Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at a banquet in honour of the state visit by King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway at the Presidential Palace on 6 September 2016 

First of all, I would like to bid Your Majesties and the entire Norwegian delegation a warm welcome to Finland. It is always wonderful to receive a visit from a good neighbour. I would also like to thank you for a past visit! My wife, Jenni, and I have warm and grateful memories of our enjoyable visit to Norway. 

We are particularly pleased that you accepted our invitation despite your busy schedule in respect of important celebrations in Norway: 25 years on the Norwegian throne. Please accept our wholehearted congratulations on this!  

Finland and Norway share a common history, in addition to a border over 700 kilometres long. The first Finnish forest dwellers arrived in Eastern Norway from Savonia in the early 1600s. Direct contacts between Finns and Norwegians in the northern regions have formed part of everyday life through the ages, which can still be seen in Norway’s unique Kven culture. I would also like to remind everyone of the contribution to Finland’s defence made by many Norwegian volunteers during the Winter War. This is something that we recall with warmth and gratitude. We Finns and Norwegians have helped to build each others’ countries.

Next year, Finland will celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of its independence. The theme of our jubilee year is “together”. The aim is to inspire everyone in Finland to participate in the celebrations. This will provide us with the opportunity to look back on our historical development from a poor agricultural society into a modern, Nordic welfare state and to direct our gaze towards our common future.

We are well aware that a key reason for Finland’s success has been the exceptional cooperation and crucial support we have always provided for each other in the Nordic region. That is why we hope that Your Majesties will have the opportunity to take part in our celebrations next year. 

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Together with other Nordic heads of state, earlier this year I had the pleasure of visiting Washington DC at the invitation of President Barack Obama. This successful summit is a fine example of the great interest the world is now taking in the Nordic countries and Nordic expertise.

We Nordic states rank among the top countries in almost all international comparisons of happiness, health, stability, innovation and education. We have much to give to the world, for example when identifying new solutions to current challenges, such as climate change, the ageing of the population, or the digital transformation. Better cooperation will provide us with more visibility on the global market. What is of benefit to Finland is also of benefit to Norway and the other Nordic countries, and vice versa!

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In recent years, Finland and Norway have engaged in closer communication and dialogue than ever before. When the world around us seems more volatile and less predictable, it is natural to turn to one’s closest friends for support. Now, I see more opportunities to further develop and deepen our close bilateral cooperation.  

Although we have different defence policy solutions, we are intensifying our cooperation in areas such as Nordic cooperation and NATO. We have stepped up our security policy dialogue in the face of issues like the worrying developments in our mutual neighbour, Russia. I am also delighted that we are again increasing our bilateral cooperation on defence materiel. We are both striving to be producers rather than consumers of security.

Finland and Norway have a common interest in increasing mutual trade and investment. A stronger partnership in the field of research and innovation should also be mutually beneficial. The huge interest in your state visit aroused among Finnish companies and the presence of a large Norwegian business delegation bode well for the future. 

Both Finland and Norway want to foster stability and economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development in the Nordic and Arctic regions. We also want to secure the future of our common, indigenous people, the Sami. In this regard, I would like to highlight the fascinating opportunities for cooperation offered by our well-established Arctic partnership. We both have the exceptional know-how required to create unique technological solutions which function even in the challenging but fragile Arctic environment.  

Increasing contacts between our companies and universities in the Nordic regions, greater labour mobility and livelier research collaboration and student exchange schemes are key elements in this partnership. Our cooperation also calls for a functioning infrastructure, made up of digital networks as well as roads and flight paths. 

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Finns and Norwegians are outdoor people, who appreciate closeness to nature and living in their own holiday homes, or “hytte” or “mökki” as they are known in our lands. Our interest in sports and culture are also common factors. Finland, for example, is proud of its traditions in design, while Norway has always been a great power in literature. Your Majesty, our spouses are living examples of this, although in our case it looks as though the national strengths have been swapped.

We in the north have often had to struggle to survive and have rarely received anything for free. That is why we have become pragmatic problem solvers, to whom cooperation is familiar. A good example of this is “dugnad” or “talkoot”, a particular kind of collective voluntary work which, to my knowledge, exists only in Norway and Finland! 

Let us continue to build our unique traditions and show the world what can be achieved through Finnish-Norwegian cooperation! Your Majesties, may I once again bid you welcome to Finland. I would like to propose a toast to the excellent relations between our countries and to the personal happiness and prosperity of Your Majesties.