150th Anniversary of the Saimaa Canal – EU-Russia meeting in connection with the celebrationsThe 150th Anniversary of the Saimaa Canal will be celebrated in Lappeenranta on 8-9 September.
Around 500 guests will attend the celebrations at the Lappeenranta City Hall on Friday. Jacques Barrot, European Commission Vice-President with responsibility for transport, will give a welcoming address. Keynote speakers will be Susanna Huovinen, Minister of Transport and Communications of Finland, and Igor Levitin, Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation.
On Saturday, 9 September, guests who have been invited to the celebrations will take a cruise along the Saimaa Canal on M/S Carelia, all the way from Lappeenranta to Vyborg. There will then be celebrations arranged on the Russian side, in Vyborg Castle. The ship will stop at the Mälkiä lock, where Ms Huovinen will unveil a memorial "Keisarien portti" (Emperors' gate) designed by Tapio Rönkönharju.
The programme for the anniversary in Lappeenranta will also feature numerous events open to the public, including visits to museums. Jyrki Paaskoski, a Finnish historian who has written a history of the canal, will give a public lecture. In the evening everyone will be able to enjoy a torchlight procession, musical entertainment and fireworks.
The Saimaa Canal anniversary celebrations are being arranged by Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Finnish Maritime Administration and the City of Lappeenranta.
Stronger cooperation with Russia
In connection with the canal celebrations, an EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Council (PPC) meeting on transport will be held in Lappeenranta on Friday. The aim of the meeting is to strengthen transport cooperation between the EU and Russia, and to outline the policy challenges concerning transport between the two areas. Transport infrastructure and logistics will figure prominently in the discussions. Amongst those taking part in the meeting will be Mr Barrot, Ms Huovinen, Mr Levitin, and Secretary of State Jörg Hennerkes from Germany's Federal Ministry of Transport.
Linked to the canal celebrations, there will be a ceremonial inauguration of the new border-crossing station and road between Nuijamaa and Brusnichnoe. The road connection will be opened on Friday morning by Ms Huovinen and Mr Levitin. The new border-crossing station is expected to make the traffic flows smoother and reduce congestion on the border.
Continuation to the canal area lease agreement
Finland and Russia are presently negotiating the continuation of the canal area lease agreement. The present agreement expires in 2013.
Work started on building the Saimaa Canal in 1845. The canal was opened on 7 September 1856. After the Second World War, Finland obtained the use of the canal again when the Soviet Union leased the canal area to Finland under an agreement signed in 1963. The Finnish State is responsible for maintaining the canal and the related infrastructure network.
The total length of the Saimaa Canal is 43 kilometres. It has eight locks and the biggest difference in water level is around 13 metres. Some 1.5 million tonnes of freight pass through the canal in a year.
Mr Perttu Puro, State Secretary, tel. +358 9 160 28587 or +358 40 779 3436
Mr Jyrki Paaskoski, author of the history of the Saimaa Canal, tel. +358 50 556 5614
Ms Päivi Vattulainen, Canal Museum, (canal history) tel. +358 400 655 218
Mr Juhani Korpela, Finland's Authorised Delegate for the Saimaa Canal, tel. +358 9 160 28322 or +358 400 502 140