Opening speech by Permanent State Secretary Jukka Salovaara at the Ambassadors’ Conference 2023
Esteemed ministers, Heads of Missions and participants of the Ambassadors’ Conference
Welcome to the 2023 Ambassadors’ Conference, The Ambassadors’ Conference Is a sign that summer is drawing to an end. This conference will set the pace for the coming year. We have a versatile programme both for the conference and its surrounding events.
I’d also like to welcome the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ new ministers. Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen. Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Ville Tavio. Minister for Nordic Cooperation Anna-Maja Henriksson. You’ve gotten off to a good start.
We will continue to be represented by three ministers, which has proved to be a viable option for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
We have an important year behind us with regard to foreign policy. Many things in our operating environment have changed substantially. We are meeting at the Ambassadors’ Conference now for the first time as a Nato member country.
We handled the process of joining Nato well and purposefully. This included many phases and multiple factors. For this, I thank you all.
It has been impressive to see how Finland has managed to make the right decisions as we undergo this transition in foreign and security policy. Swiftly and unanimously. Finland had a broad range of means of preparedness available. Countries either have a strategical culture or they do not. Finland does. We are a society taken seriously in foreign and security policy.
I do not need to spell it out for you as Ambassadors for Finland how challenging the international situation is. It is characterised by Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, tensions between the major powers, climate change’s multifaceted impacts, which create instability, and technological revolutions that are continuously faster. Tensions are growing in a world that is ultimately interdependent at its core.
It has been tangibly evident in the everyday lives of citizens and the work of the Government that although the root causes of problems may be very far away, we are not immune to them. Covid-19 began far outside our borders, but had an immense impact on Finnish society. The broad-scoped impacts of Russia’s war of aggression were felt all the way in our electricity bills. The international situation affects us, whether or not we want it to. The preconditions for our country’s operations are built far outside our borders.
In this situation diplomacy is necessary. This fact has been adeptly recognised in Finnish decision-making. This is evident in that the new Government has wanted to secure the operational resources of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Our foreign network, our missions around the world, are a vital national resource to ensure Finland’s operating capacity when promoting Finland’s interests and forming an accurate situation picture.
The Government Programme also calls for stronger EU lobbying. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs plays a special role in this through the foreign missions situated in EU Member States.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is trusted and we are subject to many expectations. These expectations must be met.
At the same time, it is important that we live in the present. The Government Programme includes an entry on the reform of the Finnish Foreign Service. This is a good opportunity to update our activities. We must always be prepared to look into how we can operate better and take emerging priorities in to consideration.
Development cooperation cuts are upcoming. In this situation, it is essential to consider how the best results can be achieved with existing resources. It is excellent that there is a clear and continuous outlook for Ukraine’s assistance.
Finland has many strengths, but poor economic group has become a burden that is weighing us down. The joint message of permanent secretaries at the beginning of the year highlighted poor economic growth as a problem that needs to be overcome. We are far behind the other Nordic countries.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has much to give with regard to growth, in particular in the area of promoting export. This is the core task of our foreign missions. The Government Programme outlines that the promotion of exports must be reformed and the role of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs must be strengthened. We are calling for effective operations in the field with strong management.
Changes and reforms will take place. We must seek out new priority areas. We will only get resources for these by giving up something old. However, these choices and changes are in our own hands. We’ll hear more about this during the ministerial addresses.
I wish you all a fruitful conference. Working together is important and meeting face to face is essential. Our conference also provides a good platform for many encounters and watercooler chats.
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As is customary, we will take a moment to remember the Heads of Missions who have passed away over the past year: Mikko Heikinheimo, Kai Helenius, Matti Häkkänen, Timo Koponen, Aapo Pölhö and Antti Sierla. Let us now honour their memory with a moment of silence.