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President emphasises migration in New Year's speech

Sauli Niinistö said Finland must find a better way to deal with migration in the president’s traditional New Year’s address.

Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö uudenvuodenpuheen nauhoitusta.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

Sauli Niinistö said migration is the most divisive force in Europe at the moment, and Finland has to find a better way to manage all types of migration.

”We must not forget that we also need migration. Qualified experts and those learning to become ones, to participate in the maintenance of our society,” he explained.

With nationalistic, anti-immigrant forces sweeping through Finland, the president reiterated Finland's commitment to international agreements governing asylum seekers.

”An asylum application cannot be left unexamined without breaching international law. International agreements were created to protect those in real need of protection,” Niinistö emphasised.

Niinistö also made references to the recent Oulu underage sex abuse case involving asylum seekers that shocked Finland.

”We have also seen how some people who have sought refuge in Finland, even some who have received it, have created insecurity here with inhumane acts. This is an intolerable situation.”

Populist movements threat to democracy

On the European front, Sauli Niinistö said the continent has ”drifted into divisive quarrels over its own values.”

Niinistö underlined Europe's long tradition of representative democracy, but said populist movements increasingly want to make a quick impact.

”We risk at losing something essential to representative democracy: that is the ability to harmonise different viewpoints. And at the same time the ability to listen and try to understand the opinions of others, even when not accepting them.”

Niinistö emphasised that the right to call something into question is at the core of democracy and that all political parties were once born out of discontent, but he said there are also disturbing signs of extremist movements.

"Anarchists hiding under yellow vests and demonstrators marching openly under Nazi symbols [in Finland] remind us of the cruelties and atrocities of the previous century,” he noted.

International system shifting

The world order is changing, the president said. China is using its economic power, Russia is rearming and the United States is distancing itself from cooperation, according to Niinistö.

”Foremost in my mind is the danger of the return of nuclear weapons to the everyday life of international politics. If the arms control treaties formulated during the Cold War collapse, we have to strive for the creation of new ones to replace them.”

Finland vs climate change

The president also called on residents to live in a more sustainable way.

”We can no longer be certain that children have a better future ahead of them than their parents had. The era of material abundance and continuous growth is about to change. It does not have to mean the end of welfare. It must not mean the end of equal opportunities. We have to be able to redefine the elements of the good that we strive for,” the president said.

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