Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the closing of the electoral period on 29 March 2023

Photo: Tero Hanski / Finnish Parliamen

Mr Speaker, honoured representatives of the Finnish nation

“There are two kinds of forecasters: those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know.” We can probably share this thought. When, in spring 2019, we started this electoral period we are about to close, no one knew what we had ahead of us. We got a lot, even way too much: Covid-19 and war.

I want to extend my thanks to you, honoured Members of Parliament. You have been going through hard times again and again. But in retrospect, patience or reason have not been lost at any point. Democracy has worked also under quite exceptional circumstances. The period of Covid-19 restrictions must have required both creativity and flexibility to guarantee the functioning of Parliament.

I highly appreciate the meetings we have had with various parliamentary committees. During your term, we have held approximately thirty meetings in all. You have politely thanked me for these encounters and said that you value them. I have responded to you then I am responding now, and not just out of politeness, that for me these meetings have often meant mutual sharing of ideas and given me strength for my duties.

The message Finland is sending to the world is that we are a well-functioning democracy. The strength and viability of democracy –that is what we witness and demonstrate both in elections and between them. This is the message I intend to emphasise later today in the Summit for Democracy, hosted online by the President of the United States, Joe Biden.

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This Parliament will go down in history for having applied for NATO membership and for adopting it. It was extremely important that the whole Parliament was fully informed and given a clear understanding of what taking that step means. And that we took that step together.

Finland did its own share for the NATO membership from start to finish during this electoral period. Now, in the light of the last ratification processes, it seems that the new Parliament will start its work in a NATO member state.

Through our NATO membership, Finland maximises its own security. At the same time, we are for our own part responsible for the security of the Alliance. This is without detriment to anyone. Security does not need to be a zero-sum game.

We should also keep in mind that joining NATO does not make Finland bigger than it is. The membership brings considerable security, but it is not all-encompassing. The strong Finnish will continues to be needed. The will to live in peace, and the will to hold on to what is ours.

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We are currently living geopolitically unpredictable, even dangerous times. The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine that has continued for more than a year is the most tangible indication of that. We also hear other news about tensions building up in international relations on a daily basis.

Under these circumstances, it is of utmost importance that like-minded democracies keep in close contact with each other. It is important because of our security and our values. And, in this respect, we have been very successful over the past year.

But we must not let the Western unity delude us. In speeches I have given, some of them here, I have often suspected that it may mislead our thinking if we believe that the views we hold and the competences we have are second to none. Among other things, they may make us take it for granted that others will follow our example. We, what is called the Western community, may comprise a few billion people. But what about the billions of others? How do we build our relationship with them?

The model of the world is changing. We do not yet know which position the relationship between the United States and China will take. It is clear that we cannot totally avoid conflicts between the great powers. But a strict division of the world in blocs cannot be in anyone’s best interest, let alone an open confrontation between the blocs.

We must seek détente through things that unite us. The planet we live on is one and the same for all. If climate change and biodiversity loss get out of control, no one will win. It is to the detriment of all of us.

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The full-scale war in Europe has left its mark on all of us. It has also hardened us, both our minds and the way we speak. Of course, firmness is something we need. We must continue our support for Ukraine. And we must also continue our determined efforts to strengthen and secure our own defence capability.

We cannot afford to be soft in times like this. However, hardness should not become an end in itself. The justified fight against evil must not lead to us becoming like evil ourselves. A desire for peace and mediation – these words do not enjoy high popularity in international relations at the moment. Of course, we must not be naive. But shouldn’t a state of peace in the world be the objective, after all?

It is true for every war that, at the latest once the guns have finally gone silent, diplomacy is needed again – no matter how deep the division line to be bridged. Otherwise, no matter how hard the sacrifices required to attain peace, that peace will not last.

I want to emphasise that by this I do not refer to any sudden solution to the war in Ukraine. A just peace there can only be one which Ukraine itself considers justified. When the time comes, the international community must secure that this peace is a lasting one. At the moment, however, such a peace is nowhere in sight. We must be prepared for Ukraine’s defensive battle to continue for a long time to come.

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The ongoing election campaign has been passionate and even sharp-tongued. Perhaps that is just a sign of the times. But in a multi-party system, it would be advisable to remember that no party can form the strong government we need on its own, not even with just one or two partners. And, particularly in a time like this, it is especially important to maintain readiness for quick collaboration right from the start of the new electoral period, even before the new government is formed. That is why it is good to keep the seeds of reconciliation ready.

Respecting the electoral peace belongs to the core of democracy. Hatred, threats or violence label and debase only those who resort to using them.

I will end my speech with what I started. After all, it is inevitable that the world will continue to develop in an unpredictable way. Even in domestic matters, we cannot avoid facing difficult choices.

In other words, we are again in a situation where we do not know what will happen next. We may get a lot; we may get too much. However, what we know from experience is that, if necessary, our democracy will carry us through even the hardest of times.

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I would like to extend my thanks to Parliament for the valuable work you have done for our nation, and I hereby declare Parliament closed for the present electoral period.