Copyright © Office of the President of the Republic of Finland
In his first New Year’s Speech on 1 January 2013, President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö demanded for sense of justice and social integrity in order for overcoming difficulties. “The power of integrity is the power of overcoming difficulties. We have experienced this before. We have overcome many tougher periods than we are facing now. Is this fundamental Finnish virtue changing somehow? What if the most decisive structural change concerns the structure of our values?”, the President reflected.
President Niinistö warned about an increase selfishness and downright greed. “This is a sign that people’s sense of justice has withered – they might no longer do what is right, but instead seek to maximise their gains. This attitude erodes trust in the community. But we are living in lean times. And thus we must now consider whether there are benefits we can do without. That is the way to build integrity.”
According to President Niinistö, work has always been important to Finns, both as a source of income and as a life value. “All work is valuable. It is likewise valuable to seek work. But it is difficult to understand those who think that this is a society in which one can merely exist – those who consciously choose to not make the most of their opportunities and expect others to put food on their table.”
Boldness for the leaders
According to President Niinistö, we are once again living in an unprecedented and confusing period. The control of the economy is no longer solely in our own hands and no one is entirely sure where the trend is taking us.
“Many severe warnings have been issued in Finland – and some of them are well-founded. I am sure that these warnings have made people feel even more confused. On the one hand, we are afraid of growing unemployment. On the other, we forecast a shortage of workers in the future. Likewise, we demand expenditure cuts while also hoping for an increase in consumption to pave the way for future growth.”
President Niinistö said that Finland is in fact facing two problems that partially overlap and are partially contradictory. “First, the country is becoming indebted – perhaps not at a faster rate, but more carelessly than ever before. Second, our population has never been ageing as it is now and in the next few years. Growth is the only medicine that can cure both of these ills at the same time – but we cannot lull ourselves into believing that we can rely on it alone. We also need solutions that are targeted at each of these problems. And these medicines may be hard to swallow.”
“It is the time for solutions. I encourage all members of government and parliament to be bold. Now, it will not be enough to settle for the lowest common denominator. The Finnish people have rarely punished their leaders for having the boldness to consider matters from a larger perspective.” Much is now expected also from the representatives of labour market organisations, the President added.
No abrupt changes in direction
In a changing world, we must be able to act flexibly across the board – and sometimes fast, as well, the President said. Predictability and consistency are also important in our foreign policy. “Slogans and abrupt changes in direction should play no part in our policy”, President Niinistö emphasised.
“We implement our policy through actions and cooperation. We maintain a strong focus on building relations with not only our neighbouring countries, but also those further away”, the President said. Respectively, he mentioned the Nordic cooperation, which has also expanded to defence, and the economic opportunities that have opened up in the Arctic.
President Niinistö said that Finnishness must not be a barrier. “We must keep Finland open to the world – to help, develop sustainably, trade, build peace and forge relationships. That said, we must not claim that we know and do things better than others. Know-it-alls are not in great demand – in fact, they get the cold shoulder. It is more natural for us to do our part in helping to promote the good and working with others to find effective solutions, both bi- and multilaterally.”
In his speech, the President also reminded of global economic relationships. “The sources of our daily bread are all around the world and we earn it piece by piece. For this reason, we are strengthening the economic dimension of our foreign policy. We aim to do everything in our power to support the international success of Finnish companies and entrepreneurs. It is equally vital to support investments into Finland. All of these aim to maximise Finnish work – the sole foundation of our well-being”, President Niinistö said.