President Niinistö and Speaker Sipilä Highlight Multiculturalism at the Opening of Parliament

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Speaker of the parliament, Juha Sipilä, shaking hands with President Sauli Niinistö at the opening of the parliament at the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki on Wednesday April 29 2015. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

It was a delight to observe both President Saul Niinistö and the election winner, the newly selected speaker of the parliament and the man leading the negotiations to form a new government, Juha Sipilä, offering ingredients to lift Finland from the rut and talk about multiculturalism and tolerance in their speeches at the opening session of the parliament at the Finlandia Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

“The people’s representatives reflect the people, and that is how it should be. As you will have noticed while on the campaign trail, the feelings, worries and joys of everyday life are not confined to certain towns or cities,” President Niinistö said.

“No boundaries separate us from one another, nor do we need any. Finland has room for a variety of lifestyles and personal situations, many cultures also.”

Niinistö reminded the parliament that the forthcoming government has a difficult task ahead.

“No one in this building can be unaware of the situation in which Finland finds itself. Our economy has shrunk, the needle has swung towards critical on the public debt and deficit indicator, the state has large guarantee commitments and the national unemployment insurance fund has a considerable borrowing requirement. Together, these combine to form a challenge which we cannot meet without a new, firmer grasp of matters and positive will to change.”

“We need cooperation, a sense of responsibility and the boldness to renew ourselves.”

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Speaker Sipilä and President Niinistö enjoying coffee and discussions. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Sipilä said that the parliament’s first task is to form a workable government. The representatives who have been elected are responsible for ensuring that Finland rises up out of apathy and onto a road of growth and stronger wellbeing.

“We need cooperation, a sense of responsibility and the boldness to renew ourselves.”

“We must together find a spirit of agreement to redress the situation. If we really want to increase jobs and give the unemployed hope of finding work, we must also dare to give up something. The interest of our home country must now simply be put before our own interest.”

“Finland must fresh-mindedly and boldly grasp the opportunities that the bio-economy and digitalisation offer.”

“I believe in our shared vision that everyone wants to save our welfare society and restore the competitiveness of Finnish work and companies as well as to make the great change that lies before us in such a way that all remain involved in the change and wellbeing gaps do not grow,” Sipilä continued.

According to Sipilä, Finland is still a good and safe country to live in, one where the cornerstones are a high standard of competence and using the resources of the whole of Finland.

“Finland must fresh-mindedly and boldly grasp the opportunities that the bio-economy and digitalisation offer.”

“Finland’s competitiveness must be restored and employment brought onto an upward curve. In putting our economy and competitiveness in shape, we shall need an open mind. Without constant renewal we will not get by. The world has taught us that.”

Sipilä said that the foundation on which democracy stands is that “we are able to respect each other’s conviction, world view and opinions.” “Respect for others, fairness and looking after the weakest are the criteria of how civilised a nation is. Only in that way can mutual trust be built. Without enduring trust it is difficult to get a country’s affairs into order.”
Sipilä reminded the parliament that Finland is a part of the West and a member of the European Union. “Our security presupposes a wise foreign policy, good neighbourly relations, a durable defence as well as a strong, whole and functioning society. Finland is not the focus of a military threat, but as a nation we must prepare also for the worst.”

“The world around us is in ferment. Although we have problems in our own country, we must be able in various situations to help those in need also beyond our borders. We have competence and experience both as helpers in humanitarian crises when natural disasters strike and as builders of peace. Recent tragic events both in the Mediterranean and in the earthquake-ravaged Nepal remind us that we cannot close our eyes and flee our responsibility when our help is needed.”

“Every person is of equal human value and has his or her own important place in our society. This applies both to native-born Finns and to those members of our community who have come here from elsewhere,” Sipilä said.

“The different areas and regions of our country likewise have their own characteristic features and strengths, which must be respected and supported. Confrontation between people or regions does not build; it tears. In the words of the poet Eino Leino: “Oh people, tolerate one another! So big, so great is the land.”

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