President Niinistö at the White House: “The Nordics are a Superpower of Innovation and Education”

President Sauli Niinistö and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, at the White House in Washington D.C. on May 13 2016. Picture: White House Live Stream

President Sauli Niinistö and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, at the White House in Washington D.C. on May 13 2016. Picture: White House Live Stream

President Sauli Niinistö is visiting the White House in the United States during an official visit of the Nordic leaders.

The visit began with a reception ceremony on Friday morning and Niinistö delivered a welcome speech to the US President Barack Obama.

Before the speech, Obama had been joking about the lack of sunshine in Washington in the past weeks, so Niinistö was “sorry that he forgot to bring the sunshine” with him.

“We have had plenty of sunshine this spring,” Niinistö said smiling.

After the jokes, President Niinistö stated that the Nordic countries and the United States are united by issues such as gender equality, equal opportunities, human rights, democracy, the rule of law and respect for international law.

In his speech, he thanked US for the leadership in combatting the climate change, drawing attention to Arctic issues, as well as multilateral cooperation, which is of vital importance to the Nordic countries.

President Niinistö also referred to the increasingly tense security situation in Northern Europe: “Times are turbulent in many respects.  Security threats abound.  The situation has become more tense even in the Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe – our neck of the woods. Strengthening security and stability there is called for, and this includes appropriate dialogue with Russia to enhance transparency and reduce risk.”

President Niinistö stated that the Nordic countries are security providers within their own region, as well as in Europe and globally. ”We shoulder our responsibilities. We seek solutions instead of problems. We are willing and able to continue to cooperate with you in promoting security and stability. We value highly the US commitment to Europe and to our security.”

According to President Niinistö, the Nordics are together a superpower – not militarily, but when it comes to innovation, education, competitiveness, sustainable development and clean technologies.  “Seen together we are the world’s 12th largest economy. We also claim superpower status as far as culture and sports are concerned.   And – as you see we are champions in modesty too!”

The summit meeting between the heads of state and government will take place in the White House on Friday morning. Topics of discussion include security and defence issues, immigration and the refugee crisis, climate change, energy and Arctic issues, economic and trade relations, and development and humanitarian aid.

Following the discussions, secretary of state John Kerry will host a lunch to the leaders at the U.S. Department of State. Friday’s programme will end with a state dinner hosted by President Obama and his spouse Michelle Obama at the White House.

On Saturday morning President Niinistö will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

The other Nordic countries will be represented by their prime ministers. Foreign ministers, including minister for foreign Affairs Timo Soini from Finland, are also participating in the visit. The foreign ministers will have a separate meeting with Kerry.

The Presiden’t spouse Jenni Haukio and the spouses of other Nordic leaders are also accompanying. The spouses will have their own programme, hosted by Michelle Obama. This includes a visit to the Renwick Gallery displaying American art and handcraft.

The official visit is a continuation of the summit meeting arranged in Stockholm in September 2013, when President Obama met with president Niinistö, as well as the prime ministers of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

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Obama and Niinistö. Picture: White House Live Stream

Here is a full transcript of President Niinistö’s speech at the White House in Washington D.C. on May 13 2016.

Mr. President and Mrs. Obama,

We, the Leaders of the five Nordic countries, and our spouses, are grateful to you for inviting us and convening the second US – Nordic Summit.

Thank you for the wonderful welcome. This is a very special occasion.

The Nordics are a family with profound commonality of values and history, and with strong ties of cooperation.  With you, Mr. President, we feel we have a kindred spirit.

Gender equality, equal opportunities, and human rights for all, democracy, the rule of law and respect of international law – these are hallmarks of our societies, and an agenda that we share.

Together the Nordics are a superpower – not militarily, but when it comes to innovation, education, competitiveness, sustainable development and clean technologies.  Seen together we are the world’s 12th largest economy. Free trade is clearly in our interest.

We also claim superpower status as far as culture and sports are concerned.   And – as you see we are champions in modesty too!

Mr. President,

We are grateful for the leadership the United States has shown in combatting the most existential threat in the world, that is, climate change; and focusing attention to the Arctic, where we are practically neighbors.  The Arctic Council can be used also as an instrument of confidence building.

The Nordic countries give high value to multilateral cooperation which you have stressed during your tenure. This is vitally important.

Times are turbulent in many respects.  Security threats abound.  The situation has become more tense even in the Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe – our neck of the woods. Strengthening security and stability there is called for, and this includes appropriate dialogue with Russia to enhance transparency and reduce risk.

The Nordic countries are – in many ways – security providers in our own region and Europe but also globally. We shoulder our responsibilities. We seek solutions instead of problems. We are willing and able to continue to cooperate with you in promoting security and stability.

We value highly the US commitment to Europe and to our security.

Finland is proud of the long-standing and firm friendship with the US.  It is based on common values and interest, broad contacts between our people and vibrant interaction economically and socially. We are committed to strengthening this partnership even further.

Today I am honored to say to you, on behalf of all the Nordic countries:

In us, the Nordic countries, Mr. President, the Unites States has a solid friend and strong partner.  We are willing to work together with the United States to build a better future for the whole mankind.

Source: The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland