Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto
Fulbright Finland News Magazine

2019 – A Year of Celebrations

16 December 2019 • Text: Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto

With the first snowflakes hitting the ground, it is a good time to look back at the great year that we have had. The year 2019 marks both the centennial of the Finnish – U.S. Diplomatic Relations and the 70th anniversary of the ASLA-Fulbright exchange program. I want to take this opportunity to express the importance of these two events. 

The formal relationship between Finland and the United States began 100 years ago, on May 7 1919, when the U.S. Secretary of State Mr. Lansing cabled the Finnish Foreign Minister Mr. Holsti that the Independence of Finland had been recognized. Three weeks later, the diplomatic relations were established. How¬ever, our shared history goes much further back in history. According to the U.S. Office of the Federal Register, the first Finnish settlers arrived in the United States already in 1638. That is when Nordics, many of them natives of Finland or Finnish-speaking Swedes, established the colony of New Sweden in present-day Delaware. It has been said that Finns introduced the log cabin – hirsimökki - to the Americans - something that we could call early technology transfer.

Over the past century, our relationship has grown into a dynamic and strong bilateral partnership. Together we have contributed to the growing peace, prosperity, and security for our peoples and promoted democratic values, including human rights, across the globe. 

The year 2019 also marks t he 70th anniversary of the ASLA program. Finland was one of the first nations to be offered the opportunity to join the ASLA-Fulbright program. The U.S. Congress established the program, using Finland’s own loan repayments dating back to the first years of our independence. The first Finnish ASLA grantees left for the United States in 1950. This program allowed the students and scholars to gain access to educational resources that were not available in Finland at that time. So far, more than 3,800 Finnish students and scholars and more than 1,900 Americans have had the chance to participate in the educational and professional exchanges. These numbers are truly impressive. 

It is reasonable to say that Fulbright Finland has played an important and a very positive role in the Finnish – U.S. relationship. On the occasion of our 100th year of independence, the United States presented Finland with a most welcomed centennial gift of an additional 500,000 USD to the Fulbright Finland Foundation. This gift is an outstanding way to commemorate our close and deep partnership and we are truly grateful.

These close people-to-people contacts from early settlers to scholars and students of our times have served as building blocks for the unique nature of the transatlantic relationship. No other link holds such significance globally than the relationship between Europe and the United States. It is based on the same values and interests across the full spectrum of fields – politics, economy, education, research and science, culture and many more. We need this partnership to respond to challenges both in our regions and globally. The transatlantic relations remain indispensable also for the rules-based international order. It is in our joint interest to safeguard this relationship and to keep it strong and vibrant. Finland appreciates the close relationship with the U.S. and values the work the Fulbright Finland Foundation does tremendously. Let us keep these exemplary relations going for the next centennial to come!

 

Read the whole Fulbright Finland News magazine 2/2019!