Speech by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at a banquet in Stockholm on 17 April 2012

I would like to thank Your Majesty for the kind words you addressed to my country and her people. The relations between Finland and Sweden are indeed extremely good and close. I am very delighted to be able to make my first official state visit as President to Sweden. As you know, this is a long-standing tradition in our country, and one that I was more than happy to continue. This tradition is an excellent embodiment of the closeness and importance of our neighbouring relations.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the meeting in Turku between Crown Prince Charles John of Sweden and Alexander I, Emperor of Russia. It was through their joint decision that Finland was finally separated from Sweden. This did not, of course, mean an end to our ties with our neighbour to the west, nor did it break down the structures of the developing Finnish society that had been adopted during Swedish rule. This continuity contributed to Finland gaining her current status as a wealthy Nordic welfare state. Today, the constitutional position of the Swedish language in Finland and the increasingly strong position of the Finnish language and Finnish culture in Sweden lay the foundation for our neighbouring relations and for our standing as civilised European countries.

Today, both countries are active members of the European Union. In the internal markets we share highly-developed economic relations and extensive integration in our economic life. Our businesses enjoy direct grass-roots connections. As an example of the support structures in place I would like to mention the Finnish-Swedish Chamber of Commerce, which for 75 years has provided a solid contact base for representatives of our trade and industry. Today, we are partners who enjoy close cooperation and share similar views on the development and principles of world trade.

Both our countries invest heavily in education, and in research and development. It is my hope that we could increasingly combine our efforts in this area for building the future together. I am convinced that it is in our common interest to make our continent and the Nordic countries a region of continued competitiveness and technological and social development.

I would like to thank Your Majesty and all those present for the cordial and warm welcome that I and my wife have had the pleasure of enjoying. The programme of the visit is a fascinating combination of our shared traditional values, our common present-day concerns, and the challenges that we both will face in the future.

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.