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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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