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I and my wife are happy that you are paying us this state visit. You are visiting Finland at a very special time: This year we celebrate the Centenary of our independence.
The Finland100 slogan is “Together”. Together we celebrate the country that was built together: all citizens, women and men, have contributed to creating the Finnish society.
The centenary has also brought together friends of Finland from around the world. The first international Finland 100 event was in fact in Warsaw in January.
Looking back to one hundred years ago, Finland and Poland were both about to become independent. Next year Poland will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of regaining its independence in 1918.
Regarding cultural life, Poland and Finland have always had strong connections. We are both nations of music, and there is a similarity in the way Fryderyk Chopin and Jean Sibelius put into the language of music the mentality and collective feelings of entire nations.
This year, we are also celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of national heroes in both countries: Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim in Finland and Marshal Józef Piłsudski in Poland. Marshal Mannerheim spent several years in Poland as a commander of the Uhlan regiment in the imperial army, a period he described as the happiest of his life.
Strong ties have brought our countries together for centuries. Today, we are both members of the European Union. Membership in the EU has been an important milestone for us both.
Since 1989 we have witnessed Polish development: the impressive economic growth and dynamism, the modernization of the economy. At the same time Poland is an important partner in the EU and NATO as well as in regional fora.
Currently, the Union faces many challenges, but times of crises are also opportunities for renewal. As members of the EU, we are also members of the same community of values. This is enshrined in the EU Treaties. Common values are the basis for working together in the EU and they are also worth defending.
The history of promoting democratic values including the rule of law and the separation of powers goes far beyond the European Union, however. The Polish Constitution of May 3rd, 1791 was the most advanced of its kind in Europe, and it inspired many others. Upholding this tradition of the Enlightenment is also our duty today.
Today, we have grown used to many things that the EU brings us. We do not always even notice how much the EU touches our lives in a positive way.
At the same time we must work hard to rectify the problems and shortcomings. I firmly believe that any Union worthy of the name must play a strong role in ensuring the security of its citizens. I welcome all the steps taken in that direction and am glad to see that Poland is playing its role.
In the field of security the Enhanced Opportunities Partnership with NATO is very important for Finland. And like Poland, we also want to develop cooperation between the EU and NATO.
One area where work is under way is combating hybrid threats. Finland has been active in this field. One example is the inauguration of the Helsinki Centre of Excellence that took place last month. The participation of Poland in the Centre is very much appreciated.
It is my firm belief that Finland and Poland can further intensify contacts between our countries. This means identifying common interests and working together in search of further possibilities of cooperation. This state visit has been another important step in that direction.
I would like to raise a toast in honour of you, Mr. President, and your spouse, as well as the friendship between Finland and Poland.