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President Niinistö: Important to find common ground

Participating in this weekend's Munich Security Conference, President Sauli Niinistö said he hopes 2016 will not bring any new, unexpected setbacks to the international political arena.

Sauli Niinistö Münchenin turvallisuuskouksessa lauantaina.
President Sauli Niinistö at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, February 13, 2016. Image: Jani Saikko / Yle

President Sauli Niinistö’s message in the presidential debate on Saturday morning that featured the presidents of Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland, and of course Finland, was that it is crucial to find common ground, even if that simply means agreeing to work on issues that there's no agreement on - yet.

No room for unexpected setbacks

According to President Niinistö, who spoke to reporters at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, during the last two years there have been many surprises. In the beginning of 2014 few foresaw the Ukraine crisis. Last year at this time migration to Europe was in its infancy.

Niinistö said that any additional unexpected surprises will undermine the global order.

“We can’t afford to take any steps backward now, so let’s move in a better direction,” said Niinistö.

Niinistö met one-on-one with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and said that at the recent Davos World Economic Forum Poroshenko appeared optimistic, but now he seemed less so.

Niinistö had asked Poroshenko if he could see the light at the end of the tunnel, to which Poroshenko had reportedly answered: "It's visible, but I don’t know if it's the opening of the tunnel or an oncoming train."

Russia everywhere

According to Niinistö, Russia is a major player: "When you look at the map from Syria to the North Pole, Russia is everywhere and always seems to be present when a larger problem arises.”

Niinistö will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in March.

Regarding Finland and Russia’s border issues, Niinistö said that it's an issue best left to the respective border officials to negotiate.

Niinistö said he felt this year’s Munich discussions were more constructive compared to last year’s event, where an atmosphere of suspicion prevailed.

He also said that Russia appeared to be moderate this year, whereas last year Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave a speech that was highly critical of the West. This year Russia’s main speaker was Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, who according to Niinistö, aimed to present his visions in a peaceful manner and offered a path of reconciliation.

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