Hungarian-Finnish relations have traditionally been friendly, problem-free and balanced. With Finland, which gained her independence in 1917, Austria-Hungary established diplomatic relations in 1918, with independent Hungary taking up diplomatic relations again in 1920 and opened an embassy in Helsinki in 1928. The concept of brother nations based on linguistic affinity proved to be particularly powerful in the development of bilateral relations in the 1920s and ‘30s, and its positive effect is still felt today.
One of the defining events in Finnish history, the Winter War against the Soviet Union, is also important for Finnish-Hungarian relations: a battalion of Hungarian volunteers travelled to Finland to give armed support to the brother nation, the Hungarian government assisted the Finns in their fight for life with munitions and ammunition, and the people raised donations for the Finnish Red Cross.
Diplomatic relations were mandated to break in September 1944 by the Finnish-Soviet ceasefire agreement. Relations were re-established in October 1949, and elevated to ambassadorial level in 1960. In autumn 1956, many Finns rushed to help the Hungarian revolution by donating blood, raising money, sending bandages, writing poems, and the only opera about the 1956 Hungarian Revolution is a work by a Finnish composer.
Following the revolution, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, the Hungarian communist leadership started to look for Western contacts and became convicted that Finland was not dangerous to the Soviet Union and could well be its “window to the west”. Thus, Hungary established closer ties with Finland than with other Western countries. Visa-free travel was opened in 1970, and for a long time Finland was the only Western country where Hungarians could travel visa-free.
High-level visits are frequent between our countries. The most recent visit of a Head of State took place in June 2016 when János Áder, President of Hungary, attended the 7th World Congress of the Finno-Ugric Peoples organised in Lahti and also held bilateral talks with President Sauli Niinistö. President Niinistö visited Hungary in September 2012 in connection with the previous World Congress. The latest visit by a Prime Minister took place in September 2019 when Antti Rinne visited Hungary when had talks with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s latest visit to Finland was in November 2018 when he attended the congress of the European People’s Party and also met with Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament, László Kövér paid a visit to Finland in May 2017. House Speaker Maria Lohela visited Hungary in December 2017 as the main guest of the Music Academy Concert celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Finnish Independence. During this visit she symbolically took over the gift of the Hungarian state, the newly developed Bogányi Concerto Piano.
Our bilateral political relations have become increasingly less formalized in recent years, with some of the high-level meetings being channelled into bilateral talks on the margins of multilateral meetings. In addition, meetings and consultations at mid-level management have gained prominence in recent years.