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The Warsaw Voice » Other » May 28, 2008
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Learning From Each Other
May 28, 2008   
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Tomas Bertelman, ambassador of Sweden to Poland, talks to Ewa Hancock.

What is the state of bilateral relations between Sweden and Poland? In what areas do the two countries cooperate closely politically?
Relations between Poland and Sweden are traditionally very good and extensive. Of course, one should not pretend that there are no differences between our countries and between our societies. The historical background differs widely. Sweden has lived in peace for 200 years, while Poland has repeatedly been devastated and subject to immense human suffering because of conflicts and wars. As a result, the mentality and social sensibility of our people differ. Recently, well-known journalist and writer Maciej Zaremba noted, during the 2nd Polish-Swedish Parliamentary Forum, that Poland and Sweden are like two people who have for a very long time lived in different worlds and therefore have a lot to tell each other. Swedes could tell about the advantages and disadvantages of exceptionally rapid modernization, but also that it is possible to create a transparent and efficient state administration friendly to the citizens. Poles could tell about how to defend and preserve human dignity under the most difficult circumstances. These differences enrich our cooperation and become an asset and value added, Zaremba says.

Poland and Sweden cooperate closely in many areas and on many issues. I would like to mention in particular our ongoing consultations on European Union issues like the Eastern policy of the EU, including the Eastern Neighborhood Policy (ENP), the further enlargement of the union, and matters related to the Baltic Sea.

In which sectors of the economy is Swedish-Polish cooperation most intense?
Economic cooperation between our countries has developed well in recent years and Poland remains our biggest trading partner in Central and Eastern Europe. In 2007 Swedish exports increased by 24 percent to 3 billion euros, while imports from Poland increased by 18 percent to 3.2 billion euros. The trend is clearly positive and I can see no reason why Poland should not in a few years' time be as big a partner for Sweden as our Nordic neighbors.

As to investments, some years ago Sweden was number eight among the largest investor countries in Poland, according to Polish statistics, with total investments amounting to more than $3.6 billion since the beginning of the 1990s. Among major Swedish investors are companies such as Vattenfall, Ikea, Skanska, Volvo and Scania, all well-known brands in Poland.

As I pointed out earlier, we expect a further expansion of our economic cooperation, not only in the traditional fields. Promising areas of particular interest are environmental technology, sustainable use of resources and renewable energy sources.

What makes doing business in Poland most difficult?
I am probably not the right person to answer that kind of question, but if I should mention one problem, as communicated to me by Swedish businesspeople, it is the quite complicated investment rules and the intricate bureaucracy, which sometimes delays and extends investment projects. But I must underline that nowadays I seldom hear complains from the Swedish business community. The general impression is that doing business in Poland today is like doing business in other members states of the European Union.

How important do you think is the partnership between Poland and Sweden within the EU?
The recipe for success within the European Union is cooperation and building alliances with like-minded nations. Poland and Sweden have common interests in several areas. I already mentioned the Eastern policy of the union and the Baltic Sea. Of course, it is not sufficient for only two countries to cooperate, but alliances have to be sought from as many member countries as possible. Sweden will be holding the EU presidency in the second half of 2009. High on the Swedish agenda is climate and energy policy. We are looking forward to close cooperation with Poland on these very important issues.
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