Speech by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at a dinner on the state visit to Poland on 31 March 2015

Together with my spouse, I have spent an unforgettable day here in Warsaw. The programme has given us the opportunity to become more familiar with both You and Poland’s history and culture. Tomorrow, we will continue our voyage of discovery through Poland’s recent history in Gdańsk, the birthplace of Solidarity.

Our visit has occurred in the midst of a series of national and European celebrations. Our peoples have commemorated the 25th anniversary of Poland’s first free elections, the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and the 75th anniversary of the end of the Finnish Winter War. In addition, as we all know, this May we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

All of these commemorative days convey a serious message. Above all, they reaffirm the importance of freedom, dignity and peace. They also remind us of the dire threats posed to these, our key values, throughout history. At such times, such values have had to be defended, often at great sacrifice. Both Finland and Poland have had to make such sacrifices. The message is clear to all of us – nothing truly precious lasts unless we seek to preserve it.

Both Finland and Poland, which had gone through so much in their histories, viewed the post-Cold War changes as very positive. For both, these changes led to EU membership. This brings us closer together than ever. We both belong to the European community of values. We bear responsibility for and are concerned about Europe, its success and its destiny. 

We now have a particular reason for such concerns, at a time when war has returned to Europe via the conflict in Poland’s neighbouring land of Ukraine. As members of the European Union, we have been clear in our condemnation of Russia’s breaches of international law and its actions against Ukraine. The EU has also been forced to resort to sanctions as part of its policy response. It is crucial that the EU maintain a united front in all of its actions.  

Suppressing the free will of peoples and nations seldom benefits those who try to do so. Poland’s history makes just this point, which I am confident will continue to prove true in the future. But this does not offset the tragedy of how painful and uncertain the road to freedom’s triumph so often is.     

Finland and Poland are close partners. In addition to being members of the EU, we are Baltic Sea states. Our political ties are becoming even closer, as this state visit shows. 

Finland and Poland have a strong mutual interest in strengthening Europe’s security. Europe must acknowledge its responsibility for its own security. This also applies to hybrid threats, the Targowica confederations of our time.

Finland and Poland have been active in developing a general European security and defence policy. Poland is a member and Finland is an active partner of NATO. In addition to these links, we have much potential for bilateral cooperation in areas such as the defence industry. We are also united by a strong desire to defend ourselves.

Finland’s economy is seeking stronger ties with Poland. In figures, Poland is already one of Finland’s ‘top-ten’ trading partners. The largest single export deal in Finland’s economic history, for Patria’s ‘Rosomak’ personnel carriers, was signed with Poland. Over 200 Finnish companies now operate in Poland. They employ tens of thousands of Poles and have invested around two billion euros in your country. 

Finland and Poland are clearly drawn to one another in cultural terms. Polish cinema and poster art have long been well-known and admired in Finland. I have been told that several generations of Poles were raised in the company of Tove Jansson’s Moomins.  The most recent testimony to the cultural exchanges between our countries can be seen in two new landmarks in Warsaw: the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Holy Cross Bridge over the Vistula. These were designed by Finnish architects. 

* * *

As you are no doubt aware, Finland is making preparations for the celebration of 100 years of independence in 2017. The same year will mark two full centuries since the death of Polish national hero Tadeusz Kościuszko. After his release from St Petersburg in 1796, this famous freedom fighter travelled to the west via Finland. Finnish fishermen helped him to reach Stockholm by breaking a path to the icy and snowy Gulf of Bothnia.

I believe that, due to this state visit, the paths of Finland and Poland, which have crossed so often in the past, will meet even more frequently as we journey together in the same direction. I am also confident that our relations will become closer and more entwined after this visit. On my own and my spouse’s behalf, I would like to give my warm thanks to our hosts. 

I would now like to raise a toast in honour of You and your spouse and successful cooperation between Finland and Poland!