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Niinistö: Western border closure aimed against virus, not Swedes

The president told Swedish reporters that he does not foresee any long-term harm to ties between the Nordic neighbours.

Leende Sauli Niinistö ute i solen bland blommorna på Gullranda.
President Sauli Niinistö at his official summer residence, Kultaranta, last month. Image: Matti Porre / Tasavallan presidentin kanslia
Yle News

President Sauli Niinistö says that Finland's decision not to re-open its borders to Swedes is not aimed against Sweden, but against the coronavirus. He made the comment in an interview with the Swedish news agency TT.

Niinistö said the situation was similar to when the government closed off the Uusimaa region from the rest of Finland to contain the spread of the pandemic.

"We did so because we saw that the virus was spreading within Uusimaa at a quite different rate than elsewhere in the country," Niinistö explained.

"Not everyone liked it, but I believe that deep within themselves they understood that it was best for everyone," said the president.

No effect on Nordic cooperation

Sweden has suffered proportionally far more from Covid-19 than its eastern neighbour, with 5,420 deaths compared to Finland's 329. Sweden's population is nearly twice as large as Finland's.

Niinistö declined to reply when asked whether Finland's strategy against coronavirus was better than Sweden's. He said however that he was very satisfied with the Finnish government's handling of the crisis. Niinistö has not been actively involved, as Finland's presidency is primarily responsible for external affairs.

Swedish Interior Minister Mikael Damberg and Foreign Minister Ann Linde have both implied that Finland's decision to keep its border with Sweden closed to all but essential business could have a negative impact on Nordic cooperation.

Niinistö said he disagreed, arguing that a border closure lasting a few months would not affect the country's long shared history.

Finland was ruled by Sweden for centuries up until 1809. In 1995, the neighbouring countries joined the EU together, and two decades later both became "enhanced members" in Nato's Partnership for Peace programme.

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