President condemns rise of hate speech and racism, at Parliament opening

Niinistö was giving a speech to MPs at the formal opening of Parliament's spring session, which began with a church service at Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square.

President Sauli Niinistö greets members of the government at Helsinki Cathedral, 5th February 2020 / Credit: Laura Kotila, VNK

President Sauli Niinistö has used his address at the formal opening of Parliament to condemn the rise of racism and intolerance in Finland.

Recalling his own visits in January to Poland and Israel, to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp at the end of World War II, Niinistö said that human nature has not become immune to hate over a few generations.

“There are signs of antisemitism and racism being on the rise, unfortunately also in Finland. We must be resolute in opposing them. They do not deserve any foothold in our society” President Niinistö said.

“Ultimately, racism means denying another person’s worth because of his or her descent. In its targets, it evokes a myriad of emotions, from shame to hatred” he said.

The president said hate speech had similar roots to racism, but that “heavy labelling of other people should not be done lightly, from one direction or another” and that we must all be able to enjoy protection against being labelled, “irrespective of whether we represent some majority or some minority.”

President Niinistö highlighted two upcoming reports that are due to be presented to parliament: the Report on Finnish Foreign and Security Policy, and the Report on Defence Policy. He said these documents had been prepared at a time when the world is changing fast.

“One thing remains unaffected by the changes. The core prinicple of our foreign, security and defence policy is and will be to secure and strengthen Finland’s position” said Niinistö.

Niinistö made the speech as Parliament’s spring session was formally opened. Earlier, MPs had attended a church service at Helsinki Cathedral where the Archbishop of Turku Kaarlo Kalliala gave a sermon.

The day culminates with a gala concert at Sibelius Academy in the evening.