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

Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Alexander Stubb at the Swedish Parliament, the Riksdag, on 23 April 2024

Sweden and Finland – alike, different, inseparable

Your Majesties,
Distinguished Speaker,
Distinguished members of the Riksdag,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I have never felt more Swedish than I do today.

On one hand, this feeling comes from the warm welcome my wife and I have received from Your Majesties and the entire Royal Family of Sweden. There is no greater honour for the President of Finland than to make the first official state visit to Sweden.

On the other hand, this feeling comes from having the opportunity to speak to all of you here in the Riksdag – in this stronghold of democracy. I have got to know so many of you during all the years we have worked together to promote peace and security in the Nordic countries, Europe and the world.

However, the feeling I have goes deeper than the experience of a state visit or the honour of addressing this assembly. It has to do with our shared identity. We are indeed often alike, sometimes a bit different, but always inseparable. Today – more than ever – we stand together. Sweden’s cause is ours. Finland’s cause is yours.


I have always had a close personal relationship with Sweden. One of my mother tongues is Swedish, or as many here in Sweden call it, Moomin-Swedish. Half of my schooling was in Swedish.

I grew up with Pippi Longstocking, Emil in Lönneberga and The Brothers Lionheart. And it just so happens, that last Saturday I went to see a production of Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter at Svenska Teatern in Helsinki. Yes, Astrid Lindgren has been a part of my life, very much like a member of the family.

Since I was young, I have listened to Eva Dahlgren, Tomas Ledin and Ulf Lundell. My “Heja Sverige” playlist on Spotify contains, among others, Veronica Maggio, Melissa Horn and Hov1.

During the war, my father spent half a year in hospital here in Stockholm. The ferries between Finland and Sweden and the amusement park Gröna Lund in Stockholm are among my first memories. My aunt and cousins live in Skåne. My best man was a friend of mine who lives in Stockholm.


What I am trying to say here is that for us Finns, Sweden has always been our closest neighbour. So close, in fact, that we are still a bilingual country that calls the Baltic Sea ‘Östersjön’ and its historic sea fortress off the coast of Helsinki Sveaborg.

Part of the closeness we feel between our countries has to do with our common perception of security. We have always had an imperialistic neighbour. And I am not referring to Norway. Since the 14th century, Sweden and Finland have waged more than 30 wars with Russia and the threat from the east is one of the factors that has always united us.

In his book The Giant’s Breath, diplomat and political scientist Krister Wahlbäck characterises how our largely similar, but occasionally divergent paths always meet in a reflection of the threat from the east. For us in Finland, the breath has felt uncomfortably close. Always. However, you knew that you could always count on us. It has always been crucial that our countries understand each other and know what the other is thinking.

After reading historian Herman Lindqvist’s book on Field Marshal Mannerheim or his book on Count Axel von Fersen, I notice that there seems to be a correlation between living at the Swedish Embassy in Helsinki and possessing a deep understanding of our common history. Herman Lindqvist lived at the embassy as a child and Krister Wahlbäck as an ambassador. So, I am now looking forward to the memoirs of the current ambassador to Finland, Nicola Clase.


I have told my children about how we share a common history as an empire dating back more than 600 years. Unfortunately, they looked a bit sceptical when I asserted that Finland gave Sweden its independence in 1809. I was also unable to convince them that the Soviet Union came about after Finland declared its independence from Russia in 1917.

However, they do believe me when I tell them that Finland’s identity as a Nordic welfare state has its strongest roots in Sweden. The foundation lies in our common history, our common culture and our common values.

During Russian rule, we explicitly wanted to be different. We were no longer part of Sweden. We had no desire to be Russia. That is why we became Finland. We invested ourselves in establishing our own institutions, our own culture, our two languages. At the same time, the code of judicial procedure continued to form part of the foundation of our legal tradition also during the period of autonomy and after gaining independence.

Throughout our independence, we have maintained our strong ties with Sweden. Your latitude was restricted by neutrality, but taking Finland into account played a key role in this. We aspired to neutrality, not out of our own free will, but out of necessity. For us, the Russia question has always been an existential one. Today, Sweden and Finland enjoy greater latitude than ever before.


Through history, there have also been times when we failed to foresee each other’s intentions. We misunderstood one another or did not share enough trust. In some cases, this was due to differences in communication styles, in others, political cultures. We are also different.

During the Cold War, we were quite similar in many respects, but realities led us to make different choices. After the Cold War, it was Sweden that took the lead and applied for EU membership first. Well, despite the sour grapes, we soon followed suit with our own application.

Both our countries understood straight away that it would be wise to hold a referendum in Finland first. Indeed, for us, the EU was a security policy issue, – even if not everyone said it out loud – and support for membership was consequently higher in Finland than in Sweden. For Sweden, membership had a great deal to do with identity as well as the economy. In the end, the fact that Finland voted first was a successful strategy. Both countries voted yes.

Once we were both in the EU, our countries mostly chose a coordinated position, but occasionally we took different paths. Because Finland wanted to be deeply integrated into the core of the EU, we chose to join the euro area. You may have been a bit more cautious about deeper integration, but that never affected our cooperation. After all, we had so much in common.

Today, as the EU is forced to deal with some protectionist tendencies, it is more important than ever that we work together to ensure a functioning single market, open competition and a strong defence industry, which can also take full advantage of the benefits of the single market. There is so much we can do together at this time of scientific and technological change.


If someone had told me just over two years ago that I would stand here, addressing the Riksdag as President of Finland in a world in which both countries had become NATO members, I would have thought they had a vivid imagination or a limited understanding of foreign and security policy. But here we are. NATO members. Together. Inseparable.

There are many in Sweden who have analysed how, this time, in the NATO process, Finland took the front seat. Perhaps this was the case. The Finnish people convinced their foreign policy leaders that it was time to apply for NATO membership. A hesitant public opinion with a latent readiness to reconsider the issue was transformed overnight into a single-minded pragmatism driven by a desire for self-preservation.  

However, it is impossible to overstate how important it was for us to take this step together. Nor how important it was that we kept each other informed, day and night, at all levels. The situation was critical and we acted accordingly. Finland’s membership was completed on 7 March 2024, when Sweden became the 32nd member of NATO.

For us, the step towards NATO membership was once again based on security policy considerations, or pure realpolitik. For you, it was a question of security too, but the process also involved a great deal of identity politics. To give up what was first a policy of neutrality and then non-alignment, something to which you had adhered for more than 200 years, was a major step, one that required leadership and courage.

I would like to thank you personally, Magdalena Andersson and Ulf Kristersson, for everything you have done to make Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership a reality. You did it together. We did it together. We all understood the importance of never using security policy as a kind of play button for domestic policy. I would also like to thank my long-time friend Carl Bildt, who is sitting in the audience, for everything you have done for Finland over the years.


We now stand at the threshold of a new era. Our NATO membership means that we have taken the final step in adopting the Western community of values, to which I believe we have always belonged.

Our common path does not end with NATO-membership. On the contrary. We are now literally inseparable, particularly with regard to defence and security policy. Consequently, we must continue the integration of our national defences with NATO as well as with each other.

Our shared responsibility for NATO defences in the Baltic region, Arctic region and regions bordering Russia is enormous. Our joint capacity in the air, at sea and on land is an essential part of NATO’s deterrence. This national capacity combined with our NATO and EU membership and the DCA (Defence Cooperation Agreement) with the United States make us more secure than we have ever been in our history.


In Finland, we are currently drafting two Government Reports – one on foreign and security policy and the other on defence. It will be the first time that we draft these reports in this new era of ours.

The post-Cold War era is over. The factors that should have united us all over the world – free movement, trade, technology, energy, information and currency – are now tearing us apart. The tools for cooperation have been transformed into weapons. So history did not end. The rest of the world did not turn out like Sweden and Finland.

We are living in a new world with new realities. This means that we sometimes have to work with countries that do not share our values. This will be reflected in the two Government Reports I mentioned.

We also lay out our NATO profile in the reports. As you know about us Finns, we are not always very talkative, but we always make every effort to do good, solid work. Also within the Alliance, we want our actions speak for themselves. We want to be an active member, not one that fades into the woodwork. We will do our part. Just as Sweden will.

Finland will strive to be a constructive and reliable NATO member. At the same time, we are humble. We understand our responsibilities, we know our capabilities, but we are also aware of the fact that we are new members in the Alliance. All of this means a NATO membership without limitations.

All one has to do is look at the map. Finland’s membership has doubled NATO’s border with Russia. This is precisely why Finland should work to take its place in NATO’s institutional core. And we want to be there together with Sweden.

In my opinion, rhetoric has become increasingly bellicose in recent years. I think you feel the same way. This is, of course, understandable. Our screens are filled with wars in Europe and the Middle East. But this rhetoric easily undermines the sense of security and faith in the future, especially among younger generations.

The best way to avoid war is to talk less and prepare more. Finland and Sweden play a key role in promoting peace. It sounds paradoxical, but that is precisely why we want a strong military and why we joined NATO.


Finland’s foreign and security policy is based on value-based realism. This begins with a strong alliance with the European Union and NATO. At the same time, we are convinced that an international system and peace are still possible through reforming and strengthening the UN. Unfortunately, the veto in the UN Security Council means that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. 

The cornerstones of our foreign policy rest on Western values, such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights. We believe in cooperation and a rules-based international order.

Realism in our security policy means that we maintain a strong defence – now as a part of an alliance. Realism also means understanding that the enormous global challenges we face cannot be tackled only with countries that share our views.


Distinguished Speaker, Riksdag members and Riksdag officers,

As members of the Riksdag, you work every day to preserve the most precious aspect of our countries: democracy. I am very pleased to see the close links between our legislative assemblies.

In the challenging global political climate we live in today, there are also positive developments. One is the relationship between Sweden and Finland, which has become extremely close in recent years.

We are so much alike. We have similar societies and the same goals for how we want to strengthen and develop our countries. Fortunately, we are also a bit different. Differences drive us, inspire us and give us new ideas. More importantly, today we are two inseparable friends, whose relationship is built upon openness and trust. I feel a palpable sense of our inseparable friendship also here today in the Riksdag. For Sweden and Finland – together, now and forever. 

Thank you for your kind attention.

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