Edited by Anna Popper
Every year, on 6 December Finland celebrates the day of the Finnish Parliament’s Declaration of Independence from the Russian Empire in 1917. In Finland, the day culminates with the Independence Day reception hosted by the President of the Republic of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and Mrs Jenni Haukio at the Presidential Palace. Around 1,300 people from different parts of Finland were invited to this great function, which is also the most-watched television event of the year by the population. In 2022, the theme of this grand reception was “Finland, as a nation that trusts in itself”.
“It might feel like there are very few reasons to celebrate, but Independence Day and the reception nevertheless present a good opportunity to show gratitude and respect. When times are hard, there is all the more reason to show gratitude and respect.” – said President Sauli Niinistö.
On the occasion of the Independence Day a diplomatic reception was held by H.E. Pertti Anttinen, Ambassador of the Republic of Finland to Hungary, and Mrs Katriina Apajalahti, at the Finnish Residence in Budapest. The new Head of Mission took office in October 2022 after handing over his credentials to the President of Hungary, Mrs Katalin Novák.
The celebration was attended by Hungarian officials, including the Guest of Honour, Mr Tibor Navracsics, Minister of Regional Development, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of twin cities and social life, business, cultural and academic circles, and the Finnish community in Hungary.
The event started with the national anthems of Finland, Hungary and the EU, performed by the Youth Choir from the Hungarian city of Pécel, followed by the Ambassador’s address:
“It is my great pleasure to welcome you to celebrate the 105th Independence Day of Finland with us. This is a special occasion for me and my wife Katriina, since this is the first Independence Day we are hosting in the Finnish residence in Budapest. This day is also special taking into account that we have been able to celebrate this important day only virtually in the past two years.
We all thought that life would get back to normal after two years full of pandemic induced uncertainty and stress. Unfortunately this did not happen. On the contrary, uncertainty continues and grows after Russia’s brutal and unprovoked attack to Ukraine in February.
Finland is committed to support Ukraine by all means and as long as it takes. Finland has recently delivered its tenth national package of weapons and military equipment, including heavy weapons, to Ukraine. When our development and humanitarian aid are counted together, Finland has given over 300 million euros in assistance to Ukraine.
The European Union is currently preparing a new package of assistance to Ukraine. EU is also stepping up the support for Ukraine’s defence forces through the European Peace Facility. The EU will now hold a training mission for the Ukrainian military, in which Finland will also participate.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also profoundly damaged the existing security architecture in Europe. The European security order established during the Cold War could not prevent a full-scale war in Europe. Weakening of the security situation started already in 2014, following the illegal annexation of Crimea to Russia. Uncertainty and unpredictability have become permanent challenges reflecting on European security. We live in a new reality.
Finland’s application for NATO membership was a reaction to this fundamental change in the security environment in Europe. And I am sure that the same applies to our dear neighbour Sweden, too. We had to re-evaluate our approach to national and European security. Finland has been a NATO partner since 1994 and contributor to a number of NATO-led operations and missions. The option to join a military alliance has been in the Finnish Government Programs since 2004. The government decided to apply for NATO membership in mid-May 2022 with our Parliament’s almost unanimous support, 188 votes in favour of the total 200, with only 8 MPs voting against. The popular support for NATO was close to 80% at the time the decision to seek membership was taken. It can therefore be concluded that this was a truly democratic process and driven by the people.
As a NATO member, Finland will be a security provider, whose membership will further strengthen the Alliance as a whole. So far, already 28 countries out of 30 have already ratified the membership. We remain confident that also Hungary will ratify Finland’s membership soon.”
“Let me turn to our bilateral relations.
On bilateral level, maybe the highlights of the year have been the visit of Minister Navracsics to Finland in August and our Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto’s visit to Budapest in September 2022. In the field of trade, the value of our bilateral trade with Hungary is around 670 million EUR. This year Nokia announced an additional investment to its research and development hub in Budapest, creating 150 new jobs. The Embassy as part of the Team Finland network is ready to help if and when there is interest to enhance to create new connections and look for new opportunities between Hungary and Finland.
The people-to-people contacts between our two countries date long back and are very intensive in a number of fields. As an example, close to 200 hundred representatives from Finland and Hungary participated the Twin City Conference organized in Veszprém in September 2022. It can be mentioned that in 2023 Veszprém-Balaton will be European Capital of Culture, and Finnish city of Oulu (twinned with the city of Siófok) will follow a few years later.
During the past year, a number of events including seminars and workshops on topics related to smart cities, good governance, waste water management, Roma youth employment and many others have been organized. Furthermore, Finnish culture has been present in Finnish film weeks in several cities. Many of these activities have been organized by the Finnish Cultural Institute FinnAgora, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. We thank FinnAgora colleagues for the excellent and continued cooperation.
I would also like to thank our colleagues from other Nordic embassies. I have heard about positive feedback of the cooperation related to the Nordic Bridge II project, and we are looking forward to continue along the same lines, with new and interesting topics.
And finally, I take this opportunity to thank the whole Embassy staff as well as colleagues from the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the warm welcome and help my wife and I have enjoyed during the first three months in Budapest. On behalf of the whole Embassy of Finland staff, I once more warmly thank you for coming to celebrate with us.”
The evening went on in a warm and friendly atmosphere while the guests enjoyed the specialities of Finnish gastronomy, and the cultural performance.
The Twin Cities Special:
In addition to the excellent political and economic ties between Finland and Hungary, there has always been a special relationship based on linguistic relativity and there are strong connections on all levels of society. The number of Finnish–Hungarian twin cities is 57 and practically most of major Hungarian towns have a Finnish partner city, and some of them for 50 years. There is a traditional conference, a three-day event for Finnish and Hungarian twin cities, organised every three years, where the participants generally discuss common projects, best practices and new fields of cooperation.
Embassy of Finland in Budapest
Office of the President of the Republic of Finland