President Niinistö at the Munich Security Conference: Finland and Sweden’s NATO memberships will strengthen the whole Alliance

President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö attended the Munich International Security Conference from 17 to 18 February 2023. The President’s programme during the weekend included several important meetings, as well as a panel discussion on European security. In addition, President Niinistö gave a speech at a dinner event where Finland and Sweden were awarded the Ewald von Kleist Award for their historic decision to apply for NATO membership.

On Saturday, President Niinistö participated in a panel discussion on the main stage of the conference together with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President of Moldova Maia Sandu and Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen. The topics discussed were NATO, security and partnerships in Europe.

Regarding the NATO membership process, President Niinistö said that Finland’s vision is crystal clear. “We have submitted our applications with Sweden, expressing our will and desire to join NATO,” the President said. We cannot withdraw our application. “It is up to Turkey to decide whether they want us [as a member].”

On Saturday evening, President Niinistö delivered the acceptance speech at the Ewald von Kleist Award ceremony.

In his speech, President Niinistö said that before 24 February last year many of us had started to take peace for granted. “Many of us had let our guard down. That all changed.”

“It has become very clear that peace, security and rules-based international order are something that we have to actively uphold, and be prepared to protect. The renewed focus on security and defence in Europe will benefit transatlantic security as a whole. It will make us better partners, and stronger Allies.”

In Finland, we had not let our guard down, but we made the decision to apply for NATO in close coordination with Sweden. “Many offered their support and intensified cooperation. The application period – the so-called grey period – has not been cold or grey. On the contrary. The warmth and the sense of unity have been overwhelming.”

“Our NATO memberships are still two ratifications short of completion. I want to stress that it is very important that at the Vilnius Summit in July, we will both sit at the table as full NATO members. In these critical times, Finland and Sweden’s memberships will strengthen the whole Alliance.“

The event was also attended by Prime Minister Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson and former Prime Minister of Sweden Magdalena Andersson.

Important meetings

During the conference, President Niinistö’s programme included several important bilateral meetings. Topics discussed at the meetings were security in Europe, Russia’s war of aggression, support for Ukraine and Finland’s NATO membership.

On Friday, President Niinistö discussed with Defence Secretary of the United Kingdom Ben Wallace and President of France Emmanuel Macron, among others. On Saturday, President Niinistö met Prime Minister of Norway Jonas Gahr Støre, Federal Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz and President of Moldova Maia Sandu. Together with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, the President also met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, as well as with Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak.

In addition, the president met with Democratic and Republican U.S. Senators on both Friday and Saturday.

Organised since 1963, the Munich Security Conference is a discussion forum that seeks to promote conflict resolution, international cooperation and dialogue. The conference brings together foreign and security policy decision-makers from around the world, including some 45 heads of state and government and nearly 100 ministers.