Finland became an independent state on 6 December 1917. The Nordic heads of state gathered in Helsinki today to celebrate the centenary of Finland’s independence.
The anniversary will be celebrated with a wide variety of events in Finland throughout the year, with the main Nordic event taking place today. The theme of Finland’s centenary celebration year is “Together”, and the common set of values that Finland shares with the other Nordic countries is important in this respect.
The ties between the Nordic countries are strong, and President of the Republic of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and Mrs Jenni Haukio invited the heads of states from all the Nordic countries to mark the occasion. The day began with a formal welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace where the President and his wife received Their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja, Her Majesty Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Their Majesties King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, and His Excellency President Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson of Iceland and his wife Ms Eliza Jean Reid.
All the Nordic heads of state are taking part in the centenary celebration. Photo: Lehtikuva / Vesa Moilanen / Reuters / NTB scanpix
Luncheon at City Hall
A luncheon was held at 12:00 pm at Helsinki City Hall. King Harald had the honour of thanking their hosts for their hospitality.
“The Queen and I barely manage to work up an appetite between each time we are invited to eat at Helsinki City Hall,” said the King. “The food is always wonderful. The Finnish hospitality is always generous.”
“The centenary celebration has also given us the opportunity to chart a future course. There is still more to be reaped from cooperation between Finland and Norway. We can make what is good even better, and achieve closer cooperation and more frequent contact.”
“We want more of everything,” concluded King Harald.
Today also marks the start of the centenary summer season, and the Nordic guests made their way to Hanaholmen, the Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre, which reopened after extensive refurbishment. Originally opened in 1975 by King Carl Gustaf of Sweden and President Urho Kekkonen of Finland, the centre works to enhance Swedish-Finnish cooperation. The centre is also home to a comprehensive collection of contemporary art from Finland and Sweden.
The guests were given a presentation of the network programme “The New Nordic Region” as well. The programme addresses important issues concerning the future of the Nordic region with an eye to developing a common new Nordic agenda. It is also important to promote the involvement of young people in the Nordic community and create lasting personal relationships across national borders.
In the afternoon the heads of state also visited the Sibelius Monument. Unveiled in 1967, the monument was designed by Eila Hiltunen. It was raised in honour of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) and stands in Sibelius Park.
A smaller replica stands outside the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
In the evening King Harald and Queen Sonja attended a banquet held at the Presidential Palace to celebrate Finland’s independence.
Finals at the Opera House
The Queen Sonja International Music Competition has reached the final stage. Her Majesty The Queen will be in attendance when the six finalists compete onstage at the Oslo Opera House this evening.
Congratulations are presented today from His Majesty King Harald to His Excellency Mr Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia.