AKIPRESS.COM - In an interview with AKIpress, Ambassador of Finland in Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic Mr. Ilkka Raisanen told about cooperation of Finland with Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
Q: What are priority areas of cooperation between Finland and countries of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in particular?
A: Finland has cooperation with Central Asian states mostly based on development assistance, but diplomatic and economic ties have been increasing. Development cooperation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia for the years 2014–2017 comprises two parts: the Green Economy Partnership Program for Central Asia and Democracy Support.
Several international and EU development projects have been supported by Finnish funding and expertise.
Areas in which Finnish expertise and support have benefited Central Asia include high-quality technology, rule of law, aid for trade, water management and border control.
Q: Are there any projects run by Finland in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan?
A: Kazakhstan has reached such a high level of development that we no longer provide development aid to this country.
The Green Economy Partnership Program is implemented in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The program supports responsible entrepreneurship and decent jobs and also promotes rules for work life that are based on agreement and occupational safety. Sustainable use of resources is improved by promoting planning and monitoring. The Aid for Trade program of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) project to promote decent jobs constitute the backbone of the program.
Complementing the work is the fisheries and aquaculture project being carried out by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Kyrgyzstan and Finland’s water management program in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In addition, projects have been launched to strengthen the expertise of authorities in the target countries.
UNDP programs to support the justice sector are being implemented in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with the aim of developing access to justice and the quality of legal services, especially for the most vulnerable population groups.
In addition, support is given to the independent human rights institutions and field offices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Central Asia.
Q: Has the trade turnover between Finland and Kyrgyzstan/Finland and Kazakhstan grown? In what areas?
A: Yes, until recent economic slow-down due to fall in oil prices the trend of the trade has been growing with both countries.
Most important fields of trade belong to the high technology sector regarding our exports.
Q: Kazakhstan authorities said they introduced visa-free regime for the citizens of Finland. Is Finland going to do the same for the Kazakhs?
A: We welcome and appreciate this gesture. Finland belongs to the Schengen group of countries where we would be looking forward to seeing possibilities how to start the visa-facilitation discussions with Kazakhstan, but that would need a joint decision with the other member states.
Q: Will Finland take part in EXPO 2017?
A: From the very beginning Finland has been actively supporting the candidacy of Astana to host the Expo 2017.
Now we are just waiting if we could gather enough commitments from the Finnish companies to participate, which would enable us to present their best solutions for this magnificent event about the future energy.
Q: Business delegation visited Kazakhstan in October 2015. What were practical results of that visit?
A: I would say that our companies and professional educational organizations who participated (the delegation size was quite big, about 70 persons) got a lot of new contacts and extended their fields of cooperation. It is still too early to see all the results but what we have seen so far has been very promising already.
Q: Finnish business is not present in Kyrgyzstan. Do you have any plans to boost trade and economic relations between two countries?
A: It is true that compared to our situation in Kazakhstan the Finnish companies have not yet found so many business opportunities in Kyrgyzstan but perhaps we have also not been active enough to promote this beautiful, remarkable country. We have just recently opened a Honorary Consulate in Bishkek, so I hope the trend of trade will be increasingly positive soon.
Q: Would you recommend Finnish citizens to spend their vacations in Kyrgyzstan?
Absolutely. There are so many different possibilities to explore the natural beauty of the mountains and exceptional lakes, like Issyk-Kul.
Q: Does the Embassy plan any major events in Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan next year?
A: First of all we wish to encourage Finns to visit these countries and participate more actively in trade-fairs and cultural events.
Q: What are the things you like in Central Asia? Have you visited other Central Asian countries?
A: Unfortunately I have not been able to visit other countries than Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan yet.
I like the variety and richness of different peoples, admire their traditional culture and folklore and praise these
unforgettably beautiful landscapes. People seem to like us Finns and we get along very well.
Q: What would you wish the Central Asians for the new year?
A: I would like to wish health, happiness and prosperity – reminding everyone to be grateful what the previous generations have provided us with.
What seems to be a problem today can be a hidden opportunity tomorrow and we must not lose hope in any situation.