I had the privilege of serving my country in Finland at the time of Lithuania‘s accession to the European Union. There was much joy and excitement at the Lithuanian Embassy in Helsinki in 2004, but also gratitude to Finland for helping us to achieve this goal. The Finnish pre-accession know-how and friendly advice provided constructive support in preparation for membership.
Many of us have found inspiration in Finland - a nation with a complicated history that managed to transform its country beyond recognition. Finland for Lithuanians was - still is - a shining example of a modern society. I have always been puzzled by the seemingly impossible parallelism in Finland of tradition and innovation. The Finns prefer to enjoy the cutting-edge technology of Nokia and Sonera in the solitude of their summer homes - away from civilization and neighbours. The refinement of Alvar Aalto modern design blends well in Finnish landscape and in Finnish homes. Sibelius and Rautavaara live together in peace with Lordi and Rajaton. This harmony of opposites is best seen in the Levi ski resort in Lapland, where Paivikki Palosaari, Honorary Consul of Lithuania, runs her hospitality business Hullu Poro. All of the visiting world class ski athletes are sure to be treated to one of Paivikki‘s trademark recipes of reindeer stew. The Finnish standard has gone international and can now be easily recognised in a good number of our everyday practices - like education, Nordic walking and sauna, to name a few. Even Finnish vodka has its own standard with the Marskin Ryyppy enjoying a near legendary legacy.
I am happy to see that my fellow Lithuanians have taken the Finnish model into consideration and have built partnerships in business, art and culture, have travelled the country and formed friendships. 30 years of diplomatic relations is a milestone. But for me, it is just the beginning of a long journey towards the ever-closer European family of nations in which Lithuania and Finland speak two separate languages, but with one voice.
To promote Lithuania in the European Union, Mr. Petras Silkinas, the World Champion in extra-long distance running in 2003, ran 16 000 km around Europe and visited 44 capitals, Helsinki included. Mr Silkinas was welcomed at the Lithuanian Embassy in Helsinki by Presidents Tarja Halonen and Rolandas Paksas, along with a noisy group of well-wishers. His running message was simple: “From Lithuania - with Love”.