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Iasked the President of Iceland Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson If there’s anything we could learn from the Icelandic culture, and he seemed more than happy to share his thoughts.

President Johannesson and his spouse, First Lady Eliza Reid, arrived at the Presidential Palace on the sunny Tuesday morning to meet with the Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and his spouse, Ms Jenni Haukio.

Opposite the palace, tourists were standing in their shorts and dresses, some waving the Icelandic flag.

The bilateral discussions between the presidents included the relations between Finland and Iceland, the successive chairmanships of the Arctic Council of the two countries, security questions regarding the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea as well as Nordic cooperation.

According to the presidents, they found common ground as being the biggest “Skyr eaters” in the world.

To the question of what we could learn from the Icelandic culture, President Johannesson said that “we can learn that we are stronger together.” “We [Icelanders] and Finns are the margins of Nordic cooperation,” he continued.

Johannesson said that in preparation to his visit to Finland, he watched a TV program about the future innovations of Finland and there was a question of “What do the Finns lack?” One person said that “maybe the Finns could be a bit bolder.”

“I would be hesitant still to say that, well, you should follow the example of the Icelanders: ‘We are extremely bold!’,” Johannesson said laughing.

“We would just say: ‘Well, things will work out somehow.’”

“Maybe you can learn a tiny bit from us but don’t go all the way!” he said and continued laughing.

President Johannesson also met with the Speaker of the Parliament Paula Risikko and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. The day will conclude with a gala dinner hosted by President Niinistö and Mrs Haukio in the Presidential Palace.

On Wednesday, the presidents will visit icebreaker Urho where they attend a roundtable discussion on Arctic matters. President Johannesson will also participate in a seminar organized by the Confederation of Finnish Industries and the Federation of Icelandic Industries, give a lecture at the University of Helsinki and visit the Me & MyCity learning environment.

In the evening, the Icelandic presidential couple will host a reception at the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki.

On Thursday, the Icelandic presidential couple will travel to Turku to visit Visitor and Innovation Centre Joki, the Startup Community SparkUp, the University of Turku, the Turku Castle, the Åbo Akademi University and the Forum Marinum Maritime Centre.

The Icelandic presidential couple visited Finland previously in June 2017 to celebrate the centenary of Finland’s independence with other Nordic heads of state. President Niinistö last visited Iceland in the autumn of 2014 and made a state visit there in May 2013.

Tony Öhberg