President Sauli Niinistö ascended to the podium to deliver an address at the opening ceremony of the 2017 parliamentary session.
President Sauli Niinistö ascended to the podium to deliver an address at the opening ceremony of the 2017 parliamentary session.

President Sauli Niinistö has reiterated his conviction that the European Union is currently more relevant than it has been in decades.

Niinistö estimated in his New Year's address that the European Union should assume a more active geopolitical role specifically because its fundamental values of democracy, equality and human rights are being challenged also within its borders.

“It has now become clear that the voice of Europe is also needed in championing western values,” he stated in his address at the opening ceremony of the new parliamentary session on Thursday.

Finland, he also reiterated, remains firmly committed to western values also in foreign policy-making. The West, however, is continuing its re-alignment in a manner that raises questions about its very definition.

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“From Finland, the sun traces an arc westwards to the land of Brexit and onwards to Trump Tower,” he elaborated.

Niinistö reminded that although globalisation has promoted well-being both domestically and worldwide, it has also contributed to the aggravation of socio-economic inequalities. The possible re-emergence of protectionism, he added, would be paradoxical as the challenge would no longer be competitiveness but whether or not it can be utilised to one's benefit.

“The closure of economic or other borders is not a cure for the imbalance of globalisation. No nation can flourish by forgetting the rest,” he said.

Finland must step up its efforts to combat inequality, not only at the national but also at the individual level, added Niinistö: “Each and every Finn has the duty to help those who are in need, to encourage those who need encouragement, but also to prod those who choose to be inactive.”

The President also reminded that the four pillars of security policy-making in Finland – national defence and security, western integration, bilateral relations with Russia and the international system – are not static but develop constantly.

Finland's relations with Russia are neighbourly, he described. “They respond to our invitations as we do to theirs, talking very frankly, as good neighbours tend to do. We know each other very well,” he said.

The rules-based international order established around the United Nations, on the other hand, is faced with challenges, according to Niinistö.

“Will a few big fish cruise past the hundreds of minnows?” he asked. “We are on the side of the little fish, but not against the big ones. An effective and just international order is ultimately in everyone's interests.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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