Archive and Chronology of Finnish Foreign Policy
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Opening statement by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinisto at The Hanaholmen Initiative Summit on 16 November 2021

The statement was delivered by Secretary General Hiski Haukkala on behalf of the President of the Republic of Finland 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Lämpimät onnitteluni ensimmäisen Hanaholmen kriisivalmiuskurssin suorittaneille.

Mina varma gratulationer till utexaminerade från det första Hanaholmen-Initiativet krisberedskapsprogrammet.

The Hanaholmen Initiative is a right and valuable step in developing crisis preparedness between Finland and Sweden. I sincerely hope that you have had the opportunity to learn not only about the course content, but also about – and from – each other.

It is of utmost importance that both Finnish and Swedish key actors have a working contact to their colleague in the neighbouring country. You, and the Hanaholmen-courses that follow, will play an important role in further strengthening the Finnish-Swedish security cooperation.

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Last week I was a guest to the 225th anniversary of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences in Stockholm. In my speech at the event, I underlined the significance of Sweden in Finnish foreign and security policy. In the Finnish Government Report on Foreign and Security Policy, as well as in the recent Government Report on Defence Policy, it is stated that Sweden is the most important bilateral partner for Finland. We are ready to continue promoting foreign and security policy cooperation with Sweden without preset limitations.

In the past years, defense cooperation between Finland and Sweden has intensified significantly. We now not only exercise together, but also cooperate on defense planning. However, military preparedness alone does not suffice when it comes to providing security. In a world where possible threat scenarios are related to climate change, pandemics and cyber security, as well as conventional military threats, civilian preparedness is invaluable.

At the same time, military and civilian security have become increasingly intertwined. Managing and solving modern crises requires a comprehensive approach. That is why the Hanaholmen-Initiative is a natural step in developing the Finnish-Swedish security cooperation.

Shared values, interests and a shared security environment form a basis to our cooperation. In many scenarios, our countries would face crisis simultaneously. Rising geopolitical tensions in our region affect both our countries. Natural disasters know no borders. Unfortunately, in the future, disasters related to climate change will only increase in number.

It is also my belief that we have seen but a prelude of global migration movement. In the field of economy, our interdependence is evident: we have already felt the impacts of serious supply chain disruptions that affect both Finland and Sweden. And when it comes to terrorism and cyber security, information sharing and cooperation between neighbours is vital.

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Dear Graduates of the Hanaholmen-program,

During the course, you have practiced possible responses in a wide range of crisis situations. The importance of practicing cannot be stressed enough. Crises rarely come preannounced. They surprise us and demand rapid decision-making and action. We were reminded of this when the pandemic struck.

The lessons learned from the pandemic have contributed to the founding of this course. Finland and Sweden responded to the pandemic partly in a different manner and with different schedules. This caused practical problems to many citizens in both countries, especially on the Åland Islands and in the northern border regions.

I believe that the pandemic was in many ways a turning point. It revealed both the importance and shortcomings of European cooperation. The same is true for cooperation between Finland and Sweden. We have to learn from the crisis and make sure we are better prepared for the next one.

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Finnish historian Henrik Meinander has likened Finland and Sweden to two adult sisters with a shared childhood. Like a bond between sisters, we need to tend to our mutual ties. This applies to the political level as well as government officials, companies and people. The basis for dialogue, trust and mutual understanding has to be laid before crisis strikes. The significance of good personal relations should not be underestimated. A strong relationship lasts through even hard times.

When cooperation and contacts are broad-ranging, the risk that we are prepared only for the most likely or most readily available crisis scenarios diminishes. The next crisis can also take the form of a Black Swan: something with great impact that we didn’t anticipate.

An apparent strength of the Hanaholmen-Initiative is its diversity. Participants come from different sectors, both government and private. They work for government, businesses, municipalities and science. This is the right way to maximize our capacity to respond to future crises. It helps us to better anticipate different situations and have the toolbox to respond to them.

Another strength of the course is its practical approach. It is extremely valuable that the course has given broad-ranging recommendations to improve our joint crisis preparedness. Now it is down to public and private sector actors to jointly examine the recommendations, identify vulnerabilities and share expertise across sectors and borders.

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Finland and Sweden have both long advocated for civilian crisis management. I have been happy to notice that the topic has found its way to the wider Nordic cooperation. Most recently, the Nordic countries agreed on strengthening their cooperation on security of supply.

It is further important to advocate for crisis preparedness at the EU level. The EU member states are currently discussing defense sector cooperation and the so-called strategic compass. Taking into account the realities and the threats we are facing today, enhancing civilian crisis management should be kept in mind at the same time.

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Our global environment is increasingly uncertain and anxious. We have to navigate it while maintaining our integrity. Increasingly, the situations that we face are not black and white. The agreements made decades ago are now vulnerable to hybrid measures and deliberate abuse.

The current developments on the EU’s eastern frontiers puts the issue into sharpest of reliefs. In the face of a hard challenge, the EU has been able to show unity and impose sanctions against those responsible for hybrid measures against its member states. Still, the situation is not over. We have to be honest to ourselves and ask the question: in the face of malign activities, can we hold onto our security and values at the same time? This is a genuine dilemma. I am afraid there are no easy answers.

Clearly, the importance of crisis preparedness will continue to increase. Finland and Sweden have the potential to set an example to the broader Nordic community and other countries.

I want to thank the Hanaholmen centre for this important initiative and the Swedish Försvartshögskolan and Finland’s Security Committee for their contribution to the course content.

Most of all, I want to thank the participants for investing time from their every-day life into improving the Finnish-Swedish crisis preparedness. I sincerely hope that you will cherish what you have learned and pass it on in your organizations.

It will benefit our two countries and make us better prepared to jointly face any future crisis.

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