Finland focuses on sustainability to strengthen ties with UAE

Finland focuses on sustainability to strengthen ties with UAE

Finland is keen on enhancing bilateral cooperation with the UAE in a wide range of areas with focus on sustainable development and climate action ahead of the COP28 summit, a Finnish minister said in Abu Dhabi.

Ville Skinnari, Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade of Finland, noted that Finland can offer expertise across different sectors of the economy. “As always, Finland is willing to lead by example with our technologies. We have leading technologies, especially in the field of energy, renewables and circular economy,” he told Khaleej Times during an interview on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

Ranked the happiest country in the world, Finland is also among the top performers in technology, education, innovation, life expectancy, gender equality, governance, human capital, services among others.

The minister underlined that Finnish companies have been able to create a sustainable business model. “Waste to energy is something that we talked about a lot. How we really make money from waste and energy in a sustainable way.”

Skinnari said that Finland is keenly focused on digitalisation, especially the 5G network. “Nokia is a leading telecom network provider. We used to connect people with mobile phones. The mobile phone revolution started in Finland in the 1990s. Now, we are connecting machines with a 5G network,” he said, noting that Finland has launched 5G pilot projects in the Gulf region’s tourism industry.

“And of course, industrial solutions for the oil and gas industry. So, 5G is really a hot topic within the industries. We see very good results in the Gulf region and hopefully also here in the UAE.”

Skinnari said that tourism is another important sector for Finland. “We can increase tourism here for the UAE, but we welcome more people from the UAE to Finland. Not just because of our beautiful nature but also because of the business opportunities. We have great startups, great technologies, and probably the best and biggest startup event in the world in Helsinki every year. So, I see a lot of opportunities by joining forces.”

The minister highlighted the health sector as another area of cooperation. “We have a lot of expertise in the health sector. Now there is a great interest within the region to look at our solutions when it comes to well-being, when it comes to health technologies and hospitals.”

Finland, Skinnari said, is willing to collaborate in the education sector. “Finland is ranked as a top country in the world. So, there’s a great interest here in how we can collaborate in the field of vocational training and university collaboration. We are very keen to launch our expertise here. So, a lot of young people are very willing to work here and establish their company here, startup companies and so forth. So it’s a very wide range of collaboration that we have.”

Surge in bilateral trade

Finland-UAE bilateral trade was worth 425 million euros in 2021, and the figures for 2022 will be better, the minister noted. “The UAE is Finland’s second largest export country in the Gulf region. Trade is picking up. We see that there is a lot of potential in the field of renewable energy and circular economy.”

Finland’s exports include paper and pulp industry, machines and spare parts, wooden items, chemicals, packaging materials etc.

He pointed out that Finnish design companies are making a mark in the UAE. “Following Expo 2020 Dubai, we see more design companies have established their businesses here. They are doing pretty well. We really differentiate ourselves with our simplicity, combining the sustainability nature with a very high quality of interior in different uses in households, industries, schools, hospitals, you name it.”

Terming the hosting of COP28 as a “big milestone”, he noted that Finland will have a major presence during the summit. “We are really trying to make COP28 different and successful. The most important thing, I think, is how we prepare for COP28 as a world. And how Finland can contribute to the UAE, in this preparatory work. We have a mutual understanding that we really have to launch solutions in the field of climate change, mitigation, adaptation, and education. Finland has a lot to offer to the UAE and the UAE has a lot to offer to Finland. So our countries really complete each other.”