Independence Day speech 6.12.2016 by the ambassador Erik Lundberg
Stortings President, vice-presidents, State Secretaries, Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen, friends, Welcome !
My wife Stina and I are happy that so many of you could join us today to celebrate the 99 th birthday of Finland
What do you say to someone who is 99 years old? Don’t you already know everything at that age? That may be, but as we all know, sometimes you run the risk of losing your memory a bit at a certain age. In a rapidly changing world and turbulent unpredictable times the risk may increase; you may even lose sight of who you really are and how you have become what you are. Just in case, allow me to briefly remind you.
99 Years ago today, amidst the turmoil of WW, you were among those states who took their place among the sovereign nations of the world. The rest is, as they say, an amazing story, going from a poor rural nation to a modern technological superpower! How did this happen?
I think the reason is that Finland is one of the countries who have managed to cling to its original idea.
At the core of it all is a strong representative democracy - which is not the same as the tyranny of the majority, but includes and presupposes respect for the rule of law, the rights of minorities and human rights in general. In, 1906, Finland became the first country to grant both women and men full political rights. Our uninterrupted run of democratic elections has in fact already lasted 110 years. We have stuck to it despite some hard times, including civil war and 2 wars to defend our sovereign nation.
The second key principle I would like to highlight is equality. The foundation of the success of our nation is firmly rooted in our strong ambition to achieve equal treatment and to create equal opportunities for all, both women and men. As a consequence, we have not had great divisions in our society in terms of wealth, social status or health. This has resulted in a strong trust in the basic structures of society and in each other. This trust should, however, not be taken for granted. Maintaining it requires the constant, active attention of all of us!
The third principle which lies at the hearth of the Finnish identity is openness. Despite our somewhat remote geographical location, we have always been an open, outward looking multicultural society. Finland lies between the east and the west. We are officially bilingual, Finnish and Swedish and we have our own indigenous population, the Sami, and many other “old and new” minorities, that form an important part of our identity. Some of our great national icons, Sibelius, Gallen-Kallela, Kivi, Jansson and later on Aalto, Marimekko and Nokia have created success in art, science and the economy through dialogue the outside world.
We must therefore continue to strongly reject the kind of misguided nationalism that asks us to turn inward and aims at spreading fear of the so called “other”. Being a small country and culture we will always be dependent on cooperation with the world around us.
Our Nordic neighbors, Norway among them, have throughout history been our closest community and Nordic cooperation has been crucial to our development and in determining who we are.
Later on the European Union has come to play a pivotal in our lives. The EU is our home and we are determined to defend and strengthen it, through good times and bad times. In my view we should not let ourselves be overpowered by the current challenges, but rather stay focused and work hard in order to preserve our incredible common achievements. Long-lasting mutually beneficial cooperation and peaceful co-existence deserves to be defended by us all.
Finland has always strived to be a “creator of security”, rather than a “consumer of security” and for this we have gained international respect. Our aim is to maintain good relations with everyone. We believe in dialogue with everyone, at all times. In fact, we all should try to listen to each other more carefully and to talk respectfully to each other.
At the same time we of course need to argue for and stand firmly behind our own values as well as maintain a readiness to defend them as well as ourselves. Finland will do what is in our power to defend international law and our common international mechanisms for cooperation. We strongly believe that all countries, big and small, have the right to determine their own future and make their own choices.
Dear friends, these are, in my humble view, some of the key principles and ideas we need to keep firmly in mind, even at the respectable age of 99!
The general theme aptly chosen for the coming celebration of Finland’s 100 th anniversary is “together”. Finns have clearly took this idea to their heart as there already now are over 2000 official events foreseen In Finland for the coming year and some 400.000 Finns have been involved in planning them!
We sincerely hope that you all will want to join is in celebrating this anniversary also here in Norway during the coming year. After all, what’s a celebration without your closest friends?
I will not reveal all the details just yet, but I kindly ask you to keep your eyes open, as more information about our celebrations will come soon!
Finally, may I ask you all to raise your glasses to join us in the beginning of the celebration of a very special year in the life of our beloved Finland!