Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Finland on Monday 23 August invited by Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb. This was the Foreign Secretary and Mrs Hague’s first official visit to Finland.
The busy day started with a business breakfast at the Ambassador’s residence, where the guest of honour was Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Paavo Vayrynen. They were joined at the table by Ambassadors Matthew Lodge, and Pekka Huhtaniemi.
Finnish business leaders invited to the early morning event included Sakari Tamminen - Chairman of the Board of the Confederation of Finnish Industries, Kari Jordan - CEO, Metsaliitto Group, Ole Johansson - President and CEO, Wartsila Corporation, Johan Kronberg - APA, Member of the Management Team, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, Martti Kiuru - CEO, Terveystalo Healthcare, and Harry Rastedt - CEO, GlaxoSmithKline.
After the breakfast the Foreign Secretary and Mrs Hague had a chance to visit the Embassy and meet the staff. Before they were whisked away to a full day of further meetings the Hagues had the opportunity to talk to Embassy, UK Trade & Investment, and British Council staff over a cup of tea.
Speaking to a full house the Foreign Secretary said the relations between the UK and Finland are in good shape and that we must further build on them. He also emphasised the importance of good cooperation between the FCO, UK trade & Investment and the British Council. The meeting was a unique opportunity for staff to meet the Foreign Secretary face to face and hear his views on the new foreign policy priorities.
Meeting the Ministers
The Foreign Secretary also had bilateral meetings with both the Finnish Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi, and Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen.
In their bilateral meeting over lunch the foreign ministers discussed bilateral relations and topical EU matters, such as the EU external action service, execution of the Lisbon Treaty, and the EU’s strategic partnerships. They also discussed current foreign affairs, such as the Middle East peace process as well as the situation in Iran and Afghanistan.
Speech to Ambassadors
The Foreign Secretary’s visit coincided with the Finnish Foreign ministry’s annual Leadership Week in Helsinki, and he therefore had an opportunity to speak to the Finnish ambassadors. In his speech the Foreign Secretary stated that he is “determined to build on the excellent cooperation that already exists between the United Kingdom and Finland”. He explained to the audience of ambassadors the new Foreign Office objectives. “We have simplified the Foreign Office departmental objectives so that the organisation has a clear sense of direction that reflects the Government’s priorities: safeguarding our national security; building our prosperity and supporting British nationals around the world.”
The day concluded with a press conference at the Government Banquet Hall, where the Finnish media quizzed the Foreign Secretary on his views on Afghanistan and Finland’s role in the ISAF operation, relations with Russia, the UK Government policy on Europe, and budget cuts, among other things.
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