President: Estonia, Finland share common interest in stability in Nordic region, Europe

A state dinner at the Tallinn Cruise Terminal.
A state dinner at the Tallinn Cruise Terminal. Photo: Madis Veltman

During a state dinner at the Tallinn Cruise Terminal with Finnish President Alexander Stubb and First Lady Suzanne Innes-Stubb on Monday, Estonian President Alar Karis emphasized that the common interest of the two countries is stability in the Nordic region and Europe.

«It is remarkable and symbolic that the Finnish president's first visit to Estonia is a state visit. This signifies the closeness and interconnection between our two countries and peoples, as well as the geopolitical present. We are so close that on a clear day, the lights of Helsinki can be seen from Tallinn TV Tower. A Finnair plane flying as an air taxi between the two capitals barely has time to take off before it has to start landing,» Karis said.

The president added that the closeness between Estonia and Finland is not just geographical, measured in kilometers.

«Eino Leino expressed this closeness in his poem 'Vapaa Viro' written in May 1917 with two short lines: 'Free countries bind two peoples across the Gulf of Finland.'»

«Holding freedom in high regard has united our people through the twists and turns of the 20th century and binds us even more closely today. In difficult times, we have understood the true price of freedom. Finnish volunteers in the Estonian War of Independence, Estonian volunteers in the Finnish Winter War and Continuation War -- free citizens came to each other's aid in the name of Finland's freedom and Estonia's honor, even when states could no longer or not yet act,» Karis said.

«Now we are part of the bloodstream of freedom that connects and sustains us beyond kinship. The geopolitical position of Estonia and Finland gives our cooperation a special and much broader significance for all of Europe. Our national security and regional stability are intertwined and based on shared interests. Our common interest is stability in the Nordic region and Europe,» he noted.

Karis also quoted Kristi Raik, an Estonian foreign and security policy expert well-known in Finland: «Small countries depend on their international environment more than large ones. They must navigate global politics skillfully to survive and thrive.»

«Estonia and Finland have learned to navigate the stormy seas. We know well that small countries are able to cope if they have a keen understanding of the open sea and extensive international cooperation. Both of us understand what it means to live next to the bear, as the Finns say. This bear has always been near and affected us. We have tried to understand it, to take it into account, hoping for a security order based on rules and international law. And we have always been deceived,» he said.

«We have learned that the European Union and NATO, seeking allies and jointly contributing to common security, save us from geopolitical no man's land. As an Estonian, I am particularly pleased and truly reassured to see the blue cross flag proudly flying in front of NATO headquarters,» the president added.

«We both want a world where the rules agreed upon in the UN prevail, and where international law is stronger than the desire for war. Achieving such a world currently goes through the trenches and destroyed towns or villages of Ukraine, where Ukrainians are defending their country and freedom against Russia's colonial war.»

Karis noted that helping Ukraine and not setting limits on its assistance is the only possible action for democratic countries.

«Russia's aggression in Ukraine confirms what we, border states of the aggressor, have known for decades -- freedom does not persist without the will and means to defend it. Ukraine's freedom is part of Europe's freedom. Therefore, we are doing everything possible to help the Ukrainian people defend their land, their nation, their sovereignty, and their freedom,» he said.

«When discussing the extensive economic relations between Estonia and Finland, we cannot overlook the friendly trade that has lasted for over seven hundred years. Its roots go back to fishing and seal hunting between the small islands of Finland and the coastal villages of Estonia, and later to trade in grain, meat, and potatoes. Today, we have numerous examples of a modern economy connecting the two neighbors. More importantly, in 2019, Estonia and Finland became the first countries to implement cross-border e-prescriptions in both directions,» the president said.

«Since then, you have always been our primary and best partner in developing cross-border services. You are also a good fellow fighter when it comes to explaining and promoting the idea that cross-border public sector digital services and the necessary infrastructure should be a part of Europe's success story.»

The president stated that the growth potential of the European economy largely depends on how successfully our entrepreneurs can turn scientific discoveries into economic benefits and new technologies reaching production.

«Finland has been one of those leading innovative initiatives in the Baltic Sea region and knows that an invention born in a garage can change the world. As a former scientist, I am particularly pleased with the joint activities of Estonian and Finnish researchers. For example, take the FinEst Center for Smart Cities, an international research and development center established in cooperation between the Tallinn University of Technology and Aalto University,» Karis pointed out.

«There, they create innovative and smart solutions for smart cities, not just for Tallinn and Helsinki, but now for many European cities. This is a vivid example of cooperation born from shared values -- innovation and a good living environment.»

«Today, about 55,000 Estonians live in Finland, and approximately 20,000 Estonians work in Finland. About 7,000 Finnish citizens live in Estonia. Even more of our compatriots visit each other or engage in creative endeavors. When I look around among my compatriots, I think of molecular biologist Mart Saarma, filmmaker Veiko Ounpuu, curator of the fairy tale exhibition at the Estonian National Museum Katrin Sipelgas, jewelry artist Kart Summatavet, director Ene-Liis Semper, art director Jaagup Roomet, and many, many others,» the president said.

The president said that it would be a cliche to describe Estonian-Finnish relations as a special relationship.

«In reality, it is the everyday interaction of two close neighbors with similar attitudes. It is interaction, of which your state visit is one remarkable chapter,» Karis told his Finnish counterpart.