Kultaranta Talks 2023 started with focus on the geopolitical situation, superpower competition and Finland’s security and international position

Photos: Matti Porre/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

Photos: Matti Porre/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

The Kultaranta Talks, hosted by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö, started on Sunday 18 June 2023 at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki. This year, the discussion event is entitled “Tougher competition, deeper divisions – How will Finland respond to new global challenges?”.

In his opening speech, President Niinistö highlighted Finland’s strengthened security situation. “Through determined work, we have succeeded in strengthening the security of Finland and the Finns and our international position in a situation in which the world around us has become more insecure and unstable. This is no small achievement,” he said.

President Niinistö said that Finland joined the defence alliance NATO, standing strong and unified. “The conditions for joining the alliance were historically favourable for us. In Finland, there was an extensive consensus on the matter. Russia had its attention elsewhere. NATO was ready and willing to welcome us in a rapid schedule. And Sweden was now also ready to move together with us.”

According to the President, it contributed to our rapid accession that we had been making determined long-term efforts to enhance our defence capability and build our NATO compatibility. “We had built the readiness to take action the moment securing Finland’s security so demanded.”

The future of global order

In his speech, the President underlined that Finland and the Western community will continue their strong support for Ukraine, as the future of Ukraine and Europe is being forged in the merciless furnace of war.

“Not only because Ukraine is a sovereign state that has been subjected to a cruel and illegal war of aggression. But also, because the outcome of the war has direct impact on what the future security order in Europe will be like and on what also our position in the world will be,” he said. “Only a sustainable and just peace in Ukraine can lay the foundation for a future in which the rules of international justice are observed and where the big do not consider it their privilege to subjugate the small.”

The President said that the West is used to being the one showing the way, expecting others to follow its example. However, the popularity of the Western model of democracy has declined, and only about a quarter of the world population lives in what we call Western democracies. For example, the attraction of the BRICS group is growing, and 19 countries have expressed their interest in joining the group. If this were to happen, the group would represent more than half of the world’s population.

The President also referred to the relationship between China and the United States, which, according to him, is a big and far-reaching issue. “If it were to seriously exacerbate, or even to evolve into a crisis, it would be disastrous to the whole world. This is the overall picture through which we must navigate, and these are the kind of questions we will also examine at the Kultaranta Talks.”

He pointed out that we also need to talk with those who see the world differently from us. “We cannot consider sharing our worldview a prerequisite for dialogue and cooperation.”

Almost 100 participants from different sectors of society took

After the President had held his speech, it was time for discussion. This year, about a hundred guests from various sectors of society were invited to take part in the Kultaranta Talks. In the first comment to the speech, Prime Minister Sanna Marin highlighted the concern about and the need to discuss Finland’s technological capabilities and competence. According to her, the dependencies that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic raised the question of whether we are sufficiently prepared in the field of technology.

Iikka Korhonen, Head of Research at the Bank of Finland, asked the President of the Republic in which ways Finland, the EU and the West could, for example, make “countries sitting on the fence” and BRICS countries look more in the same direction as the West. According to the President, you can make friends by treating the other party in an equitable manner and by making every effort to understand the background factors from which the different kind of thinking arises.

In her comment, Minister of Finance Annika Saarikko highlighted the need to enhance Nordic cooperation. President Niinistö said that we have close cooperation in many areas, referring to, for example, informal meetings between the prime ministers and ministers of defence and the interior of Finland, Sweden and Norway. According to the President, the aim is to further intensify the Nordic overall cooperation.

On Monday, the discussions will continue at 9.45 am under the title “The new era of geopolitics – Will the world become divided?” The second discussion of the day at 11:30 am will concern Finland as a militarily allied country. In the last discussion on Monday, starting at 2 pm, the topic will be global technology competition and security.