H.E. Pertti Ikonen, Ambassador Of Finland:

Making Serbia a Boring Country

It is all about utilising local resources and entrepreneurial spirit, investing in education, intellectual capital, innovations, added value technologies and industries with the goal of creating a thriving and sustainable business environment – Pertti Ikonen

In this interview for CorD Magazine, Finnish Ambassador Pertti Ikonen discusses the significance of domestic entrepreneurship for the success of economic reforms, reveals that new education reforms in Finland imply that children develop leadership qualities, but also empathy, and explains how, alongside membership in Partnership for Peace and the EU, Finland remains out of NATO.

Excellency, you once said that Serbia would become a “boring Nordic country” if it continues with reforms. In what areas do you feel that they are most needed?

– At the Seminar “Sustainable and Innovative Businesses”, organised by the Embassy on 21st September, we continued the discussion that started a year ago at the seminar “Nordic Innovative Businesses in Serbia”, organised in cooperation with the Nordic Business Alliance. The motto of this year’s seminar was exactly “What are the next steps to make Serbia a ‘boring Nordic country’”? This is all about utilising local resources and entrepreneurial spirit, investing in education, intellectual capital, innovations, added value technologies and industries, with the goal of creating a thriving and sustainable business environment. It is an ambitious goal, but the Embassy and Finnish/Nordic companies are supporting Serbia in improving the business environment and making it another “boring Nordic country”.

Your predecessor didn’t manage to bring company Sisu Auto to FAP in Priboj. Will you succeed in enticing some Finnish investors to Serbia?

– I truly hope there will be more Finnish investments in Serbia, as our companies bring their knowhow and intellectual capital alongside investments. That is why it is a pity that negotiations with Sisu Auto did not continue. At the same time, I am glad to see growing interest among Finnish companies in doing business in Serbia and the region. This means that the business environment is improving and that Serbia is getting closer to EU standards.

I am glad to see growing interest among Finnish companies in doing business in Serbia and the region. This means that the business environment is improving and that Serbia is getting closer to EU standards

Finland has a reputation as a country with a high-quality education system. In 2016, Finnish comprehensive schools introduced a new core curriculum focusing on new pedagogy, new learning environments and the digitisation of education. What has been the goal of this reform?

– Education is a national priority for Finns. We invest a lot in our education system and always strive to improve it. The new curriculum focuses on new pedagogy and new learning environments, encouraging problem-orientated learning, interaction and responsibility-taking. Renowned Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg believes that schools should teach children skills that are useful in any vocation or situation, such as communication, interaction, leadership and empathy. In our fast-changing world, we need to be visionaries more than ever, as most vocations and jobs that will be filled by today’s school-goers do not even exist yet.

Considering that NATO membership is a topic discussed a lot in Serbia, what are the arguments of Nordic countries Finland and Sweden for not being members of that alliance?

– Finland has maintained a strong defence through its mandatory conscription system. In a crisis situation, more than 300,000 soldiers can be called up to defend the country. Cooperation with NATO started when Finland joined the “Partnership for Peace” programme, which provided the basis for far-reaching synchronisation of the military preparedness of Finland and NATO. Finland is not a member of military alliances, but maintains the option of applying for NATO membership. As a member of the European Union, it is bound by the EU constitution to assist other member states if they fall victim to armed aggression. At the moment, Finland is actively participating in developing the new EU defence structure. Finland is also a provider of international security, with over 50,000 Finnish soldiers having taken part in UN peacekeeping missions since 1956.