Now it is time to start thinking of the future bilateral relations and find new modalities and avenues for the future cooperation. The Ambassador voices his hope that the impressive development in Vietnam will continue and also include the necessary strengthening of democracy and the respect for all Human Rights.
The Ambassador of Sweden in Vietnam made these remarks in his interview granted to Vietnam News, the English daily newspaper in Hanoi on the occasion of the National Day of Sweden, June 6. Following is the full text of his interview:
1. What are the history and the significance of June 6th to Swedish people?
The National Day of Sweden, the 6th of June, is celebrated in memory of the day when Gustav Vasa was elected King of Sweden and Sweden became a nation state in 1523. Our first modern constitution was also adopted on that day in 1809.
Swedes are proud of their country, but the National Day was not of great significance before the year of 2005, when it became a public holiday. Today, all Swedes celebrate, summer is almost at its peak, its daylight from 2 o’clock in the morning to 11 at night and there are celebrations all over our country. Traditional dishes, like herring with fresh potatoes will be served and if I know my countrymen, they might celebrate with schnapps of aquavit as well. The King and Queen will, as always, take part in the celebrations at the outdoor museum of Skansen in Stockholm.
2. What will be Sweden’s development cooperation with Vietnam in the future?
Sweden has a long tradition of extensive development cooperation with Vietnam and we think our partnership has been fruitful. I believe we can say with pride that we have done a good job together, from yesterday’s infrastructural programmes like the Bai Bang paper-mill and the Olof Palme Children Hospital in Hanoi to today’s focus on support to democracy and Human Rights.
Today, as Vietnam is rapidly approaching middle-income status, it is time to start thinking about our future cooperation in a time when ODA (Official Development Assistance) is not the primary exponent of cooperation. I am certain that our two countries will find many new modalities and avenues for cooperation for the future and that our relations thus will broaden.
In a shorter perspective, while ODA remains an important issue, Vietnam and Sweden will continue to work for increased quality and effectiveness in development cooperation to better contribute to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. We hope to focus more intensively on areas where Swedish know-how and experiences might be of particular interest, and where Sweden has comparative advantages as a partner to Vietnam and at the same time continue to work according to the ambitions in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Hanoi Core Statement. While total Swedish funds for development cooperation continue to increase, it is the clear ambition of the Swedish Government to have a more focused development assistance in the future and we consequently foresee a bilateral development cooperation with fewer partner countries than today.
3. Are you satisfied with the existing cultural relations between Viet Nam and Sweden? Will there be more cultural exchanges in the coming years?
Sweden is one the few countries that have long-term cultural development cooperation with Vietnam. We have supported Vietnam in the field of culture since 1992. The present Specific agreement on culture covers the years 2005-2009 and amounts to 47 million Swedish crowns. It covers the following projects:
* cultural exchange programmes within the sectors of music, fine arts, film and literature, opera and ballet, copyright
* restoration of intangible cultural heritage for the minority groups
* the remaining work of the cultural policy for development
* the Swedish-Vietnamese Fund for the Promotion of Culture, which supports small-scale projects with the aim of supporting the emerging civil society.
The overall objective of the programme is to create conditions for openness and development towards democracy and respect for Human Rights. The further specific objectives are to enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples through cultural exchange programs; to enhance knowledge and management capacity for people working in the field of culture in Vietnam and Sweden and to restore the traditional handicraft villages with focus on the minority groups.
I am happy to note that Sweden and Vietnam and our two people have mutually enjoyed and benefited greatly from projects within the cultural development cooperation. This has created a better understanding of history, culture, tradition and value from both countries, which truly is the unique characteristic of the cultural cooperation – that is to give and to take.
I am convinced that cultural exchange between our two countries and people will stay and prosper also in the future when traditional development cooperation has come to an end.
In this connection I also would like to say that Sweden is proud to be the biggest donor to support Vietnam in the media sector through the project on further training of journalist. The aim of this project is to promote democracy in your country through the development of more professional, open, independent and self-reliant media. Over the past seven years some 10 percent of Vietnam’s journalists have received such training either in Sweden or in Vietnam.
4. Do you plan to increase the education exchanges between the two countries?
Within the development cooperation between Sweden and Vietnam there are no specific programmes or projects in the education sector. However, in many of our projects in other sectors of cooperation there are activities which include human resources training.
I wish to add that the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) offers so-called International Training programmes (ITP), which offers key persons in both the private and public sectors training programmes within sectors that are given priority to in Swedish development cooperation and are in demand in the cooperating countries. The programmes shall contribute to institutional strengthening and capacity development. Some 90 training programmes are conducted within areas such as trade and industry, democracy and Human Rights, environment and infrastructure.
5. What are your first impressions of Vietnam? What do you expect to do during your mission in Vietnam?
I arrived in September last year and took up the position as Ambassador of Sweden to Vietnam. It is, indeed, a privilege to be appointed to this post in a country with whom Sweden has a very long and friendly relationship. I am very impressed with the fast economic growth in Vietnam and the achievements in many different areas. I could only hope that this impressive development, which there is only a few countries which can match, will continue and also include the necessary strengthening of democracy and the respect for all Human Rights. I also welcome that Vietnam has decided to involve itself in an active way in multilateral and international affairs and my country will support the Vietnamese candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council 2008-2009.
As I have described earlier on in this article, I foresee that Sweden’s development cooperation with Vietnam will gradually cease as incomes in Vietnam increase and the country will reach the middle income status. As this happens I am eager to actively support the enlargement of our existing relations in such areas as trade, investment and tourism. I thus hope that many of those Swedish companies already present in Vietnam will also consider investments in the country and that many of my countrymen and –women will come and visit this beautiful country not only for business but also as tourists.