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Embassy of Finland
K. Kalinausko g. 24
Embassy of Lithuania
Pohjoisranta 4 A 15

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Marja-Liisa Kiljunen, Ambassador of the Republic of Finland to the Republic of Lithuania in 2008-2012, and Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania

I served as Finland's Ambassador in Lithuania over four years in 2008-2012, and was simultaneously accredited as Ambassador to Belarus.

Many important and interesting events took place during those years in Lithuania and in Finland as well in Europe and the world at large.

Finland held Presidency of the OSCE in 2008 and that as well as our experience as President of the EU in 2007 were of special interest in Lithuania since it was about to start preparations for the respective presidencies in 2011 and 2013 and wished to learn from Finland's experience.

2009 was a very busy year in Lithuania and also in bilateral relations with many high-level visits. Lithuania celebrated 1000 Years Anniversary as the name Lithuania was first mentioned in historical chronicles. The Millenium celebrations were attended by many Heads of States and other distinguished guests. The Millennium events continued throughout the year as Vilnius was also the Cultural Capital of Europe.

The highlight for the Ambassador and the staff that year was the opening of the newly built Embassy building which accommodated both the Embassy of Finland and the Embassy of Norway, as well as the Residence of the Ambassador of Japan.

The opening ceremony took place at the highest level since it was attended by three Heads of States: Harald V, King of Norway, Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland, who were attending the Millenium Celebrations, and Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania. Together the distinguished guests cut the ribbon outside the building, gave short speeches and made a tour of the premises of the two Embassies. A truly memorable event.

The year 2009 got a nickname "Finland's Year" in the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry due to the many high-level visits and contacts that year between our two countries. Both President Adamkus, in April, and the newly elected President Dalia Grybauskaite, in October, paid visits to Finland. In the spring Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb visited Vilnius. Later in the autumn Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, who was very interested in Finland's energy and technology policies, paid a visit to Finland. Lithuania had to close down its only nuclear power station in Ignalina in 2009 and a new energy policy strategy was formulated.

Many visits took place also in the following years and interest towards each others' societal development, policy choices in various sectors, EU policies, security and defence issues were increasing.

New winds started to blow in Lithuania as regards eg. human rights issues such as the rights of minorities, including sexual minorities and equality issues in general. The first Pride manifestation was held in Vilnius in 2009. The first female President of Lithuania and women's organisations were interested in the Nordic policies of equality and promotion of women's status in society. Many interesting discussions and events were organised together with other like minded embassies on these themes. The first steps to organise Team Finland work to promote economic and trade relations between our countries were taken together with the local Finnish business community.

Many wonderful events which had already become a tradition during the past years were organised in the cultural sphere such as visits by Finnish authors, visual artists and musicians, film shows, and of course the traditional baking of gingerbread houses for the International Christmas bazaar which was also visited by Father Christmas from Finland. Introduction of Nordic walking was a real hit in Vilnius, hopefully still continuing!

Four years and some months that I spent in Vilnius were interesting, rewarding and hectic. Trips outside Vilnius, to the gorgeous Curonian Spit, Druskininkai spa town, Trakai and many other places gave an opportunity to see the beautiful Lithuanian countryside. The charming Vilnius old town was nearby with its gourmet restaurants and cafes and numerous churches to step in for a silent moment.

It was a great pleasure to work in our Vilnius Embassy with its wonderful and dedicated staff whom I shall always remember. Many colleagues in other Embassies as well as the Lithuanian administration are well remembered. Vilnius in my mind....