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Niinistö meets freshly-minted Nobel laureate on Ethiopia visit

This marks the first presidential visit between Finland and Ethiopia, and President Niinistö’s first official visit to Africa.

Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö tapasi tuoreen rauhannobelistin, pääministeri Abiy Ahmedin tänään Etiopiassa.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and his Ethiopian counterpart President Sahle-Work Zewde met in Addis Ababa on Tuesday. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö congratulated fresh Nobel peace laureate Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on an official visit to Ethiopia that started on Tuesday — Niinistö's first official trip to Africa.

Niinistö met his Ethiopian counterpart President Sahle-Work Zewde and Abiy in Addis Ababa on Tuesday morning.

The trip is the first presidential visit between Finland and Ethiopia.

In addition to bilateral relations between Finland and Ethiopia, the Presidents discussed topical regional and international issues. Niinistö broached subjects such as Finland’s expertise in IT, education and clean water technologies.

Niinistö told the Finnish media that in his opinion, the Nobel Peace Prize went to the right person.

"We discussed the security situation in the region and peace in Eritrea and said that we often have the idea that war is endless. Now they have brought an end to that, which is a great model," Niinistö said.

The Nobel Peace Prize 2019 was awarded to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week for his role in forging a historic peace deal with Eritrea.

EU role in Africa

In his talks with the Abiy, Niinistö also suggested that the EU should be able to pursue a stronger foreign policy in Africa. “The role of the European Union is not what it should be," said Niinistö.

"China and Turkey are active here, but Africa is close to Europe and we have a lot of common interests. Europe must have some role here," Niinistö added.

Jutta Urpilainen, the Finnish nominee to the European Commission is set to take charge of developing the international partnerships of the European Union. The ex-finance minister had said that developing a new "Africa strategy" would be an important part of her role. Finland currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

Niinistö lauds Ethiopia's tree planting record

Niinistö praised Ethiopia for setting a new world record in the summer for planting up to 300 million trees a day.

"I really liked it. Instead of making statements, it is good to take concrete action. I have tried to talk about it in Finland, that people do not need to hear statements and feel anxious, but should look around to see what can be done," he said.

Niinistö mentioned reducing food waste and developing the circular economy as concrete actions that Finland could focus on. The President spoke at a conference on climate change in Ethiopia.

President Niinistö is also expected to visit a local primary school supported by Finland, together with Ethiopia’s Minister of Education Tilaye Gete.

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