(check against delivery)
It is a great pleasure for me and my spouse to welcome you to a state visit in Finland. For us this is a great opportunity to continue our discussion which we started last October. Our trip to beautiful Switzerland was one of the highlights of last year. In my turn, I´ll try to make this visit as pleasant as I can for you. So I’ll be brief!
On a more serious note, a lot has happened since we last met. Europe is facing challenges that many thought belong to the past century. In Ukraine, Euromaidan led to a government change. The country is in crisis after the Russian annexation of Crimea. It is clearly against Ukrainian and international law. It is also in breach of Russian commitments in front of the international community. In order to prevent further escalation of the crisis diplomacy and dialogue between all parties involved are very much needed.
Mr. President, during these difficult times you as Chairman in Office of the OSCE, have taken a leading role. You have shown what can be achieved through continued dialogue. I want to assure to you that Finland supports and highly appreciates your work. The decision on the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine was a welcome step forward in de-escalation of the situation. Without your determined efforts, I doubt this could have taken.
As your commitment to European security has once again proved, Switzerland is an inseparable part of Europe. Europe needs Switzerland. Not only as a broker but also as a partner. The EU has a closer relationship with Switzerland than with any other country outside the European Economic Area. Switzerland is the EU’s 4th largest trading partner, and the EU is Switzerland’s largest trading partner. Half a million Swiss citizens live in the EU and twice as many EU citizens in Switzerland. Switzerland´s economic success and stability is an example to us in the EU.
Let me now turn to our bilateral relations, which are visibly strengthening. They are a subject of great potential and promise. Switzerland and Finland are both ranked as innovation leaders. I would like to encourage Finnish and Swiss research entities to continue looking at cooperation possibilities in this area. It is also my sincere wish that Finnish know-how in cleantech, energy, health and information technology would attract more Swiss investment. Some partnerships are already at hand. I would like to see that the potential could be harnessed effectively.
Mr. President, Mrs. Burkhalter, I would like to once more warmly thank you for coming to Finland. It is always nice to be among old friends.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to raise a toast in honor of the President of the Swiss Confederation and Mrs Burkhalter, and to the Swiss-Finnish partnership.