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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » October 27, 2011
The Voice of Scandinavia
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Promising Future
October 27, 2011   
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Carsten Nilsen, Chairman of the Scandinavian-Polish Chamber of Commerce, talks to Witold Zygulski.

Are Poland and Scandinavia good partners for difficult times?
I think that the relationship between Scandinavian and Poland is very important now when we certainly have difficult times. Scandinavia has not suffered to the same extent, shall we say, the hard times that many other countries in Europe have. This makes Scandinavia a good place to do business for Polish companies and Poland an even more attractive market for Scandinavian companies, this is something both parties should take advantage of.

What are the most promising areas for business team-ups?
Most of the Scandinavian companies which are our members operate in areas such as finance and construction. In Norway, the construction industry has started to recover and that is very good news for Poland as many Poles work in this industry in Norway.

I don’t really like to mention names in terms of leading Scandinavian companies in Poland because we have so many members that it would not be fair to point out just a few of them, however, we have a prominent Norwegian company in the fuel-supply business, we have Sweden’s IKEA, a world famous company. Many our new members are located in the Szczecin region, this is a region which is very close to Denmark due to ferries and motorways. The Szczecin region has also been very good in promoting itself so Scandinavian companies are increasingly becoming aware of the potential this region has to offer.

How could the cooperation between Scandinavian and Polish companies be intensified?
Information is the key. We have to create a greater awareness of Poland in Scandinavia, the potential of the country and the opportunities in the market. We represent Scandinavian companies operating in the Polish market and Polish companies which look to Scandinavia in search of a safe place to invest. There are still many companies in Scandinavia which do not know much about Poland. One has to promote Poland locally in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. This is a task which has to be done by such institutions as Polish Trade Missions and the Commercial Departments in Polish Embassies. The information about Poland can also come in a different, more personal way: for example, there are many-I believe more than a thousand-Scandinavian students studying at Polish universities. They are here for several years and when they go back, they take very positive opinions of Poland with them back home and of course, in Scandinavia there are already tens of thousands of Poles employed in various sectors of the economy. Finally, there are more and more Polish tourists in Scandinavia, who also contribute to the good flow of information about Poland and Scandinavia.

What are Poland’s biggest advantages as an investment destination for Scandinavian companies?
The very size of the market is the most important factor. Poland is a large market compared to the respective scandinavian markets. The Scandinavian markets are, however, very modern, making full use of the latest technologies, which the Scandinavian companies also want to export to Poland. So, I am sure that there is a great future for the Scandinavian presence on the Polish market.

Of course, there are also many challenges in the Polish market. We are all very happy about the Euro 2012 soccer tournament in Poland. Thanks to this, the road, rail and flight networks are becoming significantly better, which is good for all foreign investors. The one problem that unfortunately remains is bureaucracy; many foreign companies in Poland, including Scandinavian ones which are our members, still complain about this. The amount of documentation which has to be completed and the fact that you have to go to so many offices makes it a long and frustrating process. My fundamental advice to Scandinavian companies is that they should always make to use of experts be that legal or financial to assist in establishing a company in Poland, it is very difficult and almost impossible to deal with the Polish bureaucracy on your own.

The fact that in Poland a Scandinavian company will find motivated, highly educated and loyal employees is of course of the greatest importance.

How does the Chamber of Commerce promote business ties?
This year, we have focused on attracting more Polish members, companies interested in operating in Scandinavia and we see that this is happening. Scandinavia is not very far away, it is easy to get there, so it is very interesting for Polish companies. We arrange a lot of social events, business mixers and meetings with members of other International chambers in Poland. This is proving very successful.

As a chamber we are very keen to promote Scandinavian values such as transparency in business, team spirit, the proper way to treat employees and corporate social responsibility. Scandinavian companies are also very focused on a good balance between work and family life.

Names such as Nokia, Statoil and IKEA are widely known; are there any Polish brands popular in Scandinavia?
I regret to say not too many but most Scandinavians are familiar with the known Polish vodka brands. Also recently Polish made buses are more and more visible in Scandinavian cities, particularly in Sweden.

How are Scandinavian-Polish business relations shaping up in terms of the next couple of years?
I think they will continue to develop and expand. Not as fast as a few years ago, when the economy was doing very well, but they will improve. There are many young entrepreneurs in Poland who want to go abroad to prove their skills and Scandinavian companies need them-there is big demand for skilled, professional people in all of Scandinavia. For example in the health sector-there are many Polish doctors and nurses working in Scandinavia. I think we will see much more exchange of skills and opportunities in the coming years. There will be more trade between the countries.

Is Poland an interesting place for Scandinavian tourists?
For many years, a lot of people from Denmark, Sweden and Norway have travelled to the Mazurian lakes. The Polish Baltic coast is also a popular destination for Swedes and Danes and speaking about Polish cultural heritage, Cracow is definitely the number one place which Scandinavian tourists come to see.
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