President Niinistö at virtual meeting with political journalists: the EU does not choose sides, we are our own side

Photo: Riikka Hietajärvi/The Office of the President of the Republic

President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö met representatives of the Finnish Association of Political Journalists on Tuesday, 16 June 2020. At the meeting, held by remote connection, the topics discussed included coronavirus, the economy and world politics.

In his speech, President Niinistö raised the issues of coronavirus and the state of emergency. The lifting of the powers under the Emergency Powers Act, introduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, was announced on Monday. At the same time, the state of emergency came to an end.

President Niinistö stated that this was the case, as the legal term state of emergency was used. He reminded his audience, however, that caution is still required, because the situation is far from normal. “We certainly continue to live in exceptional circumstances and times. And by this I mean that no bell has rung indicating we can return completely to normal. A degree of caution is certainly still appropriate.”

At the same time, President Niinistö said that he is satisfied with the way that Finland has coped with the coronavirus situation. “I think that it may perhaps have been easier in smaller countries to convey the message of caution and proper behaviour,” he noted.

A need for traditional economic thinking

President Niinistö also continued the discussion of the sustainable economy, which he first raised during the Kultaranta Talks. He considers that particularly now, following the coronavirus pandemic, when indebtedness inevitably will increase, it is important to talk about economic responsibility. The money created by central banks should be offset by work and production, otherwise confidence in the monetary system will diminish.

“It can’t be the case that this additional money is created from nothing and at the same time sinks through debt arrangements into nothing. And that is why I think there is definitely a need for a discussion on how that confidence will be maintained and what we should do about it.”

“I can’t think of anything better than a return, I would say, to traditional economic thinking. This means rigorous economic activity and, above all, that something good comes from work and production,” the President said.

No choosing sides, we are our own side

With regard to world politics and geopolitics, President Niinistö stated that he did not believe that the coronavirus pandemic had changed the direction of development, but had accelerated it. The polarisation of the world and the constant weakening of multilateral cooperation will also be challenges in the future.

According to the President, the United States is currently showing a reluctance to engage in multilateral cooperation. At the same time, China is building its own model for multilateral cooperation. From Russia, on the other hand, we are hearing encouraging words about the importance of multilateralism.

“We who support multilateralism need to be alert to the kind of multilateralism that is now starting to emerge. Because, in terms of the outcome, this will be the most crucial factor,” the President said.

As one of the important dimensions of international cooperation, the President mentioned arms control and Russia’s related P5 Summit initiative. The President stated that he has had the opportunity to speak on the issue with various heads of state. “Particularly with President Macron of France, we talked a lot about how we can support this P5 initiative. To President Putin, I also proposed that Finland is always ready to provide its so-called good offices in this respect.”

According to President Niinistö, it is currently essential to bring the great powers to the same table, even if the outlook for the results of the discussions is not very good. It would also be important for the EU to sit at that table. “Now more than ever we need a European single voice as well as the strong voice of the European Union, where we do not engage in choosing sides, but are indeed our own side,” President Niinistö said.