Dear friends, dear Finnish citizens,
It’s a pleasure to be with you today here in Musiikkitalo – right next to the Parliament building, Central Library Oodi, Kansalaistori Square and the National Museum.
The election is a moment of liberty in a democracy. There’s a freedom to bring up one’s opinion. Freedom to make a proposal on the future of the nation. Freedom to join the conversation.
We, the candidates, are sharing our visions, experiences and outlooks on life for Finnish people to weigh in.
Free elections are a privilege, the value of which we Finns have understood throughout the whole independent history of Finland. In today’s world the right to choose is an even bigger privilege.
The road here to Musiikkitalo has traveled through many summer events and festivals, municipal centers, marketplaces and gas stations.
Supporter cards have been collected in the Pelkosenniemi market square and SEO in Pelto, in Kiipula’s jubilee and Röölä’s harvest market, in the Turku Market Hall and Hakaniemi Market – in hundreds of different places around the country.
Countless hours of volunteer work have gone into the presidential election campaign already. I want to thank from the bottom of my heart every supporter card collector and signer – all of you here. With your volunteer work and activity you have once again made the power of the people work in a world where working democracy is not the rule but the exception. Many thanks for your work. The Republic has acted.
We live in a time of a great transformation. Even in Europe we are no longer part of the same security order we got used to after the Cold War. We are stepping out into a new world order in which elements are becoming more visible after the fog of war is lifted.
It is clear that during the next years the key role of the president as the director for foreign and security policy is more important than before. Finnish people have the right to expect clear and steady leadership from their president. The war in Europe is deeply Finland’s security issue too.
As the election campaigns are starting up we are pondering what kind of election Finland is getting in the beginning of next year. My mind is at ease about what’s coming. There’s an ability to analyze the geopolitical transformation among the candidates. There’s the experience of government responsibility during the covid crisis and Russia’s war of aggression. There’s emergency supply knowledge. Visions for the development of the European Union. Expertise on Ukrainian history and culture.
We are going to need all of them. My experience from the former presidential elections is that candidates too are going to learn a lot from each other. The conversation of the presidential elections is vital for the whole nation – it defies the new direction for Finland, the ability as a nation to live and renew in the stream of transformation, in a way which maintains our security at all times.
As a Foreign Minister I had a chance to influence those pivotal moments which asked the nation for both pressure tolerance and unity – our application for Nato membership in the spring 2022. When on Tuesday May 17th of 2022 the numbers of YES 188, NO 8, GONE 3 banged on the parliament’s voting board, our Nato membership was sealed. Behind that decision was a vast amount of meetings, conversations, information sharing, conversations of committees and parliamentary groups – and meeting with the citizens. Through conversation in a difficult moment broad consensus was reached.
Democracy consists of different thoughts and visions, and they are welcomed. There’s no reason to be afraid of disagreements – but there’s a reason to be afraid of a Finland where we fail to find ways of handling disagreements, turn inwards, sulk, mock, bully or use hate speech. We need ways to meet, to listen and to have a conversation.
To be able to find the best solutions together for security’s part too, we have got to know how to sit around the same table, to listen and to genuinely encounter our fellow people.
The next president of the republic of Finland starts their term of office the first day of the next month of their selection – after the two election cycles on the March 1st of 2024. The table of the selected president is not going to be empty.
Both the foreign and security policy report and the defense policy report in a Nato-Finland’s circumstances in cooperation with the Finnish Government and Parliament demands attention.
Nato’s defense planning and future headquarters structure and our participation on joint Nato operations require Finland’s statements.
Negotiations about the new DCA, defense cooperation agreement with the United States are going on.
Deepening the defense and security cooperation with Sweden and other Nordic countries and bilateral relationships with the most central European allies.
Developing the EU to be a stronger foreign and security political and geopolitical actor.
Finland has the OSCE (ETYJ) presidency in 2025 – 50 years after the Helsinki Final Act.
To guarantee the security of Europe we now need new thinking.
Last time our trial to become a member of the UN security council well knowingly fell apart. There’s going to be an important showcase for us and our thoughts about the renewal of the UN in 2028, when the members for the years 2029–2030 are voted on. Finland will be a candidate.
Rule-based world is always Finland’s benefit too.
And most of all: we have to support Ukraine against Russia’s war of aggression, and at the same look for a sustaining, and Ukraine’s rights securing peace to stop Russia’s aggression.
This worklist alone addresses that it’s not about a training assignment. Demanding work of our new president starts from day one.
In Finland some seem to think that with Nato membership we could forget our geographics. This however is not the case. When as a Foreign Minister after Russia’s war of aggression I participated in both the EU’s and Nato’s meetings of foreign ministers, we were consulted particularly carefully on any evaluation considering our neighboring country, Russia. We are in a position in which our information and thinking influences both the Nato’s and EU’s decision making considering Russia.
We now have, and continue to have in the future too, a 1340 kilometers long border with Russia. This border is not going away, and as far as it depends on us, the border is going to remain calm in the future. Half of the border between Nato and Russia runs in Finland.
When we joined the European Union in 1995 we also made a security political decision. We have been one of those countries which have strived to systematically develop the EU’s foreign and security policy.
Only after Russia’s attack against Ukraine, which started in February 2022, the EU woke up – together we decided about the sanctions and used The European Peace Facility to provide armed assistance to Ukraine. The EU is taking an important role again in the reconstruction of Ukraine. This is a Europe you can rightly be proud of. But the pace must not slow down and the unity can not crack. Strengthening the EU’s foreign and security policy is Finland’s responsibility too.
As a member of Nato we have committed to Nato’s 360-degrees approach – our peace includes Nato’s eastern frontline, security of the Black Sea and Mediterranean, transatlantic relationships as well as arctic questions. The length of our eastern border is well understood in Nato, but it is important to participate according to our resources also into Nato’s joint operations in the air, at sea and on land. In our headquarters structure we would benefit from having every Nordic country under the same headquarters.
On our own Nato path – as fast as it was – Hungary and Turkey created a roadblock we did not wish. We highlighted that the security of the Baltic Sea is at stake – blowing up the Nord Stream pipeline showed it at the latest.
We are now appealing to Turkey and Hungary to remove their locks from the way of Sweden’s Nato membership. Sweden is an important neighbor for us in all of Nato’s defense planning and the depth of our own defense, and every lost day on planning and developing our joint defense is an unnecessary loss.
Many are asking, when will peace come to Ukraine? The suffering and material damages of the war are enormous already. The World Bank estimates that the costs of the reconstruction are already in the order of 400 billion euros. The invoice gets bigger day by day.
Ukraine needs the solidarity of us all now. Civil society has been active, Ukraine centers in different cities are busy, more than 50 00 ukrainian refugees have been accepted to Finland, Ukrainian children are in our schools, Finland gives military aid to Ukraine and we are ready to participate in the rebuilding of Ukraine.
Peace in Ukraine should come as fair as it can. The intruder – Russia – can not get to plan a review and prepare for a new battle. The peace should guarantee the safety and integrity of Ukraine permanently, through international security guarantees if needed. Ukraine should get back the areas Russia has occupied. Ukraine should have resources as war reparations to reap the destruction. Fairness demands sentencing the war crimes offenders too, possibly in the International Court of Justice.
All of this can not happen on the turn of the knife. Ultimately it is a matter of Ukraine’s decision to negotiate peace and to make a peace agreement, when the time has come. It can be a time when the leadership of Russia has changed or there has been a major turning point in the war events.
Ukraine needs and deserves the continuation of our help. It is important that in due time solutions come from Ukraine’s point of view from as good a position as possible. With our aid we could make an impact on that.
What about Russia?
I have noted that the kremlinologists of our time have been very quiet lately. The future is – once again – hard to predict.
Here’s my train of thought: the last hundred years has taken our neighbor from tsarist rule through Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev to Gorbachev and Yeltsin – all the way to Putin.
My guess is that we are going to see the same kind of wave motion for the next hundred years. Let us take advantage of the moments when it is possible to cooperate – as we have done with the protection of the Baltic Sea. And let us firmly reject those phases when Russia acts aggressively and according to its imperial ideology threatening its own and Europe’s security.
Eternal peace does not exist – but eternal wars do not exist either.
President of the republic is also the commander-in-chief of the defense forces. Finland has been one of those countries in Europe who did not drop the ball of national defense after World War II, not even after the Cold War. Weapon systems have been renewed, military service has been taken care of, supply security has been planned and public shelters have been built.
Finnish people are security-oriented people. In the Ukraine’s frontline we can see that even modern wars have many different layers. In its most old fashioned manner we can see World War II or even World War I type of frontline war, and in the most modern manner we see cyber and hybrid war, drones and new kind of precision war with intelligence war tools.
All the time we have to think what kind of risks this kind of warfare could bring to the Baltic Sea area if the war in Ukraine should escalate or expand.
It is good to be prepared for the worst at all times. And at the same time to work towards finding peaceful solutions to crisis and conflict to prevent the worst to happen. Both war and peace need preparation.
Not only war but peace too calls for preparation. Even as a Nato member we do not have to give up on our important national knowhow on building peace in the world. Norway is an example of this there, whose peace mediation expertise is well known everywhere.
As we watch Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, we easily forget how many more conflicts around the world are still unresolved – and even new ones are born. It has been hard to watch the stream of Armenian refugees out from under the war effort in Mountain-Karabakh. And as hard has been to follow the endless conflicts of Syria, Yemen or Sudan.
As a Foreign Minister I had a possibility to host a Syrian delegation consisting of women representing each party of the conflict. After the conversation I was convinced that if a peace agreement would be up to these women, there would be political settlement already in Syria.
In these days more than ever our eyes will be on China. Both Russia and China have tested the unity of the European Union in their own quarter.
We have outsourced to the rest of the world our industrial processing of many things, and the environmental problems considering them, through the geoeconomics. We have closed our eyes on any problems of human rights and working conditions of the industrial supply chains. At the same time we have developed dependencies we have got to get rid of now.
Europe’s dependency of imported energy and strategic natural resources is both security wise and ethically and morally unsustainable.
China’s long time strategy has been to tie western countries into dependency on chinese supply and value chains.
Today we need European decisiveness and cooperation on global trade policy to show China the healthy limits on competition. In this job the cooperation with the rest of the democratic world is crucial for success. Once again, there’s a mission for the global community and global organizations.
We used to say that there’s land behind Moscow too. We should remember now that land can also be found behind Peking. The Indo-Pacific Area’s, which includes China also, share of the global gross domestic product is already 60 per cents. We have to have working cooperative relationships with India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, Japan Intiaan, Indonesiaan, Vietnamiin, Australiaan, Japaniin as well as South-Korea.
We now see new alliances on world politics too. BRICS-cooperation is enlarging and redefines the playbook of global politics. Europe must be a builder of the new bridges to not to remain as a bystander of this development.
Cooperation in security matters with the United States is holding as a vital cornerstone for Nato as well as Finland. It must work in any conditions, with any elected president of the United States.
Finnish trade with the United States has grown and the possibilities of its markets are opening up for Finnish companies increasingly. Europe and the United States have a common interest on speeding up the green transition. For that the cooperation should work better on these questions and with fair, equal terms, without protectionism.
On July in Helsinki I signed a Joint Statement of Finland and the United States on Cooperation in Advanced Wireless Communications with the Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Finland has an enormous potential on this technology cooperation. We discussed with Secretary of State Blinken about the national security possibilities and challenges that technology brings.
The president of the republic has an important role in advancing Finland’s exporting. After Russia’s war of aggression started we broke away from the Russian fossil fuel in record time.
War of aggression speeded up the green transition in the whole Europe. With us is accelerated investments on wind and solar power and the plans to move in to the hydro economics. At the end of the hydro economic chain we can see green steel and synthetic fuels.
The future of Finnish wellbeing builds on energy-security, emissions-free industry and the invocation of renewables. Environmental-friendliness has become as the selling-point of the Finnish exports. Because of the emission-free energy, every Finnish product is going to be more competitive from now on.
In the presidential election in January 2024 I am the candidate of the association of voters you have constructed.
The president of the republic is also a value-leader. They must know Finland and Finnish people. Not just the Finnish people in parties and parades, but common everyday Finnish people in every corner of this country. And I know that Finnish people do not always see eye to eye on everything. But I also know that it is possible to discuss with everyone – and I know it is possible to discuss in a dignified and respectful manner with everyone.
May this be the trademark of my presidency.
From Musiikkitalo today starts our journey together, and we leave the final ending in the hands of the Finnish democracy.
It is a privilege to start the journey on this path with you.
We are living in a time of transformation. The world is changing, and Finland must take its place in that new world. In that world there must be room for every Finnish person.
Today we are starting to build a new direction for Finland, and it unites us all here in Musiikkitalo today. Whether we come from the right, from the left or from the center. Inside or outside the politics. We share the same desire to build Finland which is a good home country for everyone. It brings us strength, joy and enthusiasm.
While asking ourselves and each other what will happen to Finland in the end, few words of wisdom from the former president Koivisto are suitable:
”If we do not know for certain how it is going to be, let us assume that all is going to be well.”
The best future comes with work and trust. Let’s get to work together.