Dear Members of Parliament, your Excellences’, dear Major General, dear ladies and gentlemen, Honorary Consul, and especially dear peacekeeping veterans.
I have the honour and a great pleasure to bring you respectful greetings from the Parliament of Finland on this occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Finnish Peacekeeping in Cyprus.
The Finnish peacekeeping contingent was sent to Cyprus in 1964. A full battalion in strength, it was much better armed and equipped than the first mission to Suez. The importance of peacekeeping, as well as its limits, became clearer. The loss of a Finnish soldier also showed the risks involved in peacekeeping operations.
Nearly 40,000 Finns have served in peacekeeping and crisis management operations up to now. Crisis management tasks have become more demanding over time. This is acknowledged in the parliament as well, where we have discussed in several occasions the wellbeing of today’s veterans returning home. The Defence Command is currently preparing a national programme for crisis management veterans, which aims at providing better support for past and present crisis management personnel.
The development of Finnish security is closely tied to international development. Finland bears worldwide responsibility and strives to strengthen the international community’s ability to respond to security threats. Crisis management is part of Finland’s foreign and security policy. One objective in the Programme of the Finnish Government is to promote a comprehensive approach in which development cooperation; humanitarian assistance, diplomacy, and military and civilian crisis management are seamlessly connected.
The role of Finnish peacekeepers in Cyprus has been significant in many ways. The main task – to maintain peace with other UN troops – has been successful in the sense that violent clashes between the two communities have been mainly avoided during the past decades. On the other hand the Cyprus problem – the division of the island in two parts – remains unsolved although there is hope arising with the negotiations that have started again after quiet years. All I can hope for , and I do hope for it from the bottom of my heart, is to see the negotiations ending up with a solution that is accepted and welcomed by both communities.
I am rather convinced that the peacekeeping mission in Cyprus has had many impacts on Finnish and Cypriot societies and on the peacekeepers’ personal lives as well. The peacekeeping mission in Cyprus brought the island, so to speak to “the living rooms” of Finnish families and increased the knowledge of the country. I am sure that also peacekeepers brought a little piece of Finland to Cyprus. The mission in Cyprus has left many good memories for the men who served here. Later on they have returned to the island to find their old friends of both communities and they have also brought the members of their families to witness the hospitality of Cypriots and to get acquainted with this lovely island. Each Finnish peace keeper holds very deep and I am sure also emotional memories from Cyprus and this experience must have stayed in their hearts throughout their lives.
I am very grateful for having this chance to participate the 50th anniversary of Finnish peacekeeping Cyprus. On behalf of the Finnish Parliament I want to thank you for the work you have done to maintain and promote peace and also for the role of the President of the Finland-Cyprus friendship group of the Parliament. I wish our countries can continue the good cooperation in all levels possible in the future. I wish you all a good seminar, good health and all the success in your work and your efforts to maintain and promote peace near and far away.