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”An end of an era” – friends and colleagues remember Mauno Koivisto

Former President Mauno Koivisto has passed away at age 93. The country's leadership, Members of Parliament and friends share their memories.

Presidentti Mauno Koivisto ja rouva Tellervo Koivisto osallistuivat itsenäisyyspäivän ekumeeniseen juhlajumalanpalvelukseen Helsingin tuomiokirkossa 6. joulukuuta 2016.
Mauno Koivisto and wife Tellervo Koivisto. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

In a speech given early Saturday morning, President Sauli Niinistö said Mauno Koivisto belonged to the last generation of leaders to have experienced war and the rebuilding of Finland. Koivisto was a key figure in guiding Finland on its path to prosperity.

”We are thankful for Koivisto’s work, which is one of the reasons why Finland, on its centenary, is the world’s most stable nation."

Niinistö reminisced how Koivisto had an extraordinary ability to get along with Finland’s neighbours.

”’Good relations to our neighbours’ was Koivisto’s answer, when he was asked to describe his foreign policy with just a few words. This peaceful approach was the backbone of Mauno Koivisto’s foreign policy,” Niinistö said.

”With great sorrow in our hearts, we feel deep gratitude to Mauno Koivisto for his long and influential life work for the benefit for Finland.”

Former president Tarja Halonen took to Twitter to pay her respects to Koivisto.

”President Mauno Koivisto strengthened our democracy. He guided our country to the Council of Europe and the European Union.”

In Yle’s morning show, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä echoed Niinistö and said how thankful he is for what Koivisto has done for the country.

”A great Finnish statesman is gone. 12 years as president and 5 years as prime minister, overseeing the transition from Kekkonen’s time in the Cold War to a new era, leading Finland towards the West… First and foremost I feel deep gratitude,” Sipilä said.

Sipilä highlighted three features of Koivisto’s legacy.

”Public discourse, respecting parliamentarism and emphasizing good relations to our neighbouring countries.”

A statesman, colleague, dear friend and loving husband

Koivisto was the Chairman of the Board of the Bank of Finland in 1968–1982, where he was said to be ”raising interest” for more influential roles in the future.

Erkki Liikanen, the current Chairman of the Board of the Bank of Finland, remembers fondly a conversation he had with Koivisto on the President’s 90th birthday.

Koivisto had started to reminisce his youth. He said his father was a strict Adventist, who had preached about the end of the world. Koivisto himself had anguished over the world's end, but said he stopped worrying when he met his wife, Tellervo.

”I will never forget this comment of his,” Liikanen said.

Member of Parliament and former Prime Minister Erkki Tuomioja said that out of all of the presidents he worked with, he was closest to Koivisto.

”I have always held him in very high regard. I believe history will remember his legacy,” Tuomioja said.

Tuomioja continued by saying Koivisto’s greatest life achievements were normalizing Finland into a parliamentarian country, navigating Finland through the fall of the Soviet Union and helping redefine the county's place in the world and Europe.

But first and foremost, Koivisto was enlightened in both heart and mind. Tuomioja remembers how Koivisto always had control of situations and was always available.

”Koivisto was very much his own personality and it was always rewarding talking to him.”

Former Prime Minister Esko Aho says Koivisto’s passing will leave a mark in Finnish history.

”This was a definitive end of an era.”

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