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Ambassador Jaakko Laajava’s farewell to Britain - Embassy of Finland, London : News & Current Affairs : News


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News, 10/03/2010

Ambassador Jaakko Laajava’s farewell to Britain

After five years of service as the Ambassador of Finland in the UK, Jaakko Laajava returns to Helsinki at the end of March - but not before answering five questions and reflecting on his experiences as he prepares to leave London.

Laajava, who entered the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1971, returns to Helsinki as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Security Policy - a position he held from 2001 to 2005 before coming to London.

Ambassador Jaakko Laajava (Photo by Tessa Oksanen)Ambassador Jaakko Laajava (Photo by Tessa Oksanen)
If you had to name just one, what has been the best moment or the most enjoyable experience of these past five years?

Presenting the Letters of Credence to Her Majesty The Queen is an unforgettable experience to every ambassador accredited to Britain. Even though it was a mere matter of formality, The Queen knew how to bring warmth to the situation and to make my wife and I feel welcome in this country. It is fantastic that such a wonderful tradition continues to be adhered to.

How would you compare Britain to the several other foreign postings you’ve had during your long career – the United States in particular, where you served as Ambassador from 1996 to 2001?

Britain is a most fascinating, pleasant receiving country, and one that has plenty to teach you. History is present everywhere, yet at the same time London is a city where traditions meet the latest cultural currents and the newest phenomena. Even if Britain is no longer a vast empire, global thinking and internationalism are part of the DNA of this nation which has knowledge and know-how on everything you can possibly imagine. Something that has been new and interesting to me on a personal level is aspiring to understand London’s role as a leading international finance hub.

What is your perception of the bilateral relations between Finland and the UK at the moment?

It is customary to describe bilateral relations by way of trade figures or other statistics. In these terms the United Kingdom is certainly a very notable partner for Finland. However, I prefer to look beyond figures and underscore the excellent interaction on various levels and between diverse actors. Differences are bound to exist, of course: for instance, Finland’s perception of the significance of the European Union doubtless differs greatly from that of Britain. Nonetheless, we do have much in common. We are open economies and believe that ever-increasing international interaction will generate wellbeing. Our thinking is driven by pragmatism. This is the source of many of our shared, concrete advantages. Making optimal use of the collaborative potential between our countries is essential.

In Helsinki, you will return to the familiar post of Under-Secretary of State that you held from 2001 to 2005 before leaving for London – what kind of expectations do you have regarding this position? 

I am very happy of my new appointment in which I am expected to contribute to the development of Finland's foreign and security policy. One of my tasks will be to work as the secretary of the Government’s Foreign and Security Policy Committee, which requires cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister’s Office and the President.

Finally, the last couple of weeks as Ambassador are sure to be busy – exactly what kind of things still need to be taken care of before you depart?

The last weeks are filled with many questions regarding the departure. Above all, I will miss our fantastic staff here in London. I am extremely pleased to have worked with motivated and enthusiastic people in all sections of the Embassy. They have gained excellent results. It has been good to work with a supporting staff here in London and I wish my successor Pekka Huhtaniemi the best of success.

Jenni Helenius and Tiina Heinilä, Embassy of Finland
Photos by Tessa Oksanen

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Updated 10/03/2010

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