It has been a great pleasure for us to welcome you to Finland for this state visit. Iceland is a country we Finns have always felt great friendship for. Despite the geographic distance, we have a lot in common. We share the same values and a very similar mentality.
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We are also connected by history. A century ago Finland and Iceland entered the political map of Europe. Last year Finland celebrated the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence.
This year it is Iceland’s turn to celebrate a centenary. Building on your history over a thousand years, the 1918 Act of Union recognized Iceland as a sovereign state. It was an important milestone paving the way to Iceland’s independence in 1944. Let me congratulate you warmly on this special year, also on behalf of the Finnish people.
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Today the relations between Finland and Iceland are better than ever. Our Nordic identity is at the heart of our cooperation. We are proud of being part of the same Nordic family – or as we discussed today, of being almost in the hard core of it. It is a connection that we must cherish in the future, too.
The bilateral trade between Finland and Iceland is growing but there is still a lot of potential to enhance our trade relations further. I hope that the new trade agreement between Iceland and the EU will contribute to this growth. In addition, I am convinced that the meetings your business delegation has with their Finnish counterparts during this state visit will create new avenues for deeper cooperation between our countries.
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Arctic issues are a top priority for us both. We share the same goal: a peaceful, prosperous and environmentally sustainable Arctic. Reaching this goal is in the global interest, but it requires regional means. And regional solutions can have an impact even beyond the Arctic agenda. It is my firm belief that a cooperative atmosphere in the Arctic will also benefit the world at large.
Right now we have a great opportunity and responsibility to develop this cooperation together. Finland is currently chairing the Arctic Council and will hand the chairmanship over to Iceland next year. We will work closely together to ensure a smooth transition. In the meantime, we count on Iceland’s continued support for our chairmanship efforts.
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Mr. President, dear Gudni, the two of us also share a passion for football. Our national teams played in the same qualifying group for the upcoming World Cup. But only Iceland proceeded to qualify for this summer’s main event. The reason is surely that we in Finland do not have the habit to qualify for any tournaments.
We will not hold this against you. On the contrary, you already won over the hearts of the Finnish football audience with your impressive performance at EURO 2016, both on and off the pitch. We hope to hear and see the “Viking clap” of the Icelandic fans many times during the World Cup. I wish you the best of luck in the tournament. Áfram Island!
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I would now like to propose a toast to His Excellency, President Gudni Thorlacius Jóhannesson and Madame Eliza Reid.