I am meeting you now for the last time at the Presidential Palace, where we have often gathered together during the past six years. I thank all of you for the valuable support that you have given the development of relations between our countries as well as to me personally in my performance of my tasks as President of the Republic.
Until I became Head of State, I pursued a career at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. This included service with international organisations. Thus I have had the opportunity to examine events in the world from both sides of the floor, as it were. As President of the Republic I have been in a position to see the importance of active diplomatic relations both in the peaceful everyday routine of international politics and in crisis situations.
The most central tasks during my term that has just ended included steering Finland onto the beginning of her course as a member of the European Union. We have enjoyed rapid success in consolidating our position among the other members. That showed itself very clearly in, among other things, our performance in the Presidency of the Union in the latter semester of last year.
European integration gained strength and the scope of cooperation broadened during my term. The continuing violent disintegration of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was a stark exception to this positive overall development. Finland has wanted to participate in stabilising the situation in the Western Balkans and to bringing the countries of the region within the fold of peaceful development. It looks like there will be plenty of challenges in this category for a long time to come.
That Finland and the Finns create contacts also with the world beyond Europe is something that I have considered a central goal. My programme of visits in the past six years was one reflection of that.
As I leave my post as President of the Republic I shall continue to perform international tasks. Therefore I believe that our contacts will not come to a complete end now; I am sure that we shall continue to meet in new contexts.
Once again I thank all of you for our years of cooperation and wish you the best of success in your work.