Weather might be cold outside but a clear sign of spring is this annual get-together with the diplomatic community in Finland. It is always a pleasure to host this dinner and this year makes no exception.
And perhaps today we share an even more special feeling than usually. As you know, Finland is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its independence. In years Finland is still young, although in fact it belongs to the oldest third of independent states in the world.
Your presence here today bears witness to the historical depth of our ties with the world. I am happy to note that we get to celebrate our anniversary as a member of such a vibrant and global diplomatic community.
As always, I want to thank you for the invaluable work that you undertake to build relations between Finland and your countries. Your presence and your efforts are very much appreciated. I and my cabinet have worked with many of you over the past year. We are always open to further contacts and collaboration. The same applies to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs as well.
Our times seem to call for quick results and decisive victories. Yet we all know that lasting results only come about through hard and dedicated diplomacy.
As I have noted here before, the essence of diplomacy is dialogue. Not only talking but also listening: In addition to making your case you must make an honest effort to try to understand the vantage point of your partner. You do not always have to agree but you must show due respect. The assurances of our highest consideration that we repeatedly exchange are not mere words but a binding commitment to conduct an open and honest dialogue. This, if any, is the enduring wisdom of diplomacy. It is also the guiding principle of Finnish foreign policy.
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The past year has been one filled yet again with a stream of seemingly unforeseen events. I am saddened to note that too few of them have been positive ones. Terrorist acts have become a recurring event also in Europe.
Finland is not sitting idle waiting for the events unfold. We have adopted three governmental reports, one on foreign and security policy, second on internal security and the most recent one on defence policy.
In these documents we have sought to portray a clear-eyed reading of our changing security environment while combining it with a can-do attitude towards charting a course forward for the country and indeed the wider European region.
For me the key messages of the foreign and security policy report read as follows: “Finland actively improves the stability of security in its vicinity” and does so by pursuing “an active policy of stability to prevent military threats.”
Active stability policy might sound like a contradiction in terms but it is not: In a rapidly changing and to a large degree worsening security environment sitting on our hands is not an option. On the contrary, we must all accept that security begins at home and make sure that we are adequately prepared for any eventualities. Ensuring that this will be the case in Finland is the main task of the internal security and defence policy reports. We want to send a strong message that we take our national security very seriously.
At the same time we must all keep in mind that lasting peace will never grow out of the barrel of a gun. It is our common responsibility to uphold co-operative forms of security.
Finland will do its part. We have been steadfast in defending the principles and structures underlying European security and stability. Finland has also done and will continue to do its share to alleviate regional tensions. Our tradition of respectful dialogue will endure. The initiative for Baltic Sea air safety is a manifestation of this. I want to thank everyone who has played a role in enabling the work done under its auspices to become a success.
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Luckily the world is not all doom and gloom. We must never lose sight of the positive aspects of life. One of them are gatherings like this dinner tonight that allow us to come together. I would like to propose a toast to diplomacy, dialogue and the continued success of our relations.