Speech by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at the dinner for the diplomatic corps at Presidential palace on 21 April 2016

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This is already the fifth occasion on which I have the opportunity to address this esteemed audience. I would like to present my sincere thanks for the energy you have shown in promoting relations between your home countries and Finland. Helsinki’s diplomatic community is very strong in this sense and it is always a great pleasure to discuss with you.

Diplomatic celebrations like our evening today get public attention and diplomacy is often described in terms of glamourous festivities. But beneath this pleasant surface lies a hard reality.

Diplomats and diplomatic relations retain their value as long as we want to live in a world that strives toward stability, development and civilized order. Several recent events have reminded us about this. Diplomacy is based on human interaction. It is about listening and understanding, not only about passing messages and advancing one´s interests. It´s a skill that takes a lifetime to master.

Diplomats and diplomatic efforts are even more needed today as the international system is in deep transition. Transition in international life usually entails rising pressures, crises and even conflicts. It often means also surprises. It can be increasingly hard to predict  which end of the stick one eventually gets. This causes uncertainty and anxiety. This is the world where diplomacy must now operate.

Transformation in world politics usually rearranges hierarchies and causes new divisions. Many of us still remember the old east-west division: the days of division between communist and capitalist countries. There still seems to be a division of this kind, but between democratic and non-democratic countries. The world is also divided on the basis of religion.

However, today even a more fundamental divide exists – the divide between order and stability on the one hand, and disorder and chaos on the other. But in a globalized world there is no clear border between the two. People are fleeing from chaos and disorder, from lack of perspective. But we are also witnessing violence that frequently visits the areas of order.

The global task of diplomacy is to keep territories of chaos and disorder to the minimum – and maximize areas of stability, which also enables development. This can only be achieved together with the international community and guided by the rules and principles of international law.

In times of such profound upheaval, our key task in Europe is to safeguard our continent as a zone of order, stability, democracy, rule of law and human rights. Only by succeeding in this can we secure development and the continuation of the European way of life. And by succeeding ourselves we can help others.

We are all well aware that the European Union is struggling through its own series of crises. I said a couple of weeks ago that in various ways, a long and difficult time may lie ahead of us, which may demand more from us than we dared to think.

Better times are unlikely to be just around the corner and they will not return automatically. It will take a lot of wisdom and courage to overcome several challenges that we are facing. Reiterating general principles or waiting for the perfect idea is not enough. Practical solutions must be found.

Most likely, this year is going to be especially important for the future of Europe. There is a great responsibility to be carried, not only in the eyes of existing generations, but the future ones, too.

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On a number of occasions I have explained Finland´s foreign and security policy using the so called “four pillars model”. National defence and security, western integration, relations with Russia and international law together with global efforts to tackle the fundamental challenges of the mankind are the pillars of our stability-oriented policy. They are all important. A situation where our policy is not resting on any single pillar alone is always preferable. This is where we like to see continuity.

Those pillars form a whole whose parts need to be in the right balance with respect to challenges of our time. Pillars need continuous maintenance, rebalancing and adjustments. This is happening right now as we are preparing the next White Book on Finland´s Foreign and Security Policy.

Of course, “four pillars model” envisages that Finland will remain a proactive member of the international community. We want to continue living in a country which joins others in seeking solutions to the challenges facing Europe and the whole world. Naturally, I hope that you, the heads of your embassies and missions, will lend us your practical support and efforts in this work.

I conclude by thanking once again all of you for your work, for developing our relations with your respective home countries. You represent all the continents of our globe here in Finland. We have had intensive cooperation with many of you and we are looking forward to continuing that. My office, together with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, is always open to you. I wish you success in continuing or beginning your ambassadorial duties here in Finland.

Thank you!