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Sweden pulls all the stops on first day of crucial Finnish State Visit

Photo: Sara Friberg/Royal Court, Sweden

The Swedish Royal Family pulled out all the stops for the first day of the Finnish State Visit, a crucial engagement that comes when the two nations have officially begun the process of obtaining full NATO membership. 

The official welcome took place at the Royal Stables, where Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and First Lady Jenni Haukio met with King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. From there, the royal and presidential couples started a carriage tour of the streets of Stockholm before returning to the Royal Palace. 

Many members of the public took to the streets of Sweden’s capital to welcome the Finnish President, and some were even granted access to the courtyard of the Royal Palace, where King Carl XVI Gustaf and President Niinstö inspected a grenadier company from the Life Guards before the national anthems of both nations were played.

Both the courtyard military welcome and the following reception inside the Royal Palace saw the presence of members of the Swedish Parliament, as well as the delegation that travelled with President Niinstö. Inside the palace, the Finnish head of state was also introduced to the rest of the Royal Family, as Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia were also waiting for them. 

After posing for a photo opportunity, the two heads of state offered a joint press conference, highlighting the reasons why this state visit is so essential: first and foremost, the announcement that came on the same day that both nations will be officially advancing a request to join NATO on the same day; and secondly, the many historical, cultural and economic ties that traditionally bind Sweden and Finland. 

“The proximity between Finland and Sweden is not only geographical. We share history, culture and values. We are colleagues and partners. Friends and family,” said King Carl XVI Gustaf. 

It was then time for the President and First Lady to split up. President Niinstö made his way first to the Swedish Parliament, where he held a meeting with its President Andreas Norlén and gave a speech on the floor, and then to a meeting and joint press conference with Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. It was announced shortly after the end of the press conference that the two of them would travel to Washington DC on 19 May and hold a meeting with President Biden to talk about the two nations’ wish to join NATO. 

Meanwhile, First Lady Jenni Haukio was accompanied by Queen Silvia, and the two ladies were given a tour of the Bernadotte Library, where a lot of pieces of Swedish history are preserved. 

Before the traditional state banquet, there was time for another joint engagement for the two couples at the Cultural House, where the four of them attended an event titled “Past, present and future: how to further develop Swedish-Finnish cultural cooperation?” in which representatives of the cultural sector talked about the already existing cultural ties between the two nations and gave ideas on how to strengthen them. 

It was finally time to head to the Royal Palace, where King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia were joined by Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia to welcome guests from both Swedish and Finnish backgrounds. The menu was a glorious display of typical Swedish products, with most of the ingredients being sourced in the country. 

During the banquet, both heads of state gave speeches, and King Carl XVI Gustaf stressed once again the depth and length of the ties that bind Sweden and Finland together, saying: “Our countries have a Nordic identity that is not only about geographical proximity but also about common values.”

For the occasion, Queen Silvia donned a pink dress and the Edward VII Ruby Tiara, Princess Sofia repeated a red Zetterberg gown and her wedding tiara with pearls and Crown Princess Victoria rescued from her closet a baby blue piece by Jennifer Bloom, and the Napoleonic (or Cut Steel) Tiara. Not only blue is the colour of Finland’s flag, but it is also the colour of NATO, a subtle homage to the organisation that both countries aspire to join in the not too distant future. 

Despite not being official members yet, Finland and Sweden enjoy “special cooperation” status within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and have taken part in some military exercises with other NATO members. Despite their clear affiliation with the West, Russia has warned of the “big mistake” that joining NATO would be, and, as soon as the official declaration came from Finland on Sunday, President Putin increased military activity around Russia’s border with Finland. 

This reaction has sparked fears of a potential repercussion on the civilian population, especially during the time period between the request and the actual declaration of membership, which is why many countries have already signed mutual defence pacts with both Sweden and Finland, which will be guaranteed security in the transition period at least by the European Union.