State Visit to Finland
The King and Queen began their third State Visit to Finland today. They are accompanied by several government ministers as well as a large delegation of representatives of Norwegian trade and industry.
His Excellency President Sauli Niinistö and Mrs Jenni Haukio welcomed Their Majesties The King and Queen to Finland this morning in a formal ceremony in front of the Presidential Palace. The national anthems of Finland and Norway were played, and then the King inspected the honour guard together with President Niinistö.
Following the ceremony, the King and Queen and the President and his wife went into the Presidential Palace for discussions, official photographs and an exchange of gifts. They took advantage of the fine weather and greeted the crowds waiting outside from the Palace balcony.
King Harald and Queen Sonja had a number of meetings with Finnish leaders today. Following the meeting with the president, their schedule included discussions with members of the Norwegian and Finnish delegations, followed by a meeting with the Speaker of the Parliament of Finland, Ms Maria Lohela. The meeting took place at the Little Parliament, where the King and Queen also met with other members of the Finnish parliament. In the afternoon, the King and Queen visited the Prime Minister’s Official Residence, Kesäranta, where they met with Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and were given a brief tour of the residence’s beautiful gardens.
Luncheon at City Hall
The Chair of Helsinki City Council, Ms Mari Puoskari, hosted a luncheon at Helsinki City Hall in honour of the State Visit. At the luncheon, King Harald gave his first speech of the visit, emphasising the close friendship between Finland and Norway and thanking the hosts for the warmth with which the King and Queen have always been met.
"But what strikes us most once again is the friendliness and naturally open approach of the Finnish people. We are visiting good neighbours – and that is precisely how it feels."
Wreath-laying ceremony at the Heroes’ Place
The Hietaniemi Cemetery was established in 1829 and is the site where Finnish state funerals are held. The cemetery includes an area called the Heroes’ Place, with monuments commemorating the soldiers who fought for Finnish independence during the Winter War (1939–1940). One of the most moving monuments is a memorial wall engraved with the names of 734 fallen soldiers who disappeared or whose remains were never returned.
King Harald and Queen Sonja lay a wreath at the Heroes’ Cross and at the grave of Marshal Mannerheim. They also placed flowers at the monument to the 700 Norwegian volunteers who fought for Finland in the Winter War, and where two of these soldiers are buried.
Gala banquet at the Presidential Palace
This evening, the King and Queen will be the guests of honour at a gala banquet held at the Presidential Palace. King Harald will give a speech to the hosts.
The State Visit will continue tomorrow with a programme dedicated to Norwegian-Finnish business cooperation.
Congratulations are presented today from His Majesty King Harald to His Excellency Mr Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia.
World Heritage at Vega
In 2004, UNESCO inscribed the Vega Archipelago on the World Heritage List. Today His Royal Highness The Crown Prince was in attendance to open the new Vega Archipelago World Heritage Centre – Norway’s first authorised centre of its kind.