Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the banquet in Fredensborg Castle on 4 April 2013

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness Prince Henrik, Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank you for the invitation to make a state visit to Denmark. My wife and I are delighted at the possibility of visiting the beautiful Fredensborg Castle, a place rich with tradition. The very first day of the visit, when we took part in a luncheon and discussion organised by Dansk Industri, already proved how much our countries have in common, and how much we can do together to promote the best interests of our nations.

Denmark has always been important for Finland, politically, economically and culturally. As early as the 19th century, Finland’s best known artists stopped in Denmark on their way to Paris, or on the return journey. The cultural cooperation continues to grow and develop on a broad front. This year, Denmark celebrates the 200th anniversary of Søren Kierkegaard. He is probably one of the most well-known Danes in Finland. The great majority of Kierkegaard’s writings have been translated into Finnish. The forms of cultural exchange have nevertheless changed somewhat these days. In Finland, the general public knows Denmark best for its films and television series. Personally, I follow the series Borgen.

Cultural exchange is two-way, and I am pleased to witness the success of Finnish art in Denmark. Finnish architecture has been appreciated here ever since Alvar Aalto worked in this country. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that, together with its Danish counterpart, Finnish architecture constitutes a fundamental part of the Nordic design language. The Finnish music business has gained a firm foothold in Denmark on many levels. Almost all Danish music lovers know the conductor Leif Segerstam, and other Finnish conductors. Our contemporary artists are appreciated here, as well as artists of previous periods. Many Danish museums have large collections of Finnish art.

Denmark has always been important for Finnish enterprises. Denmark’s share of direct foreign investments in Finland was the third largest in 2012. Denmark and its marketing expertise have also served as an example for Finland of how a relatively small country can succeed in the global economy. My wish is that our trade relations could in future play an even larger role in our mutual partnership. I would like to place special emphasis on environmental technology as a sector in which our countries have ample expertise, and in which we can complement each other. Cooperation in environmental technology plays a key role for our business delegation during the visit. Climate change and growing environmental problems have created a need for our expertise in environmental technology, particularly in the third world.

Denmark is a close and important partner for Finland. We wish to nurture and strengthen our already strong and well-functioning bilateral relations. The major challenges that face our countries are similar in many ways. How do we take care of an ageing population and secure health care? How do we reform working life and create jobs, especially for young people? It would please me to see even more networks forged between Finnish and Danish authorities and citizens.

Our countries invest broadly in education, research and development. I hope that we could create an increasing amount of new structures on the basis of common efforts. I am confident that it is in our mutual best interest to ensure that the Nordic countries will continue to be a competitive region that is both technologically and socially progressive.

The Nordic countries are Finland’s best friends. Nordic cooperation offers huge opportunities for us. We would like to strengthen Nordic cooperation further in foreign, security and defence policy. The different choices made by the Nordic countries with respect to military alliances and EU membership are no obstacle to the development of cooperation. I would also like to highlight the Nordic brand that attracted great attention recently in connection with the Nordic Cool festival in Washington. The brand is based on shared values, such as tolerance, the rule of law, openness, proximity of decision-making, equality and respect for the environment. The Nordic brand is internationally recognised and we can take pride in it. However, we must also remain humble. Preservation of the Nordic model requires constant adaptation and the ability to listen and learn from others.

The European Union is of crucial importance for both Finland and Denmark. It is very important for us to do our utmost in order to restore confidence in the common European undertaking. Like Denmark, Finland seeks to promote a dynamic economy and free trade. Our countries support a European Union that creates the preconditions for growth and work that will help us survive the economic crisis. Our export-oriented industries would benefit from a better-functioning European internal market. Simultaneous strengthening of the European Union’s foreign policy capacity is also essential when taking in the broader perspective. Furthermore, an active and coherent union would play a more prominent role in international politics.

I would like to thank Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses and all those present for the cordial and warm welcome that I and my wife have been privileged to enjoy. I would like to propose a toast to the excellent relations between our countries and peoples, and to the personal happiness and prosperity of Your Majesty.