President Niinistö at the Kultaranta Talks media event: Will coronavirus unite or separate us?

Photo: Matti Porre/The Office of the President of the Republic

The 2020 Kultaranta Talks weekend began on Friday, 22 May with President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö’s media event. President Niinistö spoke about the coming talks with reporters, who participated in the event via video links.

The theme of this year’s Kultaranta Talks is: After corona – What kind of Finland? In what kind of a world? On Sunday, 24 May, the post-coronavirus period will be discussed on Yle TV1: How do we adapt to the changes that the post-coronavirus world will bring? What can we do to influence the direction of change?

“The purpose is to paint a picture of how we are currently living with coronavirus and how we will live afterwards,” said President Niinistö.

Although the actual coronavirus situation is not the focus of the Kultaranta Talks, President Niinistö emphasised that the pandemic is not over. He stated that although the situation in many European countries seems somewhat reassuring at the moment, and the figures in Finland have also been declining, coronavirus is still spreading in neighbouring countries and the rest of the world. “We are all concerned, of course, about talk of a so-called third wave.”

Existing tensions on display

The working groups that are traditionally part of the Kultaranta Talks met virtually last week. The groups outlined the changes expected in world politics, the economy and Finnish society after the coronavirus pandemic. This work will lay the foundation for the main discussions on 24 May.

President Niinistö said that he had followed the work of the groups and was surprised at how effectively such a large number of people had been able to conduct discussions, even if remotely. “Thanks to the participants, we also had in the working groups significant international input, particularly in terms of geopolitics, but also in terms of the economy, because now this is affecting us all.”

With regard to geopolitics, President Niinistö said that, in addition to concerns and problems, coronavirus seems to have triggered tensions that already existed. “In a way, we have seen a pretty clear dichotomy. The dialogue between the United States and China has intensified and is having repercussions throughout the world.”

At the media event, Niinistö also highlighted the role of the economy and central banks, about which, he considers, doubts have been raised every now and then over the past ten years. “How much new money can be created from nothing? The money supply has grown enormously and this may have misled us into thinking that we are in a seemingly easy situation. Money is available, but with what is this money guaranteed if we travel down this road for an extended period?” The President said that he believes that many good ideas will be heard in the Kultaranta Talks, for example on how to open up the real economy.

What has escaped our attention?

In addition, President Niinistö raised the third theme of the Kultaranta Talks: “The third working group examined society, community, the Finnish entity, in which one key question is how coronavirus has affected us in relation to one another. Has it united or separated us?”

“Karina Jutila, the chair of the working group, raised an excellent question, which is well worth considering: ‘What has escaped our attention?’ There is a danger that coronavirus will dominate our thoughts in such a way that some of its consequences will receive insufficient consideration,” President Niinistö reflected.

President Niinistö stated, however, that he believes that the experiences brought about by the coronavirus pandemic will impact both our world of values and, perhaps, how we view ourselves. “I think quite a few of us have had the experience of going far beyond what we imagined would be difficult.”

Discussion on these topics will continue in more detail on Sunday in the Kultaranta Talks main broadcast, starting at 18.15 on Yle TV1 and Yle Areena. Viewers may also participate in the discussions by sending questions and comments to the address yle.fi/kultaranta.

Video from the media meeting (in Finnish)