As the Republic of Finland celebrates its 99th anniversary of independency on December 6, the country enters its centennial anniversary year. As the theme of our centennial anniversary year is “Together”, I am delighted to be able to share this special year together with the friends of Finland in Romania.
Every year on Independence Day, Finland stops to reflect and pay respect to the sacrifice and dedication earlier generations showed in building our country. As you know, Finland is a country that has thoroughly reinvented itself in just one short century. By the early 20th century, it was still one of the poorest and most agrarian countries in Europe. Today Finland is on top of all kinds of global country rankings. But it would never have happened without us Finns remembering where we come from. The story of Finland is a story of building the pillars of our society: equality, education, rights of the child, freedom of press and expression, position of women and a functioning society that the majority of the people trust. It is a country of rule-of-law and democracy.
What we always have had a lot are forests and lakes. People, not that much. With limited natural resources and challenging climate Finland has always depended on its most valuable resource: hardworking people who have been striving to do more with less. From the very beginning it was also understood that the best possible way to invest in the country’s future was to educate its children. And as the universal voting right was granted already in 1906 – first in the world Finnish women were fully to exercise the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in elections – the role of women has also been comprehensive when building the Finnish society.
Romania recognized the independency of Finland in 1920. That was the year the diplomatic relations were also established between our countries. The bilateral relations of Finland and Romania are very good and our partnership is getting closer and stronger.
Lately we have seen many new bridges built in between our countries. The bilateral dialogue is going to intensify the forthcoming years as both countries prepare consecutive EU-presidencies in 2019. As Romania will take over the rotating presidency for the first and Finland already for the third time, my country is willing to cooperate to help Romania run a successful presidency. Both of our countries are constructive members of the EU and see the added value of the membership.
There are promising prospects for bilateral cooperation in several valuable themes. I would however like to mention a sector of major importance, education. It has a specific role in Finland, and we have been glad to share some of our lessons learnt to Romania. And as education has been named one of the key priorities of Romania, our experts are willing to continue offering their best practices. It can be teacher training, vocational education training, inclusiveness of the education or even learning environments, experts can focus on.
I’m glad that on dual education there already are some Finnish companies cooperating with Romanian universities. This way local Romanian expertise and knowhow is strengthened. For example in IT-sector in Timisoara practical training and apprenticeship at a Finnish company is combined with theoretical studies at the local university. And when students graduate, they are employed fulltime by this company. Another Finnish company from the forestry sector gives additional training to its locally employed personnel and apprentices. It also shares its knowhow with local schools with the help of Finnish universities.
When it comes to basic education, there are already three private schools in Romania that have been inspired by the Finnish education system. They are established by Romanian professionals of education and are located in Bucharest, Ploiesti and Sibiu. There are similar projects in the pipeline in other parts of the country as well. These private schools think that the recipe of Finnish education system is worth following also in Romania. So, education is really a promising platform for more enhanced bilateral cooperation.
I’m also delighted to see that there are more and more Finnish companies that explore their possibilities to come to the market or invest in Romania. Some of them are ready for long term commitment that would create new jobs and update industrial knowhow in Romania. Their interest is on rise, thanks to more transparency and predictability the business environment enjoys since some years now.
I hope that the centennial year 2017 of Finland will be full of active bilateral cooperation and will also serve as a prologue for 2018, when Romania will eventually celebrate its equally important festivity year.