Icelandic Industries, gave a lecture at the University of Helsinki and visited the Me & MyCity learning environment. In the evening, the Icelandic presidential couple hosted a reception at the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki.
On Thursday 17 May, the state visit continued in Turku where the Icelandic presidential couple visited the Visitor and Innovation Centre Joki, Startup Community SparkUp, University of Turku, Turku Castle, Åbo Akademi University and Forum Marinum Maritime Centre.
President Niinistö visited Iceland in autumn 2014 and made a state visit there in May 2013.
Video: Joint press conference