Finland’s president praises South Karelia’s role in Finnish-Russian relations

Niinisto_and_MedvedevPresident Sauli Niinistö has described the border region of South Karelia and the city of Lappeenranta as trailblazers in Finnish-Russian relations. He gave a keynote speech on Russo-Finnish ties on Wednesday at the Lappeenranta University of Technology.

”It is important what kind of picture is given of Finland here because a major proportion of Russian visitors get their first impressions from this area,” the president explained.

He went on to say that Russians gained their very first insight into Finland at the visa application desk.


Finland needs both Swedish and Russian language skills

Niinistö also commented on the current debate over the status of the Russian language. Speaking at the Lappeenranta University of Technology, he admitted Finland needed more Russian language expertise in order to cope with the needs of tourism and business.

“Knowledge of the Russian language is a prerequisite for gaining the full benefits of the country’s economic and cultural opportunities,” Niinistö told his audience. However, he added that expansion of Russian language usage should not be at the expense of Swedish, which is Finland’s second official language.

Care needed on issue visa-free travel

The president also added that Finland supports the principle of visa-free travel between the EU and Russia but not without conditions. He said the issue should be handled methodically, noting that the final decision rests with the EU.

Turning to border issues, Niinistö said he hoped that on a practical level Russia would show flexibility on visa and border formalities. He noted that the increased number of border crossings had caused some friction.

“The change has been fast, and adjustment will take its own time.”

Niinistö also asserted that both nations did not have to agree on everything.

”When judging Russia, we should, however, ponder what we actually know about conditions there,” he told a press gathering.

Niinistö visited the city of Lappeenranta (pop.72, 000), located close to the Finnish-Russian border. His visit also included the Nuijamaa border crossing point.

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