Finnish Ambassador Looks to Future
Dec 21. MFA
Strong potential for cooperation between Finland and Kazakhstan
In a recent interview with the Almaty online newspaper “Liter” published on December 14, Finland’s Ambassador to Kazakhstan, MikkoKinnunen, spoke of the similiarities between his country and Kazakhstan and outlined his hopes for the further development of trade and cultural relations between the two.
Ambassador Kinnunen said that Finland and Kazakhstan are both relatively young countries in a European context – it is just 95 years since Finland declared independence and this year marked the 21st anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. Coincidentally, both celebrate their Independence Day in December, Finland on the 6th and Kazakhstan on the 16th. Both countries have placed knowledge at the forefront of their national strategies and they also share a similar climate and so are equipped to deal with snowbound winters.
The Ambassador highlighted the potential for cooperation which arises from the common ground between the two countries. The emphasis placed by President Nazarbayev on education and training has created opportunities for Finnish educators, such as a recent agreement for Finnish experts in technology transfer to train teachers in professional technical colleges in Kazakhstan.
The Customs Union between Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus has created an opportunity for Finland to export winter “Hakka” tyres, produced in its St Petersburg plant, directly to Kazakhstan. Four years ago, a project to build a Hakka tyre factory in Astana was shelved as the global economic crisis took hold, but the abolition of duties between Customs Union members has opened the Kazakhstan market to Finland by another route.
Ambassador Kinnunen emphasized the growth in trade and cooperation which has already occurred in recent years. Trade grew rapidly between 2000-2008, increasing by double digits most years to reach€850m in 2008. Volumes fell significantly in the wake of the global economic crisis, but have since recovered and the full-year estimate for 2012 is €500m. Finnish technology is now successfully deployed across Kazakhstan’s mining sector, notably at the “Altyn Tau” gold plant in Kokshetau. Nokia is the most popular mobile phone brand in Kazakhstan, where the leading telecommunications operator is Kcell – originally a Finnish company, now in joint Finnish-Swedish ownership.
The construction industry was singled out by the Ambassador as an area where demand for housing in Kazakhstan may create new opportunities for Finnish companies. While there are some differences to be resolved around issues of price and quality, the “Honka” log home builder is just one example of a Finnish company producing high-quality products ideally suited to Kazakhstan’s needs.
Ambassador Kinnunen welcomed the recent introduction by Finnair of direct flights between Astana and Lapland and encouraged Kazakhs to discover Finland both for holiday and business travel.
Interaction between the two countries has deepened since the visit of President Nazarbayev to Helsinki in 2009, particularly in the areas of high tech and education. In October 2012 Finland’s Minister of EU Affairs and International Trade, Alexander Stubb, led a delegation of business people from 55 Finnish companies across 13 economic sectors in a visit to Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan established an Embassy to Finland in Helsinki earlier this year and Ambassador Kinnunen expects next year to move to a new residence for the Finnish Ambassador on Astana’s left bank, a joint Kazakh-Finnish project which is nearing completion.
Finland’s President, SauliNiinist?, who took office in February 2012, is scheduled to make his first official visit to Kazakhstanin April 2013.