Speech by Finnish President Tarja Halonen at YSU

Office of The President of Finland

Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Tarja Halonen at Yerevan
State University on 27 September 2005

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to speak to all of you today after
having received an honorary doctorate from Yerevan State University.

I am especially glad to be here for several reasons. Firstly, this is my
second visit to Armenia. The first was in 1996, when I was Minister for
Foreign Affairs. That visit was linked to negotiations conducted by the
co-chairs of the Minsk Group seeking a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict – Finland and Russia – with leaders in the region. On that occasion
I had the opportunity to visit Yerevan and Baku and to meet Southern
Caucasian political leadership.

Unfortunately the Minsk Group still faces a tough job to settle the
conflict, under the leadership of France, Russia and the United States. I
talked about this today with President Kocharian and hoped that the parties
would continue bilateral contacts and talks within the framework of the
Minsk Group in order to make swift progress. This is important for the
region’s residents and refugees, who have not been able to return to their
homes. Resolving this problem is also important for the stability of the
entire region, to attract new investments to the region and help building
new prosperity for it.

The second reason I am glad is that I am happy to be here as a President.
This is the very first official visit by the President of the Republic of
Finland to the three independent republics in the southern Caucasus. This is
part of the stepped-up exchange of visits in recent years, I noted this
already when Foreign Minister Oskanyan came to Finland last May. Cooperation
between Armenian and Finnish churches and in the cultural field has also
intensified in recent years. It is in Finland’s interests to nurture and
develop commercial, scientific and cultural cooperation between our nations.

I hope also that my visit will encourage you to continue your efforts to
promote democracy and human rights. The equality between men and women is
typical for Nordic countries. It has been fair for citizens and strengthened
us in the competition of the globalized world.

The autonomous status of the Swedish speaking Åland Islands as part of
Finland has often attracted foreign observers’ interest as an example of the
successful resolution of a dispute between two neighbouring countries. Only
a couple of weeks ago I sent greetings to a project arranged at the Åland
Islands Peace Institute that included non-governmental organizations,
journalists and researchers from the countries in the southern Caucasus. I
hope that their experiences can influence the settling of the Abkhazia,
South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts. Finland does not want to force
any model on anyone but hopes that regional leaders will accept new ideas
with an open mind and apply them creatively and constructively within the
framework of local conditions.

Speaking at this university recalls the significance of scientific research
as part of a national success strategy. In today’s world the success of a
nation depends on different types of resources – economic, environmental,
human and social – and the connection between them. Increasing resources in
all these areas creates the preconditions for prosperity.

In developed societies raw materials are no longer the only important factor
in economic growth, but the essential thing is what is built on top of them.
Finland’s development from a supplier of pulp and other basic forest
products, to become a leading producer of mobile phones and other products
of modern hich tech as well took place as a result of decades of investment
in science and research. Finland’s experience can also have significance for
a country like Armenia, where higher education has long traditions and the
population is well educated.

The Lisbon Strategy which aims at making the European Union the most
competitive area in the world, strongly recognizes education as a promoter
of economic and social development. The EU has adopted a detailed work
programme known as “Education and Training 2010”, which is aimed at making
Europe a world leader in terms of the quality of its education and training
by 2010.

Finns are used to the idea that our country can only succeed in the world
through its expertise. I am happy to say that the Finnish education system
has also ranked high in many respects in international surveys.

As a member of the EU, Finland has been involved in actively developing the
Union’s contacts with the republics of the southern Caucasus in recent
years. This is especially topical and important because Finland will hold
the presidency of the EU during the second half of next year.

In the past two years the EU’s Special Representative, Ambassador Heikki
Talvitie, has also become a well-known name in Yerevan. I am glad that the
expertise and experience of a retired Finnish diplomat has been put to use
in developing a dialogue between the Union and the southern Caucasus.
Resolving regional conflicts is vitally important for the EU. This work is
promoted by the Special Representative’s activities and the Union’s broad
aid and technical cooperation.

Another key objective in the EU’s southern Caucasus policy is to promote
regional cooperation. When I was Minister for Foreign Affairs I also chaired
the first meeting of the EU-Armenia Cooperation Council in 1999. At that
time we made promoting regional cooperation in the southern Caucasus a key
theme. I am glad that the practice of holding cooperation meetings among the
three countries in the region has become an annual tradition. I hope that
these will not remain routine meetings but will lead to practical

As a result of enlargement the European Union has had to consider ways to
prevent the formation of new dividing lines in Europe. For this purpose the
EU last year began implementing the European Neighbourhood Policy. The goal
of this policy is to promote stability, security and well-being in
neighbouring countries. In the future these countries will have an
opportunity to participate as privileged partners in Union programmes
through political, security, economic and cultural cooperation.

I hope that negotiations between the EU and Armenia for an action plan under
the European Neighbourhood Policy can start as soon as possible. The EU has
prepared its own proposal and Armenia has published its priorities. These
documents form a good basis on which to proceed.

I hope that through my visit bilateral relations between Finland and Armenia
will receive a new boost, since the possibilities for cooperation are
extensive. We must work together to turn new ideas into feasible projects.