An army helicopter of model NH90, swept over the heads of the king and the defence minister of Sweden – the Finnish president and the defence minister and the commander of the defence forces.
It was showtime at Wednesday afternoon; an evacuation exercise of an injured soldier from the European Union’s military crisis management unit for the pleasure of the honorary guests at the Santahamina military base, an island, located in the in eastern Helsinki.
The wind was chilly, it drizzled and the sand was turning to mud at the training ground carrying a codename, Sahara.
But the regiment performed their exercise with flair: a flare created a red smokescreen, the helicopter was landed, a group of soldiers jumped out with their machine guns pointing at various directions, and the injured soldier was rushed off the field to the helicopter on a yellow stretcher and the NH90 – designed to operate in harsh military environments – flew like a snooty eagle to the horizon in the early Finnish spring.
King Carl XVI Gustaf seemed pleased and he nodded his head, which was covered with a stylish grey fedora with a teardrop-shaped crown.
This was the most action-packed moment of the king’s visit in Finland but I was eager to find out what the royal couple had found to be the most interesting after they arrived in Helsinki on Tuesday.
“It’s important to renew old contacts and to create new ones,” King Gustaf said to me a few hours before in Hanasaari, at the Swedish-Finnish Culture Centre, where the king and queen visited a seminar of young forces at different youth organisations.
“We have discussed a lot of the future with the young generation. The old contacts are there but we try to create new ones. That is not so obvious. Both sides have to work make an effort for it.”
Queen Silvia looked at me and with her soft voice, she said, she had very much enjoyed meeting the youth earlier today at the Me & MyCity Espoo, a miniature city, where students work in a profession and function as consumers and citizens as part of society in a learning environment, a Finnish innovation from 2009.
“It was fantastic! It would be fun to have it in Sweden as well,” Queen Silvia said.
In Santahamina, the tour echoed of the Finnish-Swedish military cooperation, which has been increased recently as the defence ministers of the neighbouring countries have frequented their visits and the official discussions were conducted with President Niinistö and King Gustaf on Tuesday.
The honorary guests at Santahamina were also shown a glimpse of various weapons used by the Finnish military and they attended a seminar highlighting the Finnish-Swedish military cooperation, where the Finnish defence minister, Carl Haglund, made continual remarks about increasing the defence budget.
“We have had good cooperation in many areas and for many many years. This is a way to advance when we think about the defence cooperation,” King Gustaf said after being exposed to various weapons from bazooka to rifles.
“The cooperation is under evaluation now. We are trying find well-functioning ways for the cooperation. This is just the beginning.”
“And we don’t have a goal,” President Niinistö added.
“Because we advance step by step and we will see how it goes. And everything has gone extremely well, for now.”
“One of our support pillars is the international cooperation, Niinistö continued, “and in that includes the development of defence cooperation with Sweden, the NATO partnership and the EU and NORDECO (The Nordic Agency for Development and Ecology).
“This is an important part of our security thinking.”
“The equipment and the soldiers look the same as in Sweden nowadays,” King Gustaf said.
“This makes the cooperation easy. One feels secure and one can teach one another. The education is important,” the king continued and that was enough of the comments to the questions of the media from Finland and Sweden.
The king and the queen (who met with young designers at the Design Forum while the king attended the military) had a few hours to rest.
Then it was time for dinner at the House of the Estates, a luxurious meal for the invitational guests, hosted by the royal couple themselves.