Speech by Permanent State Secretary Jukka Salovaara at the Meeting of Heads of Mission 2022
"The Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ important role and capacity to function become particularly emphasised in such exceptional times and transition points as those described above. In a time like this, when many of the basic factors of international politics are evolving rapidly, we do not need to question the importance of diplomacy."
Esteemed ministers, Heads of Missions and participants of the Ambassadors’ Conference
I would like to warmly welcome you to the Ambassadors’ Conference. I hope you have all had a chance to rest and enjoy your well-deserved summer break.
It is the first time in a long time that we get together to meet each other in person. It is of great value that we have a chance to see each other and discuss matters face to face. We have managed well during the Covid-19 pandemic, but nothing can replace being present and interacting closely with others.
This is the first time that I attend this conference in the capacity of Permanent State Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. I want to thank everyone for making me feel so warmly welcome to the position of Permanent State Secretary. At the same time, I want to extend my thanks to my predecessor Matti Anttonen for his remarkable work. After slightly over three months’ experience in the position, I can say that a four-year service in this post is a long time.
We are living an exceptional period of transition. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has fundamentally changed our security environment. The war has also thrown the global economy into disorder. At the same time, the international system is undergoing major changes: superpower conflicts have exacerbated; closing international agreements has become increasingly difficult; regional disparities in development are increasing; and sustainable development is taking steps backwards. The impacts of climate change seem increasingly serious.
As the new Permanent State Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, I have been going around, meeting my colleagues and our partners. The impression I have gotten is encouraging. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is considered a good partner, and we receive a lot of thanks for how well we have managed and reacted to even quite surprising situations. I want to thank you all and the staff of the ministry more broadly for your excellent work under these exceptional circumstances. We have managed well and been agile in our actions. In fact, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is, to a large extent, a readiness organisation that exists for the event that something unexpected happens.
Finland has also gotten some unforeseen international visibility. In last spring, from January to May, Finland was referred to more than 300,000 times in the international media. The number is five times higher than a year ago, and probably an all-time record. You have contributed to building this image of Finland. Finland has been a target of a lot of attention, and we have actively responded to that interest.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, Finland drew a rapid and necessary conclusion about the situation and applied for the membership of the North Atlantic Alliance NATO. Together with Sweden. The process has advanced very well. Before us, we have the task of establishing Finland's position and line of policy as a NATO member state.
None of the NATO member states are new acquaintances to us, but joining a military alliance is indeed a major qualitative change for us. We commit ourselves to defending the security of other NATO countries. From strong starting points. We are already collaborating with our future ally Türkiye to respond to their security concerns.
Thanks to our shared path to NATO, our connection with Sweden is closer than before. The European Union will naturally remain the main framework for Finland's external relations but, alongside it, the NATO membership will naturally complement it.
In the turning points of our history, Finland has always been agile. The October Revolution was followed by the Finnish independence in December. The collapse of the Soviet Union in December generated the decision to apply for EU membership in February. Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February led to Finland's NATO decision in May. So, I cannot see why we Finns are sometimes considered slow.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ important role and capacity to function become particularly emphasised in such exceptional times and transition points as those described above. In a time like this, when many of the basic factors of international politics are evolving rapidly, we do not need to question the importance of diplomacy.
In our role as the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, we have an important mission of providing national security for Finnish people by means of foreign and security policy. We have an important task of supporting the Finnish economy by promoting exports. We have a significant role to play in boosting sustainable development and climate diplomacy.
Our network of Finnish missions is a particularly important tool in promoting Finland's interests. As Heads of Missions, you bear a particularly large responsibility for what we achieve through this work. The meaning of the network of Finnish missions has become highly visible as we have been managing issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and joining NATO.
The network of Finnish foreign missions has grown during this government period, and we can be satisfied that it has been possible to take these initiatives. Now it is important to strengthen this network and to take care that we can reap all the benefits it can offer.
I want to wish you all a good conference and a lot of rewarding discussions during this week. You have a versatile selection of events ahead of you.
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As customary in this occasion, we remember the Heads of Missions who have passed away over the past year: Håkan Branders, Keijo Korhonen, Lauri Korpinen, Tauno Kääriä and Erik Ulfstedt. We will have a moment of silence in memory of these colleagues.