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President of Georgia visits Finland

President of Georgia Mr. Mikheil Saakashvili paid an official visit to Finland on 10-12 October. Reception ceremonies and official discussions with President of the Republic Tarja Halonen took place at the Presidential Palace on Thursday, 11 October. Discussions focused on bilateral relations between Finland and Georgia, regional issues and cooperation within the framework of international institutions especially with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

At a joint press conference President Halonen drew attention to the Finnish Chairmanship of the OSCE next year and said that this will be a priority in relations between Finland and Georgia. President Halonen introduced Finnish Ambassador to Georgia Ms. Terhi Hakala, who has just recently been chosen to serve as head of the OSCE Mission to Georgia beginning on 15 October.

"During our Chairmanship we want to develop and help the region and the entire international community," President Halonen said. "We are very pragmatic and not overly poetical. We hope that cooperation will go well."  According to President Halonen, Finland has had good relations with Georgia for a long time. "We are now in a position to deepen relations. Finns are familiar with the fine art, good wine and other things for which Georgia is well known."

Georgia is looking forward to the OSCE Finnish Chairmanship

President Saakashvili noted that Georgia has high hopes for the Finnish Chairmanship of the OSCE. He also praised the Finnish Presidency of the EU in the second half of last year and particularly it`s handling of relations with Russia.

"The Lahti EU Summit definitely helped calm the situation in Georgia, and Finland played a significant role in this," he said. "We welcome the appointment of Ambassador Terhi Hakala. She knows the complexities and peculiarities of the region and the situation. We need someone who has the passion to change things and the competence to do so."

Lecture at the Paasikivi Society

President Saakashvili gave a lecture at the Paasikivi Society, which was attended by representatives of Finnish political circles, foreign diplomats accredited in Finland, experts and political scientists and journalists from politically oriented publications. The main topics of his speech were Georgian-Russian relations and the peaceful settlement of conflicts in Georgia.

"Georgia is now faced with a great challenge. Our relations with Russia are very important. Tbilisi does not want opposition and confrontation in its relations with Moscow. At the same time we want to create and maintain guarantees for our own security..."

"I am glad to be in Finland today. We were greeted by people in the street waving Georgian flags. This is very pleasing to me. In addition to the fact that we were warmly received, we understand each other very well. The Finnish people understand well the challenge that Georgia faces and are standing by us," the Georgian president said. At the end of the meeting, Saakashvili was awarded a special medal.

Finnish-Georgian business forum

On Friday, 12 October President Saakashvili attended a Finnish-Georgian business seminar.  During the seminar he delivered a speech. "Finland and Georgia have many similarities: being small nations, bordering the big and strong neighbours have always struggled for independence and preservation of national identity. The Finnish-Russian dialog and experience is very significant for Georgia as well particularly in the economic sphere."

"Our two countries have always had good bilateral relations. The intensified exchange of high level visits is proof of the deepening of our political relations. On the economic front there is also real potential for enhancing cooperation. Trade between our two countries has this far been at a modest level, but in the last few years we have already been able to witness some impressive growth" said Mr. Mauri Pekkarinen, Minister of Trade and Industry of Finland. 

In Helsinki President Saakashvili also met Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, Speaker of the Parliament Sauli Niinisto and representatives of the City of Helsinki. He laid wreaths at the Cross of the Heroes and Marshal Mannerheim`s Tomb at Hietaniemi Cemetery. During the visit Finland and Georgia signed a "treaty on avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income". Both countries considered this important to promote business cooperation.

Aland Islands

Within the frames of the programme President Saakashvili visited the Aland Islands. During the presentation on the autonomous status of the Aland Islands President Saakashvili introduced Mr. Dimitri Sanakoev, head of the temporary administration of South Ossetia, to the leadership of the region. At the meeting President Saakashvili said that his visit to Aland together with Dmitriy Sanakoyev served the purpose of seeing "what a successful autonomy is all about", where the rights of the Swedish minority, local language are protected while the state enjoys integrity.

"The model of the Aland Islands autonomy will be used in reference to the Georgian conflicts by considering the Georgian reality. The model of Aland's autonomy fits ideally the South Ossetian conflict, however, unlike in Aland, the population in South Ossetia is equally composed of ethnic Ossetians and Georgians. For this reason, everybody's opinion will be taken into account prior to adopting the final model for South Ossetia", said Sanakoyev in Mariehamn.

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