President Stubb makes first official visit to Lapland

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“I wanted to get an understanding of the extreme conditions in this region. One can not fully understand the conditions before visiting the place and sensing the atmosphere,” Stubb said.

He started the day with meeting members of the Sámi Parliament in Inari. Stubb was introduced to the work of the parliament, Sámi culture and current issues.

Speaking with journalists after, the president said he hopes for the Sámi parliament law to pass during this electoral period. The long-delayed law is considered crucial to the Sámi parliament’s right to determine who is Sámi, and who is not. 

Other topics discussed were how to bring forward the Sámi perspectives in EU decision-making and a need for better communication of NATO and Finnish military exercises to the reindeer herders, as well as cleaning of the areas afterwards.

Thereafter the president visited the Sámi Museum and Nature Center Siida, which on May 23 was elected as the best museum in Finland in 2024. Recently Siida was also chosen as the European Museum of the Year.

 

President Stubb spent time discussing with locals in Inari in the very north of Finland. Photo: Hannah Thule

 

The programme continued in Ivalo where the president met with Tommi Kasuri, Mayor of Inari,  Janne Huotari, chairman of the municipal executive, and Janne Tervahauta, chairman of the municipal council, to discuss current issues in Lapland such as the reindeer economy and tourism. The president also met with representatives of the Inari reindeer herding cooperatives.

Tommi Kasuri said that the meeting went very well.

“It was very nice that the president decided to visit Lapland so soon after being elected,” said Kasuri.

Geopolitics 

During the visit Stubb stressed the strategic and geopolitical importance of Lapland for the West and for Europe.

“Lapland is first and foremost a matter of security policy for us. We will hopefully see more investments in infrastructure, as well as an increase in military exercises with our allies in the region. The current difficult security political situation is a possibility for Lapland,” said Stubb.

Together with Norway and Sweden, Finland has plans to increase resilience and support military mobility between the countries.

On 30 April 2024, Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications Lulu Ranne, Norwegian Minister of Transport Jon-Ivar Nygård and Swedish Minister of Infrastructure Andreas Carlson signed a joint statement on developing the transport system. 

 

Finnish armored vehicles on return after the Nordic Response 2024 exercise in Norway this winter. NATO’s forces in northernmost Europe have strengthened substantially after Finland and Sweden joined the alliance. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Salmon challenge 

Stubb also commented on the ban of salmon fishing in the river Tenojoki (Tana River), which is installed due to the weak status of salmon stocks. 

“I do not take a specific stand, but I listened carefully to what local decision makers had to say,” Alexander Stubb said with a diplomatic voice.

“The situation with the salmon is problematic and challenging, and next time I meet Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre I will discreetly ask him if he is aware of these problems,” said Stubb.

The river forms Finland’s border with Norway, and the two countries have a joint agreement on fishing rules. The ban has raised controversy since Norway still allows salmon fishing in the fjords close to Tenojoki, which consequently affects salmon stocks in the river.

The visit to Lapland was concluded at the Ivalo School and Cultural Center Kaarre, where Stubb was interviewed by two local students. Stubb was asked if the visit had given him new thoughts on nature conservation in Lapland.

The president replied that he has learned much and expressed the importance of nature.

Nature is the first thing that comes to mind for people not living in Lapland. And of course one gets worried when hearing about the problems with the reindeer, fishing and tourism economies.

– Alexander Stubb – 

 

Stubb was also asked how Finland’s security situation looks. The president replied that it is good, and better than in many decades. He referred to three “security locks” keeping Finland safe, them being the Finnish military in alliance with NATO,  the NATO and EU memberships, and lastly the Defence Cooperation Agreement with the United States.

Utsjoki 

The president’s visit to Finnish Lapland started Thursday, in Nuorgam and Utsjoki. 

Stubb visited Nuorgam Elementary School where he was interviewed by the schoolchildren. He had lunch with the leaders of Utsjoki municipality and reindeer herders, and also met with citizens at the Utsjoki Village Hall Giisá. Last but not least, Stubb visited the Kevo Subarctic Research Station, where he discussed with representatives of the Finnish Forest Administratio.