Unveiling of the sculpture ‘Two countries – one future’
Stockholm 25 August.
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It is a great honour to receive Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in Stockholm today. I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to our dear neighbour. Together, we celebrate our countries’ shared history, as well as our shared future.
In Swedish Television’s documentary ‘Finland’s centenary’, a number of Finns were given the chance to describe their country. “We have become a competitive welfare society,” says one man. “Finland has become a model for gender equality” says one woman. These are comments that could describe both of our countries, and the similarities can be explained by a long shared history.
As far back as the 1500s and 1600s, many people moved from Finnish to Swedish parts of what were then areas of the same country. At present, some 700 000 Sweden-Finns live here in Sweden. Everything from corporate mergers to cultural exchanges serve as present-day reminders that our countries will remain closely linked. But the similarities are also due to the fact that our societies rest on shared values. Many of these values are symbolised by the dates engraved in Marja Kanervo’s lovely work of art here around us.
The world’s oldest Freedom of the Press Act, which is the foundation of our open societies. The introduction of parliamentary democracy, which led to women’s suffrage. Our countries accession to the EU, where we cooperate closely and frequently.
But Finland’s history also includes events that we Swedes should know more about. Healing the wounds after a civil war. Defending your independence with weapon in hand. Living with the long border with Russia. It is impossible not to feel deep respect for the ‘land of a thousand lakes’.
A section of Ms Kanervo’s stone statue has been left blank. This refers to the future, and we know that the future comes quickly. And when the global winds of change are strong, we have seen that it is our Nordic model that can help people prosper and economies grow.
It is a model with broad support in our countries, and which attracts interest around the world. It is a model that builds on competitiveness, which is why we are developing Swedish-Finnish cooperation on everything from research and innovation, to forestry and culture. It is a model that is reinforced by welfare reforms, creates prosperity, security and freedom that we are always ready to defend. This is why we have deepened our defence cooperation, which creates trust and respect around the Baltic Sea.
But our cooperation is not limited to ensuring a secure region, it also includes a stronger Europe in a sustainable world. And in this we are guided by the principles of which the dates in the sculpture remind us. And is this not a beautiful vision for the next 100-years? Two sister countries in the north, part of a Nordic model that combines competitiveness and welfare, increasing people’s freedom. Two sister countries in the north, whose close cooperation in the Nordic region and the EU is based on such clear values that they can be engraved in stone sculptures mined from the bedrock of Finland and Sweden.
It is heartening that the friendship between our countries is so strong it can be written in stone. Thank you for your kind attention, and for the opportunity to take part in the ceremony here today.