Nobel Peace laureate Martti Ahtisaari has died

Martti Ahtisaari passed away on Monday at the age of 86. As President of Finland he led his country into the EU in 1995. In 2008, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in resolving international conflicts: he persuaded Slobodan Milošević to withdraw his troops from Kosovo in 1999, oversaw the disarmament of the Northern Irish IRA and contributed to Namibia's independence and the end of the civil war in Aceh, Indonesia.

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Savon Sanomat (FI) /

An idealist without illusions

The world today urgently needs people like Ahtisaari, Savon Sanomat implores:

“Perhaps Ahtisaari's childhood experience as a refugee made him see conflicts from the perspective of those who suffer the consequences. According to his former advisor Alpo Rusi, Ahtisaari was an idealist without illusions. ... For him, mediating peace was practical problem-solving that would bring results if the will was there. Ahtisaari made humanism a reality where it was most needed. In view of the wars and conflicts raging once again in our world, we urgently need people to continue doing this work.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

International bridge builder

Finland has much to thank Ahtisaari for, Helsingin Sanomat stresses:

“There has been no other international bridge builder like Ahtisaari among Finland's presidents. His career as a diplomat and peace broker brought Finland international standing and attention at a very opportune time for the country. It is thanks to Ahtisaari that Finland still has a reputation as a mediator nation. Ahtisaari understood very well that peace mediation and the elimination of causes of conflict call for institutions, structures and bureaucracy. As UN Under-Secretary-General and in numerous other organisations, Ahtisaari promoted the professionalisation of peace mediation.”

Postimees (EE) /

He paved the way for a new stance towards Estonia

Author Imbi Paju recalls in Postimees:

“Although Finland endorsed the process of Estonian independence, for a long time it belonged to the Soviet sphere of influence where, in the communist colonial mentality towards the Baltic states that prevailed among many leading politicians, Estonia was not considered a real state. ... When Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin met in Helsinki in 1997, President Ahtisaari told the media afterwards: 'Now that the guests have gone, I will ring [Estonia's] President Lennart Meri and tell him how the negotiations went and what I was able to do for the Baltic states.' For a Finnish president to behave this way towards Estonia was utterly unprecedented.”