With previous missions in Saudi Arabia, South Korea, North Korea, Argentina and Paraguay, Ambassador Henrique Silveira Borges concluded his career abroad as Ambassador of Portugal to Sweden during 2017-2020. Years that have marked him, not only by following the collaboration within EU strategies, bilateral CDT and lately the Covid-19. It also made him appreciate even more some of his favourite Swedish qualities such as the team spirit, equality and punctuality.
Read about Henrique's experience of being Ambassador of Portugal to Sweden.
Firstly, I would like to thank the Swedish-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce for the kind invitation to write a text for its monthly Newsletter about my mission as Ambassador of Portugal to Sweden. I feel both pleased and honored by the invitation. Allow me take advantage of this opportunity to extend my congratulations to the new Secretary General of the Chamber, Ms. Roya Moghaddas
My appointment to Sweden followed three successive missions – also as ambassador – in countries located in very distinct regions of the world: Saudi Arabia and the Gulf (2004-2007); South Korea, where I was accredited to North Korea too (2007-2012); Argentina, where I was accredited to Paraguay (2012-2017). My assignment to Sweden (2017-2020) concluded my career abroad. I have been accredited as non-resident Ambassador to Latvia as well.
My mission allowed me to see, in a vivid way, the growing interest for Portugal, shown by the Swedish public, including potential investors, and by the media, both as a touristic and residential destination. I was glad to attend several meetings and seminars, where I did my best to explain why my country has become so popular with people from Scandinavia to Asia, or to Latin America. I emphasize “I did my best”, for the good reason that the Portuguese like to keep their best things secret! This means that, in order to discover the many things that the country has to offer, visitors must exercise their exploratory gifts to the best of their knowledge!
During my mission, both governments were able to agree on a text amending the bilateral Convention on Double Taxation (CDT). The new text meets Swedish and Portuguese concerns regarding some fiscal issues that had arisen from the implementation of the CDT. The text agreed will ensure that Swedish citizens will continue to settle down in Portugal and enjoy its gorgeous climate, food and rich culture and heritage. Furthermore, the agreement shows that, for like-minded countries such as Portugal and Sweden, it is easier to find common ground, even when the point of departure may not coincide. This trend distinguishes other key aspects of the relationship between the two countries, as I will refer below.
Excellent examples of that are the agreement concerning the EU budget for the period 2021-2027 (MFF, standing for Multiannual Financial Framework, in EU parlance), as well as the tools agreed to enable member states to tackle the economic and social impact of Covid-19 (Next Generation EU). Again, as with the CDT, the two countries departed from different positions and did their utmost to see them reflected in the outcome of the negotiations. In spite of that, they could both subscribe to the proposal put forward by the European Commission, which represented a sound and balanced compromise, aiming at meeting those and other member states preoccupations.
During the last months of my mission, I witnessed the efforts developed by my country and by Sweden to combat Covid-19, while at the same time trying to mitigate its harsh impact on their populations and economies. It gave me special satisfaction to see that, despite having adopted different strategies, the two countries demonstrated a high level of mutual understanding, and never imposed restrictions on travel to and from each other.
In my view, these three instances - EU long term budget and Next Generation EU, bilateral CDT and Covid-19 - illustrate how Portugal and Sweden, while pursuing different priorities, were able to reach mutually advantageous solutions, both at the bilateral and European levels. In showing such flexibility, they demonstrate that national concerns do not impair, and can indeed become fruitful building blocks, towards compromise and multilateral solutions.
In the course of my assignment to Sweden, trade in both directions continued on the path of steady growth that has characterized bilateral economic ties during the last decade. Both Portugal and Sweden are committed advocates of the expansion of the EU’s single market, and the growth or their bilateral trade shows how beneficial that expansion can be to foster advantageous exchanges
I was very happy that the Embassy, along with our trade and tourism delegations in Sweden, could play an active role in fostering understanding and smoothing convergence and agreement between the two countries. I believe that the excellent relations existing at the highest political level between Lisbon and Stockholm greatly facilitated the finding of mutually agreeable platforms.
A final note. The Chamber asked me how I feel about my “Swedishness”, as a result of my mission. Well, if I may say so without sounding immodest, I believe that my experience of living in Sweden made me appreciate even more some of the qualities that I always valued in my professional as well as in my personal life: strict compliance with punctuality; the “team spirit” that Swedes are so (rightly) proud of; and, last but not least, a firm commitment towards building a more equal and humane society.
Henrique Silveira Borges