President of the Republic Tarja Halonen took part in the official opening of events commemorating the year 1809 at the Swedish Parliament together with the King and Queen of Sweden and the Crown Princess. Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and Speaker of Parliament Sauli Niinistö also represented Finland on this occasion. President Halonen and Dr Pentti Arajärvi made an official visit to Sweden on 15-16 January 2009 at the invitation of the King of Sweden. President Halonen described the visit as very warm and rewarding. Finland and Sweden have cooperated closely in the EU during the past 14 years and President Halonen considered the visit "a revival of the Nordic family" for both. President Halonen particularly thanked the King and Queen of Sweden, who served as hosts on both days.
On Thursday, 15 January President Halonen spoke at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm. "Finland's foreign and security policy is based on a broad concept of security. Peace is seen as a much more extensive concept than a mere absence of war. Peace means development, human security, respect for human rights, democracy and a well-functioning society," President Halonen said in her speech.
President Halonen emphasized Nordic cooperation in crisis management and in the Baltic Sea region. "Maintaining and strengthening the stability of the Baltic Sea region are a matter of importance to Finland. We are committed to work for the development of political, economic and environmental cooperation throughout the Baltic Sea region," she said. The Nordic countries can promote common aims at several forums, such as the UN, the European Union, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and NATO.
On Thursday President Halonen also met with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. They discussed Sweden's coming presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2009 as well as issues involving the Baltic Sea and climate. They also exchanged views on the Gaza conflict. In the evening the programme included a banquet at the Royal Palace.
Commemoration turns eyes to the future
On Friday, 16 January President Halonen visited the municipality of Botkyrka. The Sweden-Finnish school in Botkyrka has 140 pupils in day care, kindergarten and grades one through nine. In 2001 the school's pupils sent President Halonen a hand-drawn invitation, which she now had the opportunity to accept.
At the school President Halonen also met representatives of organizations established for Finns living in Sweden. She expressed her desire to continue discussions with organizations concerning linguistic, cultural and identity issues in Finland as well. She especially hoped that the 1809 commemoration will turn eyes to the future and help develop linguistic and cultural identity.
Under the guidance of the King and Queen, President Halonen and Dr Arajärvi learned more about activities in multicultural Södertälje, which has numerous residents who were born in Finland. Södertälje, with its large immigrant population, is a vigorous municipality with lots of small businesses and a young age structure. President Halonen also talked with representatives of the Roma, Iraqi and Assyrian minorities in Södertälje and toured the facilities of AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company.