December 12, 2017

Independent Finland: The First 100 Years

By H.E. Mr  Timo Ranta, Ambassador of Finland to Belgium and Luxembourg.

Almost all countries in the world have a national day. In some countries, like Finland and The United States, that day is called The Independence Day.

Finland became independent in 1917, a hundred years ago. The sixth of December was the date when the Parliament approved the independence declaration issued by the Senate. Finnish independence was recognized by most of our closest countries in January 1918.

The first steps of our independence were not easy. Finland soon slid into a civil war. However, in July 1919 the first Constitution of Finland was adopted and Finland became a republic.

During the Second World War, Finland suddenly found absolute national unity and remained independent. In addition to London and Moscow, Helsinki was the only European capital that was never occupied during the war. Finnish democracy functioned throughout the war.

During the decades after the war, Finland sought to remain neutral. This was a relatively successful policy since Finland could gradually expand its leeway during the cold war and strengthen its economy and international ties. Independence never meant isolation for us.

Finland joined the World Bank and the IMF in 1948, the United Nations and the Nordic Council in 1955, the OECD in 1969, the Council of Europe in 1989, and the European Union in 1995. Finland has always sought to be an active member in all international organizations. We are no longer neutral: we support the guiding principles of the international community: human rights, equality, rule of law, and the desire to solve all conflicts peacefully.

The European Union is clearly our strongest framework. It is even enshrined in our constitution. In these difficult times, Finland wishes to strengthen the Union. We want to be part of the solution.

The first hundred years of Finnish independence have been a tremendous success story. We have transformed our country from a poor agricultural backwater into a modern, democratic, prosperous, civilized and more and more digitalized forerunner.

This would not have been possible without a profound belief that we can make it if we stay true to ourselves. It was true one hundred years ago and it is true today.

 

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