Niinistö gave his second New Year’s address from the Mäntyniemi Presidential residence, instead of the traditional Presidential Palace, as this is undergoing renovation.
Somewhat predictably, the speech of the former banker and Finance Minister focused mostly on economics and EU affairs, though Niinistö also called attention to wider social and environmental issues:
“The changing world presents great challenges to us. For this reason, we must pose new questions to ourselves. What will the redistribution of power lead to, who will have enough food and water, where will we find our raw materials in the future?”
For Niinistö, the most difficult question is “How can the world – and Finland – act in a sustainable manner with regard to the environment, society and the economy?”
The President defended the EU, seeing “peace, democracy and wellbeing” at the core of the Union. At the same time, Niinistö repeated his old concern over how EU member states’ economies are managed, and “How to ensure that governments and their successors adhere to what has now been agreed on and what will be agreed on.” Finland, Niinistö asserted, “has always highlighted its own approach to managing the economy and it should continue to do so.”
The President encouraged honest debate in the upcoming EU elections this spring, as “debate is also the way of democracy.” For Niinistö, the Union should be “honest, simply honest”.
New middle class on the rise
Niinistö expressed concern about growing inequality between citizens, and the concentration of wealth, saying that while there is less starvation, the opulence of a few has reached new proportions. At the same time, “A new middle class has emerged in many places where there has previously been none. This trend has accelerated growth and has stabilised many societies.”
The President noted that as a result of the technological revolution, many traditional tasks and professions are disappearing. In Finland this can be seen in the upheaval in industry, the many consultative talks, and redundancies. Yet the changes also give birth to new occupations, and opportunities, Niinistö asserted.
President Niinistö said he’d been inspired by the activities of Helsinki Missio, an organization combating loneliness and despair.
Renewing his earlier calls for individual social action, the President encouraged Finns to have the courage to ask each other: “How are you doing? Can I help you with something?”
Unlike his predecessor Tarja Halonen, Niinistö ended his New Year’s Speech with “God bless”.