Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini's speech at a seminar celebrating 100 years of diplomatic relations between Finland and Sweden, held on 2 May 2018 in Stockholm.
We are today gathered here in Stockholm to celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relations between Finland and Sweden. In the history of mankind this might not be such a long time. For a nation that gained its independence 101 years ago, one could plausibly argue that we have walked shoulder to shoulder, from the very beginning. In addition, our common history of course stretches several hundred years longer back, to times when Finland formed the Eastern half of Sweden.
Against this background I think it's justified to say that we are not only neighbors, but close family members. While leaving the discussion of who might be the bigger sibling to be decided in the hockey rinks, let me be clear. Dear Margot, Sweden is our closest and best friend. It has been a privilege to cooperate with you during the last few years.
As the following panels are mainly to provide a glance in the rear-view mirror of our relations, let me say some words about the present, and the expectations for the years to come.
The present framework for international relations looks increasingly uncertain. Without going into details, only mentioning some trigger words underlines my point: Russia, Syria, Salisbury, Trump, Brexit, Turkey, terrorism, hybrid and cyber. The internal dynamics in the EU have also seen better days. In this context not many things are predictable anymore. However, with the rapid technological progress contributing to the development, we can state the following with certainty: no country, and in particular smaller nations like Finland and Sweden, can evacuate itself from the international arena. Closing the door from the world is impossible, and neither is it desirable. We must face the challenges together with an open mind, as well as grasp the opportunities that joint actions will present.
Again, Finland and Sweden appear as natural partners, not only because of our geographical proximity but also the shared values and a similar vision of what kind of societies we prefer to have. The shared fundamentals manifest themselves in many concrete forms: there are some 700 000 persons with Finnish roots living today in Sweden; over 30 % of our foreign investments go to Sweden, while some 45 % of the foreign investment stock in Finland originates from Sweden; in the service sector trade, Sweden is by far our most important EU-partner.
In the field of foreign and security policy, we are equally engaged in striving to cooperate as close as possible, with a view to synergies and joint benefits. To name just a few examples, Finland and Sweden together belong to the leading international voices with respect to areas such as: Women, Peace and Security; crisis management and mediation. Hybrid questions will require even more cooperation and we hope for concrete results through the Centre of Excellence to Counter Hybrid Threats in Helsinki. Margot and I proposed last year that the Centre of Excellence would look into vulnerabilities in the Baltic Sea area when it comes to hybrid influencing. It has been good to see how sell the Centre started working and arranged a regional seminar in April (Northern Regional Seminar on Countering Hybrid Threats). Such events contribute to increased awareness, comparing best practices and also strengthen international cooperation and unity. The overarching goal of cooperation is protecting and advancing a rule-based international order – be it supporting the UN reform agenda or the WTOs role in free trade.
I would dare to say that these efforts have been taken to new levels in recent years. We meet and discuss on a constant basis, more or less on all levels of our administrations. We make coordinated statements, followed by coordinated actions – the response to the Salisbury incident being one example. We write joint articles to show the broader public our shared intentions. We have also started with joint visits to third countries to strengthen our common goals. We have placed exchange diplomats to our respective organizations in order to further enhance mutual understanding and to build lasting networks.
All these initiatives have a dual purpose. Our point comes out clear and with increased effect. By joining forces and working together we communicate to the world – not just the substance at hand – but also that we stand side-by-side, as friends and partners. In my view this also contributes to the stability and security in our region, and beyond.
To conclude, I see no signs of the current international tensions easing any time soon. As liberal democracies, we must be prepared to keep working for the values we believe in, consistently and with perseverance. This might sometimes feel like an uphill struggle, but as the Finnish saying goes, without struggle there is no fulfillment. I am confident that we, working together, are up to the task.