President Niinistö on State Visit to Tallinn: “Small Countries Survive By Focusing on Top Know-How”

The president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, with his spouse receiving President Sauli Niinistö and Mrs Jenni Haukio at the official state visit in Tallinn, Estonia on May 17 2016. Picture: Juhani Kandell/ The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

The president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, with his spouse receiving President Sauli Niinistö and Mrs Jenni Haukio at the official state visit in Tallinn, Estonia on May 17 2016. Picture: Juhani Kandell/ The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

The relations between Estonia and Finland are blooming, “strong at all areas of life and society,” as President Sauli Niinistö said during his official visit with his spouse Mrs Jenni Hauikio in Estonia of the invitation of his Estonian counterpart Toomas Hendrik Ilves on Tuesday. “In our discussions, we didn’t focus on the problems but instead on our common view and how our countries – maybe even the whole Europe and the world – would become a better place to live by developing new innovations,” Niinistö said in a press conference after the discussions in Tallinn.

According to Niinistö, the economies of Finland and Estonia are sensitive to changes in the global economy and reforms are necessary to face the challenges of the future. “In both countries we need new markets, products, partnerships and attitude,” President Niinistö said.

On the other hand, a small country can survive in the global competition by focusing on top know-how in certain areas. “The global megatrends such as the climate change, the smart cities and new digital solutions. Both, Finland and Estonia have excellent opportunities to focus on the aforementioned and also benefit from that financially.”

The presidents also discussed about the future of EU. Both presidents agreed that the core values of the EU are peace and safety.

President Niinistö also held a speech at a Finland-Estonia future forum at the Mektory Innovation centre at the Tallinn University of Technology in the morning.

Here’s the transcript of his speech.

Finland and Estonia are close friends and partners in business, in the EU and particularly in cross-border cooperation. This cooperation functions well in many fields: in various sectors in the world of business, culture, science, sports and design. We need strong cooperation between universities, trade and industry, and policy in order to promote innovations.

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Like all export-dependent open economies, both of our countries are sensitive to turbulence in the global economy. We both need new markets, products, partnerships and attitudes.

In recent years we have seen both the positive and negative sides of the further acceleration of globalisation. As in Finland, intensifying competition has seen traditional industries shrink or even disappear. For example robotization will replace mechanical work and it will help to increase effectivity and improve the competitiveness of the industrial sector. But what if the robots will take even more demanding tasks in the future? What will this mean to our economies, to our tax incomes and to our middle-class and their professional work?

In these changes there is a serious need to transform our economies to respond to new challenges. Strict budgetary discipline and economic reforms are necessary conditions to remain competitive as nations – and to ensure that future generations have the same opportunities that a society based on wellbeing can offer.

On the other hand, there is no better way to survive as a small country in a hard global competition than to have top-class expertise in certain fields. Global megatrends like climate change, sustainability and digitalisation will generate high demand for cleantech, smart-city and new digital solutions. Both Finland and Estonia have a great chance of tackling such issues and would also benefit from such a development economically.

We have representatives here today from the startup-community as well. You are in a great position to comment on how to adapt to rapid changes and how to keep our region attractive to investors and entrepeneurs. For example, the Finnish start-up event Slush has become a global success story, while we in Finland have a lot to learn from your e-Residency efforts.

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I am all ears to hear your ideas on how we might complement and make use of each other’s strengths in our combined region of Tallinn and Helsinki – or should I say, Talsinki?

Mrs Jenni Haukio, President Sauli NIinistö, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Mrs Ieva Ilves in Tallinn, Estonia on May 17 2016. Picture: Juhani Kandell/The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

Mrs Jenni Haukio, President Sauli NIinistö, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Mrs Ieva Ilves in Tallinn, Estonia on May 17 2016. Picture: Juhani Kandell/The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

President Niinistö and Haukio are visiting Estonia from May 17 to 18.

In addition to meeting President Ilves, Niinistö met the speaker of the Estonian Parliament, Eiki Nestor, and prime minister Taavi Rõivas.

President Niinistö also laid a wreath at the monument to the Estonian War of Independence, as well as at the monument for the Estonian volunteers who fought for Finland in World War Two.

On the second day of the visit, the presidents and their spouses will visit Viljandi, where a question and answer session with upper secondary school students will be organised. From Viljandi, their journey will continue to President Ilves’ family farm Ärma.

The presidents’ spouses will have their own programme, including cultural attractions and a visit to the Tallinn Finnish School.

President Niinistö made an official visit to Estonia at the beginning of his term of office in the spring of 2012. President Ilves made state visits to Finland in 2007 and 2014.

On April 30, President Ilves visited Club Kaiku in Helsinki as a DJ, playing rock classics to a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd.

His term of office will end in the autumn. In addition, the presidents have met on numerous occasions during working visits and international events.