The Swedish Development Cooperation Section in Phnom Penh was upgraded to an Embassy in August 2010. Sweden thus became the first Scandinavian country to appoint an Ambassador to Cambodia, Anne Höglund, who arrived in August 4. 2010.
“Sweden has been cooperating with Cambodia in development matters for many years through the Sida Representations Office in Phnom Penh. You can say it worked well. But one thing is to work trough development projects. Another thing is to hold political discussions on a frequent basis. Things are changing in Cambodia. It is now one of the fastest growing countries in the Far East,” says Anne Höglund.
And she continues:
“Following the development in Cambodia the Swedish government saw an increasing need for further diplomatic connections between Sweden and Cambodia. The Representations office carried its own limitations. Sweden wanted political access to the government of Cambodia. And the Swedish Business world also expressed desires to get a stronger Swedish representation in Cambodia,” Ambassador Anne Höglund explains.
Ericsson and H&M
Companies like Ericsson, Hennes and Mauritz, and TeliaSonera are already active in Cambodia, but many more could try their luck there.
Despite the new status as an Embassy SIDA still has a lot to say to say about the daily running of the Embassy.
“The Embassy will be administrated by SIDA until 2012. And we will get commercial support from Swedish Trade Council in Thailand to help us with that part of the upgrading of the Swedish Representation Office in Phnom Penh”.
So why did the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs choose Anne Höglund as Sweden’s and Scandinavia’s first ambassador to Cambodia?
The 50 year old Swedish mother of three children has a master degree in Political science, Social Anthropology, and Economic History, speaks English, Spanish, Italian and French. The latter could be useful in the former French colony.
20 years at the Ministry
She has been serving at the ministry for foreign affairs more than 20 years. Since 2003 at the Department for Asia and the Pacific. From 2006 as its deputy director. She had visited Cambodia twice before her posting.
“I was here first time in 2008. I won’t say I got a big impression of the country. The entire visit lasted less than 40 hours and I never got out of Phnom Penh,” the newly appointed ambassador is laughing.
Next time was in June 2010. Maybe the appointment as an ambassador was already in the cards at that time. At least she got a much deeper knowledge of the Kingdom that time.
“We were here to discuss a new country strategy for development with our Cambodian counterpart and the government. That time I got out of Phnom Penh and I saw the huge contrast between the capital and the countryside. But of course you se that al over the world. The difference between the more developed capitals and the rural areas limping behind”.
Amazed and impressed
During that stay Anne Höglund was amazed and impressed by the friendliness she met everywhere in Cambodia.
“The Khmer people are extremely helpful and hard working. And I have a lot of confidence in the Khmer people. They have a lot of will and energy to progress,” says the Swedish Ambassador, who is the only addition of staff after Sida Representations Office in Phnom Penh was upgraded to an Embassy.
The commercial side of the Embassy is where you will se the biggest changes from representations office to Embassy.
Luckily she can draw on the highly experienced Swedish Trade Council in Bangkok to promote trade between Sweden and Cambodia.
Import and export
“The trade between Sweden and Cambodia is still limited but there is potential for an increase. In 2008 the Swedish export to Cambodia was approximately 53,1 million SEK and the import from Cambodia approximately 145,2 million SEK. The Swedish import is dominated by garments and shoes and the Swedish export by telecom,” the ambassador explains.
And she has a clear idea about from where the improvement of the Swedish activities shall come from.
“We have so many Swedish companies in commercial centers like Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Those companies have many possibilities in developing business in Cambodia. We just have to get their focus towards Cambodia”.
If we make a check up on the consular service, where Sweden is far behind Norway and Denmark, Swedish nationals still have to count a lot on the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok and their own abilities to travel to Bangkok, if they have to apply for a new passport.
“It will take some time, before we can issue regular passports here in Phnom Penh. What we can do is to help countrymen in urgent matters. Within an hour or so, they can obtain an emergency passport valid to help them back to Sweden”, explains Anne Höglund, who among all her new duties, got the challenge to find a new location to the new Embassy.
Looking for a better location
The Swedish Embassy is located on the second floor in the same building as the Danish representation office which is also acting as a Norwegian General Consulate. The Danes occupy the ground floor.
“We surely need to get away from here. The building is too old and far too small. So we are looking around for something newer and better. We haven’t decided on anything yet but for sure we will move from here in 2011”.
Anne Höglund arrived here the 4. of August. It’s a little too early, but the youngest and the oldest of her children had to join their new school from the start of the new semester.
Back in Sweden, Anne Höglund 15 year old son and her husband are still waiting.
“We are also working on that. Hopefully my son and my husband can join the rest of us in 2011. It will not be easy for my husband, he is working in the pacemaker industry, I am afraid it’s a little too early for that industry in Cambodia right now. So my husband has to find something different. Let’s see. We all hope the best,” Anne Höglund is laughing once again.