Speech by Minister Toivakka at the Finnish-Russian Energy Days​

Speech by Minister Toivakka at the Finnish-Russian Energy Days

Speech by Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Lenita Toivakka, “Economic cooperation between the Russian Federation and Finland” at the Finnish-Russian Energy Days on 2 December 2014.

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Ambassador Rumyantsev and Trade Representative Shlyamin,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government of Finland, I would like to welcome you to the Finnish-Russian Energy Days.

It is probably a mere coincidence that it was decided to hold the Finnish-Russian Energy Days at the chilliest and darkest time of the year. But in my view, the time could not be more appropriate. At this time of the year we remember how nice it is to come in from the cold outside to a heated home. We can also appreciate energy-efficient solutions. Surely we all know that it is expensive to heat homes if gaps in the windows allow cold air to seep in – or warm air to escape out.

This is therefore the best time to talk about energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy-saving solutions. Finnish enterprises are known to excel in these fields. Our Northern location serves as a good incentive in this regard.

Finland is one of the leading countries in clean technology, or cleantech, and bioeconomy. This is illustrated for instance by the fact that this year, Finland placed second on the Global Cleantech Innovation Index.

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Russia is an important economic partner to Finland. I trust that this will be the case also in the future.

At present, economic relations between Russia and Finland, however, are overshadowed by two factors. The first is the slacker pace of Russia’s economic growth and the second is the Ukrainian crisis.

Russia’s economic growth has slowed since the second half of 2013. The Russian economy is expected this year to grow only slightly, if at all.

From January to August, Finland’s exports to and imports from Russia both fell by about 13 per cent.

The crisis in Ukraine naturally increases uncertainty. Sanctions affect trade on both sides. It should be remembered, however, that the aim of the sanctions imposed by the EU is a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine in a way that respects the sovereignty of Ukraine and strengthens the stability and security of our entire continent. The sooner a negotiated solution to the Ukrainian crisis is found, the better it is also for the economy.

Although now there are clouds above our economic relations, Russia is still an important export market for Finland. More than 600 Finnish enterprise operate in Russia and about 100 enterprises have made direct investments there. Total investments have risen to around 12 billion euros. These are substantial figures.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Economic cooperation between Finland and Russia continues in many different ways:

The vice-chairs of the Finnish-Russian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation met in Moscow on 30 November, and the next meeting of the vice-chairs is under preparation for next March. The meetings of working groups under the Economic Commission address the practical cooperation of sectors and regions. Most recently at the end of July, discussions dealt with the establishment of a working group for the construction sector: among other things, cooperation will focus on energy efficiency.

Many of you have probably heard of Team Finland. Team Finland refers to the work done by Ministries and publicly-funded actors to promote the internationalization of Finnish enterprises and to increase foreign investments. Several Team Finland export promotion trips to Russia have been organized this year. For example, about a week ago, the Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce arranged an export promotion trip to Ulyanovsk under the leadership of our Ambassador to Moscow. A Finnish business delegation also took part.

Moreover, citizens continue to be interested their neighbouring country. Even though the number of Russians travelling to Finland has decreased this year, for Finns Russia may be an attractive travel destination, owing especially to the price level. We hope, of course, to have many Russian tourists come to Finland at the turn of the year.

For a long time now, Finland has striven to make the granting of visas in Russia flexible and has developed its customer service. Visa service centres have been opened in different parts of Russia, the latest of them in the city of Vyborg in September. Last year Finland granted almost 1.5 million visas to Russians.

Civil society cooperation is also important, as is the development of know-how through cooperation between our countries. University student exchanges as well as research cooperation between the Academy of Finland and Russian actors are examples of this, while at the same time they increase intercultural understanding.

Furthermore, political relations between our countries are close. The President of the Republic met with President Putin in Russia in August, and they have had several phone calls. Prime Minister Stubb has spoken with Prime Minister Medvedev over the phone twice. Foreign Minister Tuomioja met with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Turku in June, in New York in September and in Moscow in October. Contacts between public servants are close: I already mentioned that the vice-chairs of the Economic Commission met in October. Just a few weeks ago, the Secretary of State of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs met with his counterpart in Moscow. Civil society also enjoys active relations: examples to mention include the Finnish-Russian Cultural Forum held in September and the 70th anniversary celebration of the Finland-Russia Society.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finland, too, has its own economic challenges. Despite the weak overall situation there are positive signals as well:

Finnish enterprises are internationally competitive. Finland ranked fourth in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015. Opening up of the economy has increased the importance of foreign trade, international investments and other cross-border activities. In addition, international competition affects ever more branches of business. Many services have also moved from a closed sector of the economy to an open one. In the area of service production, one example is health sector services, which is growing in popularity among Russian clients.

Finland is experiencing a start-up boom. A couple of weeks ago Slush, the world’s largest start-up event, took place in Helsinki. About 400 Russian participants were among those who attended. I myself attended Slush and the event made a great impression on me.

Prospects are also encouraging in traditional sectors, such as the forestry industry. The use of recyclable fibre packaging made from renewable raw materials is on the rise in the packaging industry.

Finland has much to offer in technological development. Innovations are achieved, among others, in the health technology and cleantech sectors, and tomorrow you may hear more about clean technology and energy efficiency innovations.

Of course, the well-known Finnish education system creates a talented workforce, and skilled people are the basis of our economic development also in the future.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Cooperation in the energy sector is a rising possibility for economic relations between Finland and Russia. In energy production, we have various forms of cooperation, including long-term cooperation in the field of nuclear energy.

Efforts to develop energy-efficient technology in Russia have been made within the framework of the modernization partnership between Finland and Russia. For example, Fortum’s investment programme includes increasing the electricity generation capacity in Russia. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, together with the Zelenograd Innovation and Technology Center, has explored how the building stock of a residential district in Moscow could be repaired in a way that is energy efficient in accordance with sustainable development.

I believe that Finland, Finnish products, enterprises and employers still have a good reputation in Russia. Moreover, the safety of Finnish products is appreciated, as are Finnish employers’ reliability and honest payment of wages.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope that the Finnish-Russian Energy Days, for their part, open up many possibilities for cooperation between our enterprises.

I also hope that between your discussions, you will have a moment to admire the Christmas lights decorating Helsinki. Amidst the Christmas atmosphere one can also consider energy efficiency: Did you know that modern LED lamps save more than 80 per cent of the energy previously consumed by illumination?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish you fruitful discussions and a warm Christmas and New Year season.

energia