Iraq’s stability and the start of reconstruction are strongly in the interest of Finland and the whole European Union, according to the Finnish Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (the Green League). Photograph: Kosti Keistinen/The Finnish government
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (the Green League). Photograph: Kosti Keistinen/The Finnish government

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (the Green League) visited Iraq on July 22–23 at the invitation of Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. The central purpose of the visit, according to a news release by the Finnish foreign ministry, was to establish relations with Iraq’s new government, to express support for Iraq’s stabilization efforts and to exchange views on topical bilateral and regional questions. “Iraq is located in Europe’s neighboring region and is an important country geopolitically. Its stability and the start of reconstruction are strongly in the interest of Finland and the whole European Union,” the foreign ministry noted.

In addition to meeting his counterpart in Baghdad, Foreign Minister Haavisto met with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, President Barham Salihi and Speaker of the Council of Representatives Mohamed al-Halbousi.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Haavisto officially inaugurated the Finnish Embassy in Baghdad together with Foreign Minister Hussein. Finland closed its mission in Baghdad nearly 29 years ago and reopened it in November 2019.

While in Iraq, Minister Haavisto visited also Erbil, a city in northern Iraq, where he had a meeting with President of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani and Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government Masrour Barzani. Haavisto also paid a visit to Camp Lion, the base of the Finnish Crisis Management Force in Iraq (SKJI).   Finland has participated in the work of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS since 2015.

The presence and activities of Finnish and other international troops in Iraq was brought up also in the discussions with Iraq’s political leadership. Other topics of discussion included the security political situation in the region, Iraq’s reconstruction and reform measures and topics related to economics. Views were exchanged also on human rights questions and close cooperation in migration and readmission matters.

“It is important for the security of Finns that we know and understand what is happening in the region. Wise foreign policy means a long-term commitment to security matters. Iraq’s reconstruction, which is being launched with international support, opens up economic opportunities, too,” Foreign Minister Haavisto said in the statement.

Finland and Iraq share a history of close contacts. The previous ministerial visit from Finland was made by Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö (the Finns Party) in December 2016. In the 1970s and 1980s, Finnish ministers of industry and trade paid frequent visits to Iraq.

In the 1970s, more than 1,000 Finns used to live in their own area, Finncamp, located in Baghdad’s neighborhood. Finns have designed and built, for example, the Baghdad Conference Palace, vocational schools, agricultural institutions and residential areas.