Speech by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at the banquet held in honour of the visit of Nordic head of state on 1 June 2017

I once again wish our guests a warm welcome to Finland. It is a great pleasure to be able to host a joyful celebration: one which brings together our nearest and dearest neighbours and friends. On behalf of Finland, may I present my warmest thanks to all of our highly esteemed guests for being here this evening.

As we celebrate a hundred years of Finland’s independence, we have cause to express our nation’s deep gratitude that the Nordic countries have always stood together with us, whatever the situation. It is a great honour to spend the centenary of our independence together with the whole of our Nordic family.

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The Baltic Sea connects Finland and Denmark. For centuries, our friendship has been based on active commercial relations and close cultural ties. Trade between our countries is now intensifying. Environmentally friendly technology, seafaring and health technology are examples of the areas in which we engage in fruitful cooperation. Our countries are bound together by strong traditions in architecture, design and music.

As neighbours of great powers, both Finland and Denmark have experienced hard times in the past. Like the other Nordic countries, we now participate in building peace and stability in a turbulent world. Within the European Union, Finland and Denmark work together to promote the prosperity and stability of our continent. Together, we are more visible.

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Sweden and Finland have a very close relationship – by which I do not just mean ice hockey matches. Cooperation between our lands is characterised by a wide cooperative network at individual level. The over half a million Swedish Finns and Finland’s Swedish-speaking minority play an important role in building bridges between our countries.

Finland and Sweden’s economies are now more closely integrated than ever. Our integration has been strengthened by the EU membership of our countries. We must now decisively intensify our cooperation within the European Union. In recent years, Finland and Sweden have converged markedly in security and defence policy. Our partnership is now stronger and wider than ever. On the basis of similar motives and goals, our countries have converged in the area of defence cooperation when faced with corresponding security policy challenges. Together, we are stronger.

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Something in the Norwegian character gives us Finns a feeling of special affinity with the Norwegian people. Perhaps this is due to our common love of nature. Among them, there we find the freedom, which we so passionately yearn for, in its purest form. For us, love of freedom and closeness to nature mean freedom of movement and the opportunity to enter into trade relationships and curiously explore our surroundings.

Our common characteristics are particularly prominent in our economic cooperation. Norway and Finland have already embarked on promising joint initiatives in areas such as eHealth, digital hospitals, road building and infrastructure. Advanced, cross-border infrastructure and information exchange number among our strengths. Together, we have greater expertise.

Finland and Iceland are located on different sides of the Nordic countries, Finland in the east and Iceland in the west. This creates a strong need for Nordic cohesion within our countries. We both speak a rare language, while maintaining our links with the other Nordic countries via the Nordic languages.

Our countries are also united by the Arctic dimension. When I participated in the Arctic Circle Conference in the autumn of 2014, I was deeply impressed by the event, which has become the world’s chief forum for Arctic dialogue. Iceland will follow Finland as the Chairman of the Arctic Council in 2019 – our bilateral cooperation on Arctic issues is excellent. Together, we have more influence.

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As everyone probably already knows, the theme of Finland’s centenary year is ‘together’. This applies to the entire Nordic region, as well as the Finnish nation. Each and every one of the Nordic peoples has made an invaluable contribution to promoting Finland’s independence. Our cooperation, friendship and deep mutual trust create the conditions for a prosperous Nordic society. May these values continue to guide us in the future. I propose a toast to our friendship.