President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö made his first visits to municipalities to Taipalsaari and Tampere by remote connection on Wednesday, 10 June 2020.
The exceptional spring has impacted Finns in many ways. On the visits, the discussions focused on the local experiences of municipalities of different sizes in adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, the present situation and other issues of current interest.
Teleworking, leisure tourism and nature attractions in Taipalsaari
Chairman of the Municipal Council Heikki Niiva, Chairman of the Municipal Board Jarmo Turunen and Mayor of Taipalsaari Kari Kuuramaa welcomed President Niinistö at the Sarviniemi hiking area. Discussions on current issues in the municipality went well from Kultaranta’s Munkkimäki terrace and sitting in a holiday village lean-to shelter.
The topics of discussion included the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The situation in Taipalsaari has been very calm throughout the spring. “We have 3,000 leisure homes. The closure of the Uusimaa border was reflected in the fact that leisure home residents did not arrive to the same extent as in a normal spring. But there was certainly the feeling that people would have liked to work remotely from here,” said Mayor Kuuramaa, adding that teleworking by people who live elsewhere has generally increased in Taipalsaari.
There were also talks on the Kutila Canal, connecting Suur-Saimaa and Pien-Saimaa at Taipalsaari, eastern border tourism and the importance of Saimaa.
Managing Director Hanna Ollikainen and Coordinator Mari Matikainen of the South Karelia Foundation for Recreation Areas presented the Sarviniemi hiking area to President Niinistö. In addition to good swimming spots and hiking trails, the 7.5-hectare Sarviniemi recreation area offers, among other attractions, a Geopark, where visitors can see how the landscape has changed from the age of continental glaciers to the current archipelago.
Following excellent discussions and a successful virtual visit, Chairman of the Municipal Council Niiva extended a warm invitation to President Niinistö for a future physical visit to Taipalsaari when the virus situation so allows. If only to play pond hockey on the Saimaa ice.
“I agree with your wish that you hope I can visit – I hope so, too. I would like to wish you and all the people of Taipalsaari a very sunny summer and, above all, a sunny future. We will solve these problems, for sure. That is quite clear. Even more experienced and perhaps even a little wiser going forward,” said President Niinistö at the conclusion of the visit.
Adapting to the coronavirus situation, and new opportunities in Tampere
In Tampere, President Niinistö had discussions with Chairman of Tampere City Council, Member of Parliament Anna-Kaisa Ikonen and Mayor of the City of Tampere Lauri Lyly on, among other issues, the impact of coronavirus on the city’s activities and economy. According to Mayor Lyly, coronavirus inflicted a heavy blow on the economy that will be felt for a long time to come. Major projects, such as Tampere Tramway and the new arena are proceeding on time, however, and the focus is on the recovery.
There were also discussions on the event economy and the outlook for industry and exports. According to Lyly, there are also positive aspects to the coronavirus situation: functions have been renewed and the digital leap made can be utilised in several different sectors in the future.
The coronavirus situation in Tampere has remained under control throughout the spring. President Niinistö praised Tampere’s proactive preparedness for disruptions, which had already been intensified following the Nokia water crisis. “There’s no loss for which we should not fully prepare. On the contrary, such a skill is important,” observed the President. Ikonen, in turn, praised the Tampere residents’ own sense of responsibility: “Instructions have been followed magnificently.”
In addition, remote contact was made with representatives of the Tampere University Community, which consists of the University Tampere and the Tampere University of Applied Sciences. In the discussion, with President of the University of Tampere Mari Walls, President of the Tampere University of Applied Sciences Markku Lahtinen, University of Tampere Vice President (Education) Marja Sutela, University of Tampere Vice President (Research) Juha Teperi, and Chair of the Board, Student Union of Tampere University TREY Annika Nevanpää, President Niinistö learned about current issues in higher education as well as coronavirus research.
The coronavirus crisis has affected the daily lives of the university community and its approximately 30,000 students in many ways. Among other things, studies, examinations and research were rearranged to be carried out remotely. Although the transition has felt natural, particularly for students, the lack of interaction has been reflected in, for example, the creativity of the researchers and the community spirit of the students. President Niinistö said that he was impressed that, despite the challenges, the students had embraced the coronavirus recommendations as instructive guidance: “I believe that this is highly important at this stage of life.”
Municipal visits continue on Friday
After the municipal visits, President Niinistö also met the media by remote connection. The President stated to the media that although it was the first time that the remote visits had been made, the experience proved to be a success.
“Today, the purpose was to visit a small municipality, Taipalsaari, and a large city, Tampere. Although the concrete issues we discussed were pretty much different, I found so much that was similar. By that I mean the atmosphere and the determination. There was exactly the same spirit in Taipalsaari and Tampere: let’s look forward,” observed President Niinistö.
The President of the Republic’s virtual visits to municipalities continue on Friday, when remote connections will be made to Suonenjoki and Seinäjoki.