Dear Friends of Finland and Lithuania,
I was the 6th Ambassador of Finland to Lithuania since 29.8.1991, when diplomatic relations were re-established between our countries. It was a privilege and honor to represent Finland in Lithuania during that interesting period which started in January 2013 and lasted to the end of August 2016. Now, as Finland and Lithuania are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of their diplomatic relations, I still keep very good memories of my time in Lithuania.
As Ambassador, the warmest memories are the high-level visits from Finland to Lithuania. President Sauli Niinistö’s state visit in May 2013 is certainly the most memorable. The visit of the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament Eero Heinäluoma and more than ten ministerial visits from Finland during the second half of 2013 belong also to the long list of my good memories. It was the time when Lithuania had the EU Presidency.
During the Lithuanian EU Presidency my life was busy and interesting and included two visits of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja, the last one in the context of the Eastern Partnership Summit at the end of November 2013. In the absence of the Prime Minister of Finland, Minister Tuomioja attended the meeting and dinner for the Heads of States. I was given a privilege to attend at the same time the informal Foreign Ministers meeting on Minister Tuomioja’s behalf.
The core agenda in the Summit was the situation in Ukraine. President of Ukraine, Viktor Janukovitsh attended the event nicknamed as a grand bazaar, due to the situation where Janukovitsh was considering whether to accept the EU offer, namely a generous cooperation agreement or whether to turn to Russia.
As we know, Janukovitsh refused to agree with the EU. Huge wave of protests started in Maidan square in Kiev leading to a violent suppression of those by Janukovitsh and his administration. Janukovitsh had to resign, Russia invaded Crimea and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine started. Sad history, what we all know and what still worries us as the conflict continues.
I also enjoyed much of the visits of Minister of Transportation, Ms Anne Berner and Minister of Foreign Affairs Timo Soini in 2016. One of the most memorable of all visits was the visit of former President Tarja Halonen in May 2015. Halonen took part with President Dalia Grybauskaitė to the opening ceremony of a 10 meters high sculpture “Finn”, a giant holding a cloud, which was designed on the initiative of Finnish companies operating in Lithuania.
During my time, Lithuania strengthened its energy security and defense, joined the eurozone (1.1.2015), and started to be ready for OECD membership. Geopolitical importance of Lithuania as a neighbor to Belarus and Russia and in the Baltic Sea region as a modern European country became more than evident. Nordic-Baltic cooperation started to flourish. Cooperation in all fields with Finland took big steps forward.
My memories from the Sibelius 150th Anniversary concert in December 2015 at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Concert Hall are still fresh in my mind, as well as other Sibelius concerts, around ten- fifteen during that year. To host a reception of the World's Sauna Congress in my residence was also an honor and pleasure. The interest of Lithuanians to the Finnish sauna is endless. The interview I gave in the residence sauna to the Lithuanian main TV channel was well received, sauna diplomacy made a step in Lithuania.
The cooperation with the other embassies in Vilnius was all the time fruitful. Closest of all were the Nordic and Baltic Embassies and the Office of the Nordic Council of Ministers. On the basis of cooperation between Nordic and Baltic Embassies and Madame President Dalia Grybauskaitė, the Midsummer festivities were unforgettable. With the help and assistance of the business community, especially Finnish-Lithuanian Chamber of Commerce, the trade ties became stronger.
The good time I spent in Lithuania stays always in my mind. The events, official functions were part of my work, but personally the friends both in official and private life were and still are the most important. The covid-19 pandemic has limited the possibilities to contact friends in Lithuania physically, but fortunately the social media and virtual platforms have helped us - and this opportunity to contribute to the celebrations of our diplomatic relations.
I would like to thank my good friend, Ambassador Arja Makkonen for her initiative to provide an opportunity to me and other former Finnish Ambassadors to send our warmest regards to our colleagues and friends. I wish you all the best, Dear Asta, Albina, Arunas, Algimantas, Audrone, Andrius, Birute, Dalia, Egle, Emanuelis, Erikas, Jane, Jolita, Jovita, Jouni, Jurgita, Kassu, Marius, Mindaugas, Neris, Nijole, Raimo, Rima, Rimantas, Ritva, Rolandas, Rubina, Ruslanas, Ryte, Selija, Valdemaras, Vidmantas, Viktor, Virginija, Vyte and all the others.