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Obama praises Nordic friendship, pledges more work with climate change, defense, trade

"There have been times where I’ve said, why don’t we just put all these small [Nordic] countries in charge for a while?" Obama joked during Friday's meeting.

By
Amy R. Connolly and Doug G. Ware
President Barack Obama talks with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen as they and other Nordic leaders walk along the White House Colonnade to the Oval Office during a State Visit in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Other Nordic leaders are (second row, L-R) Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, (third row) Icelandic Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
President Barack Obama talks with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen as they and other Nordic leaders walk along the White House Colonnade to the Oval Office during a State Visit in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Other Nordic leaders are (second row, L-R) Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, (third row) Icelandic Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama welcomed leaders from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark to the White House Friday to discuss issues ranging from Russian aggression to the European migrant crisis.

Obama celebrated the arrival of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and Icelandic Prime Minister Sigurour Ingi Johannsson, in the White House Grand Foyer, drawing comparisons between the United States and the Nordic countries.

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"Around the world Americas closest partners are democracies. We only need to look at our Nordic friends to see why," Obama said. "We share the same interests and we share the same values."

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"Upon arrival, the flags on Pennsylvania Avenue gave a heartening feeling to us," Niinisto said before acknowledging the gray skies over Washington Friday. "Dear President, I have to apologize that we forgot to take the sun with us. We have had a lot of sunshine this spring."

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"As you make the most of your final year in the White House, we are delighted to note, Mr. President, you have clearly saved the best for last," Solberg said. "Today's U.S.-Nordic Summit is a strong reminder of what we have achieved together."

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The White House said Friday's multilateral meeting between the countries was a far cry from the contentious summits with Middle Eastern countries and confrontational world leaders.

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Among the items discussed included combating terrorism, facilitating international trade, protecting the environment, guarding against Russian aggression and addressing the chaotic migrant crisis -- matters the leaders addressed in great detail in a joint statement Friday.

The Finnish president applauded the cooperation between the two nations, stating that their ideologies are very similar -- particularly when it comes to climate change.

"With you, Mr. President, we feel we have a kindred spirit. Gender equality, equal opportunity, and human rights for all, democracy, the rule of law, and respect of international law -- these are hallmarks of our societies and an agenda that we share," Niinisto said. "We are grateful for the leadership the United States has showed in combating the most existential threat in the world -- that is climate change -- and focusing attention to the Arctic, where we are practically neighbors."

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"I really do believe that the world would be more secure and more prosperous if we just had more partners like our Nordic countries," Obama said. "There have been times where I've said, why don't we just put all these small countries in charge for a while?"

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The American president also praised Nordic nations for their technological contributions.

"Thanks to Nordic innovators, we share our music on Spotify, stay in touch by Skype, and millions spend what would otherwise be productive hours on Minecraft, Angry Birds and Candy Crush," he said.

Later Friday, the president and first lady Michelle Obama were scheduled to host a state dinner on the South Lawn of the White House -- with delicacies that include salt-cured Ahi Tuna with pickled young radish and watermelon juniper granite.

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