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Finnish president calls for teamwork

Swiss President Ueli Maurer (left) with Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö at an army rescue exercise Keystone

On the final day of an official state visit to Switzerland, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö has highlighted common areas between the two countries, calling for closer collaboration, particularly regarding research and innovation.

“We’re both small countries – working together would make us big,” he said at the end of his two-day visit on Wednesday. Finland’s population is 5.4 million, compared with Switzerland’s eight million.

Niinistö and Defence Minister Ueli Maurer, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, agreed on the potential benefits of working together on F/A-18 fighter jets – exchanging scientific information and joint maintenance could reduce costs, they said.

The Finnish president said he was particularly impressed by an army rescue exercise in Bremgarten, canton Aargau. Survivors had to be found after a simulated explosion.

“The way in which the Swiss army cooperates with civilian authorities is impressive. Finland can look to it as an example,” he said.

On Tuesday, Niinistö had called for Finland and Switzerland to cooperate in the face of future challenges, “notably in research and innovation and green technology”.

For his part, Maurer had stressed the shared value of neutrality, pointing to Finnish resistance against the Soviet Union during the Second World War “which showed how a small nation can defend its freedom against a very powerful enemy”.

Niinistö remembered the humanitarian aid given to his country by Switzerland during that period. “We will never forget that,” he said.

The Finnish Senate proclaimed independence in 1917, and on February 18, 1918, Switzerland was one of the first European States to recognise Finland.

A Swiss consulate was opened in Abo (Turku) in 1914, and the first Finnish Consulate in Switzerland was opened in Zurich in 1920. Finland opened a legation (embassy) in Bern in 1937, and Switzerland did the same in Helsinki in 1939.

By virtue of the bilateral agreements concluded between the European Union and Switzerland, Finland and Switzerland are part of the same interior market. Commercial exchange between the two countries reached CHF1.56 billion ($1.7 billion) in 2012.

At the end of 2012, there were 1,692 Swiss nationals living in Finland.

  

(Source: Foreign ministry)

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