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The opening of the 2022 parliamentary session

Published 2/2/2022 2:30 PM
Finnish flags in the Plenary Hall

The opening of the 2022 parliamentary session

The Finnish Parliament opened its 2022 session on Wednesday, 2 February.

The opening of the parliamentary session was officially announced by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö. The opening speech was given by Speaker Matti Vanhanen.​​

Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the opening of Parliament

 

Opening speech by Speaker​ Matti Vanhanen

Honoured President of the Republic

Today, we open the last parliamentary session of this electoral term, facing an uncertain outlook for the year ahead and knowing that the ability for decision-making is needed.

Over the past two years, the covid pandemic has changed its form several times, and we have had to find the most appropriate counter-measures for each stage and situation. Since the first spring of the pandemic, talk about suppressing the virus has stopped and now the goal is to tackle it with the least amount of harm. Hopefully, after the current wave,  the impact of the disease will permanently weaken. However, we have no way of knowing this. We may still see new stages and, despite being exhausted by it all, every one of us must, as policymakers, authorities and citizens, persistently respond to the situation. 

The purpose of an organised, collective society is to ensure that in situations like this the interests of the most vulnerable citizens are appropriately prioritised over the freedoms of the individual. These are matters we must weigh up continuously, and it is the responsibility for which we were elected.

Owing to the pandemic, the amount of debt and money in the global economy has been increased enormously. Everyone knows that this also carries consequences. Initially, it has a stimulating impact by buoying up activities. Over time, however, fluctuations in the value of assets, higher risks and changes in the value of money have repercussions, the scope and timing of which no one knows in advance. There will certainly be repercussions, and we must be capable of reacting to them promptly.

The third factor casting a shadow over this parliamentary session relates to the prevailing security situation. Russia’s actions along the Ukraine border and its demands for changes in the principles that have bolstered European safety and security for decades are a source of uncertainty. Our state machinery must be able to operate proactively and in real-time in this case as well.

Apart from these three topical issues, two long-term challenges also call for the ability to make decisions. We need systematic measures regarding climate change and the sustainability of our economy.

In all of this, our watch as the representatives elected by the people continues as normal until the day of the next election and, despite an increasing urge to debate, the upcoming elections must not hamper our ability to make decisions.

This parliament and its members involved in repairing the economy in the last electoral term have gained exceptionally broad experience in tackling crises. Our present constitution will soon reach the milestone of a quarter of a century. This should provide us with enough perspective to reflect on the capacity of our system to adequately meet the decision-making needs of our times.

I do not propose that this parliament should begin to prepare changes to the system, but rather that the experience and wisdom of the sitting members should be harnessed through work carried out in all parties and parliamentary groups, so that the results could be used during the next electoral term.

Firstly, we all know that many of the measures required during the coronavirus pandemic have involved interpretation of the constitution, and we have not always succeeded in finding the best possible solutions. We have spent a lot of time on this and often arrived at measures a bit late rather than being proactive. The relationship between political leadership and authorities should also be reviewed after all our recent experiences. For example, the need to revise the Emergency Powers Act is now widely recognised.

Secondly, based on our experiences, we should now assess how we most appropriately meet economic crises. In this respect, we may find that the security walls we set up were erected in the wrong place, and that the ideological tensions of traditional politics may come into play more strongly than in any other crises when deciding on what actions to take.

Thirdly, in the case of security policy, we must maintain our decision-making ability under all circumstances, without endangering it through disputes that can be further fuelled by internal and external trolling. During electoral terms, we have been able to reach a very broad consensus when preparing reports on foreign and security policy. I hope we can retain this ability to arrive at solutions even if the situation in Europe reaches crisis point. This is also a topic that should be regularly discussed in parliamentary groups to understand what each individual thought when common formulations were officially approved.

In the field of security policy, the government is responsible for keeping Parliament closely informed about events taking place and the policies that the President of the Republic and the government jointly arrive at or prepare for. Beside this, Parliament highly appreciates that the President of the Republic has during his term actively informed the leaders of political parties and key committees. This all is also important in ensuring that, if required, Parliament can fulfil its role in challenging foreign policy situations, as provided in an amendment to the constitution a decade ago.

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