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Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson's speech at the ambassadors' meeting 2023

Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Publication date 23.8.2023 12.28

"The exceptional times we have been living in recent years have emphasised the importance of Nordic cooperation. Finland has also a lot to offer to other Nordic countries, and we should learn from others in many sectors of society. Through Nordic interaction, we will be able to effectively advance various matters," says minister Anna-Maja Henriksson in her speech.

Esteemed Heads of Mission,

It is a great pleasure for me to meet you in this role for the first time at the Annual Meeting of Heads of Mission. You are doing valuable work every day. You are working for a brighter future for the generations to come, for a better tomorrow for all of us – thank you all, thank you very much!

Our common agenda consists of promoting Nordic cooperation to achieve national and Nordic goals. Nordic cooperation is strongly present in the Government Programme. It could be described as one of its red threads. The Government Programme says, for example, that “Finland is an active member of the Nordic community and will work to deepen Nordic integration and dismantle barriers between the Nordic countries”. 

The exceptional times we have been living in recent years have emphasised the importance of Nordic cooperation. Finland has also a lot to offer to other Nordic countries, and we should learn from others in many sectors of society. Through Nordic interaction, we will be able to effectively advance various matters.

Dear audience,

The Nordic community brings “Nordic value” – significant added value for us. Nordic cooperation is based on common values, a common identity, similar societal models, our ability to communicate in our Nordic languages and a long tradition of free movement across our borders. Nordic cooperation is about us – about us who live in the Nordic countries, our daily life and human encounters. About encounters between individuals – young and old, about interactions and cooperation among companies, among civil servants and decision-makers, among institutions and civil society. We, the Nordic people, are close to each other. And together we are stronger.

Our common history and the legacy it has generated are a key to what it means to be one of the Nordic countries. Historical ties have played an important role in shaping the Finnish identity and the country's development. A good example of what being one of the Nordics means and how it influences us is legislation. As a former Ministers of Justice, I must mention the law of 1734, which is, in certain respects, still part of the current law in both Finland and Sweden. The Nordic countries are also united by culture and Scandinavian languages. Art and culture are regarded as one of the cornerstones of Nordic cooperation. 

The Nordic welfare model, with its strong emphasis on equality, gender equality and equal access to education, health care and social security, has been used as a model in Finnish society for decades.

Being one of the Nordics has laid foundations for Finland's economic growth. The internal Nordic trade and investment ties have promoted Finland's economic development and stability. In the corporate world, Nordic cooperation is extensive. Many companies define the Northern region their home market and priority area. Increasing prosperity and enhancing competitiveness have been standard elements of intergovernmental cooperation from the very beginning. Together we are more. Currently, our societies aim to make a transition to a green economy, towards carbon neutrality and a sustainable circular economy and bioeconomy. Together, we promote green growth, which is based on knowledge, innovation, mobility and digital integration. In the field of digitalisation, for example, the Baltic States are an important partner.

Nature and the environment are important for the citizens of the Nordic countries, and the Northern region is known as a pioneer in nature conservation. The Nordic Swan Ecolabel was invented as part of official cooperation a long time ago. It has helped Nordic residents make sustainable and ecological choices in their everyday lives. Today, the mitigation of climate change and the preservation of biodiversity are also at the core of cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear audience,

The Nordic countries are strongly committed to maintaining stability and promoting peace both in our neighbouring areas and in the world. The security situation changed by Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine has shown the great importance of security and defence cooperation. The time of major security political challenges has made the strength of our cooperation clearly visible. Our countries have worked in close collaboration, supporting one another. We are now convening for the first time to the Annual Meeting of Heads of Mission in a new phase of history – Finland is a member of the defence alliance NATO! But let me tell it like it is: Our membership will not be complete before Sweden is also a member of NATO. The cause of Sweden is ours. The fact that all Nordic countries are becoming NATO members means a new era in Nordic cooperation. We can finally put the missing piece of the puzzle in its place, and Nordic cooperation will become even stronger than before.

It may be that way too often we take being one of the Nordics and Nordic cooperation for granted. We move, work, study and do business freely across the Northern borders. It is great that the number of Swedish students is also increasing in Finland. This is visible, for example, in Hanken School of Economics. The Nordic countries have been pioneers in free movement, an open labour market and social security. Deepening Nordic cooperation even further is in Finland's best interests. 

Dear friends,

We can and should keep developing. This is about preparing your home for the future. About having visions. About building more bridges in the Nordic countries, figuratively, and maybe also in practice. It is no coincidence that the recent Government Programme includes a reference to a survey of a permanent connection across Kvarken.

The Nordic cooperation model raises international interest even today. Let me give you a concrete example: At the end of 2021, we hosted a delegation from the countries of the Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa, who wanted to hear about different forms of cooperation in Northern Europe, including the Nordic Council of Ministers. None of the Nordic countries would have developed as favourably as they have without Nordic cooperation.

Dear audience,

It has been said that the Nordic countries handle change well. There are certainly strong causal links between social trust, good governance and social mobility and the Nordic countries' capacity for change.  Looking ahead, it is important to be able to manage change and build stronger resilience in our societies.

In my opinion, the idea at the very core of the Nordic way of living is the endeavour to continuously build a better and more prosperous society based on equality, which always puts the well-being of its citizens first. The establishment of the Nordic Council was particularly important for Finland, and we cannot emphasise enough the meaning of becoming its member in 1955.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me say a few words about the work of the Nordic Council of Ministers in the coming year: the vision 2030, cross-border barriers and preparing for crisis.

The Nordic prime ministers have set it as their goal that the Nordic region will become the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. The action plan has three strategic priorities: a green Nordic Region, a competitive Nordic Region, and a socially sustainable Nordic Region. The indicators in the follow-up report compiled this year show that the implementation of the plan is advancing in the right direction. The least progress has been made in reaching the target of becoming a green Nordic Region.

The work for removing cross-border barriers continues. This year, the particular issues on the agenda of the council focusing on removing cross-border barriers include taxation, professional certifications and digital tools.  An important cross-border barrier to be solved is the fact that the Finnish online banking codes or other means of strong identification cannot be used for identification purposes in the digital services of other Nordic countries. At a pan-European level, this is an important matter related to the development of a digital inner market.

Dear friends,

As you will recall, one of our main priorities during the Finnish presidency of the Nordic Council was to develop our cooperation in preparedness and security of supply. The Prime Ministers continue to emphasise the importance of preparedness and cooperation in an unstable and unpredictable environment.

The governments' work has continued under the Norwegian and Icelandic presidencies, and Sweden will also have this theme on its agenda next year. In the preparation of the action plan for the Nordic Council of Ministers 2025-2030, we are endeavouring to ensure that all ministerial councils work within their sectors to strengthen crisis preparedness within the framework of overall security.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear audience,

The Nordic Council of Ministers will continue to grant funding for joint ventures of Nordic embassies and international profiling and communications projects under Nordic Talks programme outside the Nordic countries. I want to thank you for your active participation in the branding work. In the light of recent evens – such as Quran burnings in Sweden – we all understand how essential role you as heads of mission play in tailoring the national and Nordic branding work to suit the location you are working at.

In times of insecurity, the importance of a broad Nordic cooperation is emphasised. Our shared Nordic values and our Nordic cooperation is needed. The Nordic ideal rests on an incredibly stable foundation and permeates our societies.

It is good to remember that the Nordic countries are our closest reference group in terms of values, agendas and operating practices. The Nordic cooperation will continue to grow deeper. Together we are stronger. Together we are more! According to opinion surveys, this cooperation enjoys very strong public support. We do determined work to realise the vision of the Nordic countries as the most sustainable and integrated region in the world.

Heads of Mission,

I look forward to good cooperation and to promoting Finland's interests together with you.