President urges MPs to uphold political consensus

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President Sauli Niinistö on Thursday said that Political consensus was a great strength during the Finland´s NATO membership process and urged the newly elected lawmakers to exercise similar mutual understanding in the future.

“Political consensus was our great strength during the membership process. It would be advisable to exercise similar mutual understanding in the future as well,” Niinistö told lawmakers while addressing the formal inauguration of the parliament session.

He also said that the members of parliament are not only accountable to their own voters, but also accountable to the whole nation and the next generation.

“An individual representative may be expected to be accountable particularly to their own voters or specifically to their own party. But you are not representing yourselves as individuals, you are representing the Finnish people. This is not a solo event. Together you are accountable to the whole nation,” said the President.

Pointing out the NATO membership, he said being a member Finland requires new legislation and commitment to the key principles of the defence alliance.

“Being an ally requires new legislation and commitment to NATO’s key principles from us. The Parliament will quite soon be faced with the practical impacts of membership,” he said, adding that in addition, this coincides with the ongoing negotiations on the bilateral defence co-operation agreement with the United States.

He also focused on status of the autonomous Åland Islands following the NATO membership.

“The issue of the status of the Åland Islands has given rise to some domestic debate. I would like to point out that, today, that status is perhaps more stable than it has ever been: any hostile action against Åland would be a declaration of war against NATO. It goes without saying that in NATO’s joint defence planning the situation of the region is an object of special attention,” the President said.

He, however, said that as significant as NATO membership is, it does not solve every problem, saying, “we still bear the main responsibility for our own security. Wherever we detect any gaps or vulnerabilities, they must be fixed.”

He also said that some issues remain missing while focusing attention to Russia´s invasion and NATO membership.

“Now that we have focused our attention on Russia’s war of aggression and NATO membership, what have we missed? I hope that the ongoing work on reforming the Emergency Powers Act will advance rapidly during this electoral period. But is our preparedness for terrorism and other extremist movements of sufficiently high quality? And are we capable of detecting and preventing increasingly advanced cyberattacks and other threats enabled by new technologies?” Niinistö asked.

The President also spoke on various international issues and focused the ongoing dangers with the increasing geopolitical pressures.

“Over the past year, our gaze has understandably been fixed on matters near us. On the war of aggression waged by Russia. On unwavering support to Ukraine. On guaranteeing the security of the North, the Baltic Sea region and Finland. And on military capabilities, defence industry and security of supply,” he said.

“We must not let this level of alertness drop in the future. But at the same time, we must also be able to look further away. We should better understand how organically the dangers and tensions we are witnessing here are linked with the increasing geopolitical pressures. A power struggle that affects us both directly and indirectly is currently going on all continents,” he said.

Niinistö said it is not in Finland’s best interest to aggravate that power struggle or to deepen the division into blocs with its own actions.

“ However, we cannot close our eyes to reality. Our own diplomacy is needed not only in Europe but also in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We must also talk with those – and perhaps in particular with those – who see the world differently from us,” he added.

At the end of his speech, the President declared the opening of the 2023 Parliament.

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