Finnish president hopes not to get lost in Erdoğan’s palace

Finnish president hopes not to get lost in Erdoğan’s palace

Deniz Zeyrek – HELSINKI
Finnish president hopes not to get lost in Erdoğan’s palace


Sauli Niinistö, the Finnish President who will launch his Turkey visit today, has economic, security and political issues in his briefcase, but jokingly fears he will find it difficult to find his way in the Turkish presidential palace, which has been a source of debate for its size and cost. 

“I hope I don’t get lost there,” Niinistö jokingly told daily Hürriyet in a recent interview before meeting his counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “Maybe [I’ll bring] a compass with me,” he added smiling.

Niinistö, who will be the fourth president to visit the palace, said he had seen the pictures of the facility. “We are not that used to palaces in Finland,” he said. “We have always been poor country.”

Niinistö, who will be the third head of state to visit the palace following Pope Francis, as well as his Hungarian and Turkmen counterparts, said he had already seen the pictures of the Erdoğan’s gargantuan palace. 

“Next year we have an anniversary for 90 years of diplomatic relations with Turkey,” he said. 

“And we have had visits to Turkey and from Turkey to Finland on a regular basis. One of the element is surely to strengthen or keep that very strong connection going on. I have a large delegation of businesspeople. I know that they are very interested. Finnish companies have been active in Turkey and the interest seems to continue. That is one part of the visit. But surely the most important one is the political one. We are certainly very interested to hear how Turkey sees the situation and how your president sees the situation in the Middle East … specifically the Syrian situation.” 

The refugees issue is also on the agenda. “I don’t know why but the situation is not that well known in Finland – we are now receiving asylum seekers proportionally, approximately as many as they receive in Germany. In September it was more than 10,000, and it’s continuing still.”

Finland has always been positive on Turkish membership in the European Union, the president said. “I very well understand that in Turkey there has been frustration because the process is too slow. But according to my knowledge, negotiations are continuing all the time. Fourteen chapters have been adopted,” he said.

“Finland still sticks to its original thinking and [belief] that Turkey will be a member one day.”