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“Excuse me. Could you please move to the side,” one of the security guards asked a group of pedestrians strolling on the sidewalk of the Northern Esplanade in Helsinki late on Wednesday afternoon.
“Who’s that guy and the lady?” asked one of the tourists from one of the guys of the entourage while pointing at a man in dark suit walking arm in arm with a lady in mustard and black dress, blonde hair and dark sunglasses.
“He’s the Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg with his fiancé, the Grand Duchess Maria Teresa.”
“Oh . . . thank you.”
The royal couple were catching the sights and some fresh air after an extensive day of officials talks, events and meetings.
Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg arrived at the Presidential Palace for an official state visit on Tuesday afternoon until Thursday May 12.
The corners of Market Square started filling with spectators after they saw the military parade march along the Northern Esplanade in front of the palace and stop in position, ready to play the anthems of Finland and Luxembourg.
Henri and Teresa arrived in a long police escort and they met with the Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö and his spouse Jenni Haukio at the gates of the palace. After the national anthems and handshakes with the ministers and high-ranking military officials, the duke and president saluted the military outside the gates and then they continued inside and on top of the balcony.
The grand duke, grand duchess, president and the first lady waved to the crowd for a minute or so and they were clearly enjoying themselves.
Inside, at the Gothic Hall, the party was still laughing and was happy to pose for the cameras.
On Wednesday morning, Henri and Niinistö visited Finland-Luxemburg Business Forum at the Finlandia Hall, where the focus was on bilateral business relations. Even in space.
“We started to understand that when you take notice of all the development the mankind has made during the last decades . . . well . . . even space is possible to reach, President Niinistö said at the press conference after their official talks at the Presidential Palace.
Niinistö said that because both, Finland and Luxembourg, are relatively small countries, the mindset of the countries is similar, so the discussions were “extremely good.”
One common worry was what was happening in the European Union.
“We both went back in time remembering the foundation of the European community and the values and the reasons why the community was founded. It was peace. Peace and security. With all those values dealing with democracy, human rights, values, which we have started considering as self-given things,” President Niinistö said.
“Now, we are facing a world which is not that what we are used to, for decades already. We must be reminded and work for peace.”
“We found a common ground where we can cooperate in many fields. We have a similar mentality, despite the fact that we are quite far away from each other, we think the same way. We don’t have any real national resources, so we have to use our brains and I think we are quite good at that,” Grand Duke Henri said and they both exploded in laughter.
“It’s interesting to see how our European way of thinking are very similar. Maybe small countries have better ways to understand how to cooperate because we need cooperation to be able to export our goods and to import our goods.”
Henri also said that during the discussions, it was interesting to get an understanding of the relations between Finland and Russia, “your eastern big brother, but not always a brother, unfortunately.” “You have an understanding how to deal with Russians and Russian use Finland to pass on messages to the European Union, which are very important for us to understand the mentality and how the Russian population are thinking.”
“I think Finland will continue to be a kind of bridge between Russia and the European Union and we cherish this a lot.”