Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the State Dinner hosted by President of Italy Sergio Mattarella in Rome on 23 October 2023

President Niinistö gave a speech at the state dinner in Rome hosted by President of Italy Sergio Mattarella. Photo: Matti Porre/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

President Mattarella, dear friend,
Ms Laura Mattarella,
Distinguished guests,

I would like to begin by thanking you for these days in Rome and Italy. We have had the pleasure of enjoying the world-renowned Italian hospitality and friendliness. The same hospitality as our national composer, Jean Sibelius, experienced when he spent several months in Italy in 1901. The journey gave new vigour to his artistic development and creativity, as it did for so many other Finnish cultural influencers.

Italy has had a great influence on Finnish culture. This is something that also my wife and I have experienced.. Unfortunately, we cannot stay longer, but we will always remember our visits and friendship over the years we have known each other.

My dear friend Sergio,

We have had the opportunity to serve our countries at a time of great upheavals in Europe and the world. Today it is more important than ever that we cooperate and support each other in the face of the dangers that threaten Europe. Wars fought at our borders are not the only danger: our future is threatened also by changes in the natural environment, with all their consequences. Tomorrow, on UN Day, we should remember that our world has become smaller. Unfortunately, the same is not true of our common challenges. They are growing and affecting all of humanity, as are the solutions.

In the last years of the 18th century, Italian explorer Giuseppe Acerbi travelled to Finland and Lapland. He studied Finnish culture and wondered about its peculiarities, especially our sauna culture. Nowadays, people take a sauna in Italy and eat pasta in Finland. We need to get to know each other and understand each other ever better.

On this occasion, I would also like to express my special thanks for our valuable bilateral discussions. The common theme of these discussions was peace. It has been a privilege and an honour to discuss with you, to assess the state of the world and our role in it.

President Mattarella, Ms Laura Mattarella, distinguished guests, I would like to thank you once again on behalf of my spouse Jeni Haukio and myself and wish you all an excellent dinner.