Envoy hails as ‘historic’ Finnish president’s visit to Tehran
TEHRAN - Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, at the head of a high-ranking delegation, will visit Tehran in an effort to broaden and deepen ties between Tehran and Helsinki.
The delegation consists of a number world-known Finnish companies in different areas such as environment and water resources management, Finnish Ambassador to Tehran Harri Kämäräinen told the Tehran Times on Sunday.
Over the past weeks, the ambassador has been very hectic, paving the way for the presidential visit, which he hailed as “historic”.
“We are preparing for the historic visit as this is the first visit by a Finnish head of state to the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a matter of fact, this is also the first official bilateral visit by a Finnish head of state ever. The visit marks a new beginning in relations between Finland and Iran on the highest political level and we are therefore very much forward-looking to the discussions in Tehran,” Ambassador Kämäräinen stated.
The fact that cooperation between Iran and Finland has started in this field is symbolic. It shows both countries take these issues seriously. During the visit of Minister for Environment and Agriculture, Kimmo Tiilikainen in February, he signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran’s Department and Environment, led by Her Excellency Masoumeh Ebtekar. President Niinistö will lead a large business delegation to Tehran, which include world-class technological moguls.
“My president will bring along our Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Kai Mykkänen as well as a prominent Finnish business delegation, comprising of the most prominent leading Finnish global companies, companies that are well-known all around the world and this of course dominate the agenda during the discussions.”
Visits between the officials have been arranged.
“President Sauli Niinistö will meet with the political leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran and in these discussion we will discuss, of course, issues of mutual interest, namely bilateral relations between the two countries, including enhancing trade and economic cooperation. Also, issues of regional importance will be discussed. We are still working on a final agenda for the meetings. But, possibly meetings with the parliament speaker are on the agenda.
“Also, as I mentioned we will have a sizable business delegation participating in this program which means we are planning to organize a number of important meetings in different sectorial ministries in Tehran, possibly the ministry of information and technology (ICT) and possibly Dr. Vaezi is one of them.”
Referring to academic cooperation between the two countries, the Finnish ambassador emphasized the field has been one of those areas that has connected Finland and Iran.
The number of delegations exchanged between the two sides after the nuclear deal shows both sides take this historic agreement seriously. So many contacts have been established and MOUs signed. All these show we are already in the implementation phase. Still we are in the beginning of the implementation phase but we are paving the way for deepening contacts.“Finland is ranking very high in the international competition when it comes to the level of education and therefore, it provides a good basis to enhance and broaden cooperation between our universities. I have already seen concrete results in the field. For example, one of the leading Finnish universities, Aalto, which has been ranked among the top universities in the world, has already been active in Iran since two years ago, offering training in the field of executive business management. It has resulted in excellent outcomes and 60 senior Iranian managers have already received diplomas from the Finnish university. Also, some other Finnish universities have also good cooperation with Iranian universities. So, I’m very optimistic about this field and we very much welcome this kind of cooperation.”
One fascinating area for cooperation between the two countries is the environment. The two have already signed a document to expand environmental cooperation.
“The fact that cooperation between Iran and Finland has started in this field is symbolic. It shows both countries take these issues seriously. During the visit of Minister for Environment and Agriculture, Kimmo Tiilikainen, in February, he signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran’s Department and Environment, led by Her Excellency Masoumeh Ebtekar.”
“The fact that the MOU was among the first MOUs during the past two or three years shows that we have actually started the cooperation from a very important sector of the society. This MOU gives a very good basis and framework for the private companies and also for the authorities to enhance the cooperation the field of environment.
During the visit of His Excellency Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif to Helsinki in May this year a working group between the chambers of commerce was established, and this working group comprises of representatives of Finnish private banks, Iranian private banks as well as representatives of the Finnish central bank and Iranian central bank. “Also, in the delegation which is arriving at Tehran, we have prominent companies which are very active in solving environmental issues not only in Europe but also worldwide. If we take, for instance, the company Kemira is a world leader in water management and we have invited Kemira to visit Iran, particularly for this reason since we know that Iran has a lack of water in certain periods of year and the company has excellent solutions for communal water waste management as well as for the industrial water waste management which we hope could be a very good solution for many Iranian companies.”
Iranian officials have highlighted that time is ripe for the country to enter into an implementation phase in its relations with foreign partners after the nuclear deal. The Finnish envoy believes relations between the two countries have already entered into an implementation phase. Yet there are issues to be resolved.
“The number of delegations exchanged between the two sides after the nuclear deal shows both sides take this historic agreement seriously. So many contacts have been established and MOUs signed. All these show we are already in the implementation phase. Still we are in the beginning of the implementation phase but we are paving the way for deepening contacts.
“But, one has to acknowledge that we still do have problems in certain areas of the implementation. Not everything is as smooth as we probably thought it would be at the very beginning. There are problems, for instance, when it comes to banking and money transfers. But these problems need to be addressed jointly by both sides.”
Steps have already been taken to resolve the banking challenge, including contacts between the two countries’ chambers of commerce.
“During the visit of His Excellency Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif to Helsinki in May this year a working group between the chambers of commerce was established, and this working group comprises of representatives of Finnish private banks, Iranian private banks as well as representatives of the Finnish central bank and Iranian central bank.”
“The purpose of this working group is to look jointly at problems and obstacles at a practical level and how to overcome these obstacles in order to start money transactions between Finnish and Iranian banks. But I would say that the issue of money transfer is not the only obstacle. There are still many other things and issues that need to be solved. For example, one is the issue of transparency. As you know, Finnish banks have been ranked among the most secure and trustworthy financial institutions in the world and for Finnish banks it is very important to maintain that high status. Also, important for Finnish banks are measures against money-laundering. And that working group has to discuss these issues and also try to identify measure to address these problems in order to start the banking connections as soon as possible. We have seen some progress recently and I will remain optimistic toward the future although it takes time.”