CLS is proud and happy to share some words from the Ambassador of Sweden to Portugal; Helena Pilsas Ahlin. Read about her background, her view on the Swedish Portuguese relations and membership in the European Union, as well as the Embassy; its everyday activities and the collaboration with Team Sweden. Enjoy!
Dear CLS members,
Thank you for the kind invitation to contribute to the newsletter of the Portuguese-Swedish Chamber of Commerce. I would like to congratulate the new chairwoman of the Chamber, Jennifer Ekström and thank both the previous president Hans-Erhard Reiter and the Secretary General Elin Forzelius for fruitful co-operation. It is inspiring to see the initiatives of the Chamber to reach out even more; on social media and with this newsletter. Parabéns!
I have the honour and pleasure of being the Ambassador of Sweden in Portugal since the autumn of 2017 and have by now had the privilege of meeting many of you, but not all. I joined the Ministry for Foreign Affairs almost 30 years ago after having finished my law degree at the University of Stockholm. At the Ministry I have mostly worked with European issues in different ways; at the Embassy of Sweden in Tallinn when Estonia had just regained independence in the early 1990s, with Baltic Sea security policy issues, with pre-accession assistance to the candidate countries of the time to the European Union, as Deputy Head of the Section for Central Europe, and, for many years as Director and Head of the Nordic-Baltic section of the EU Department of the Ministry. I have also for five years been Stockholm based Ambassador to Bulgaria and before coming to Portugal I was Director for the Diplomatic Training Programme.
Sweden and Portugal have longstanding diplomatic relations, approaching an impressive 380 years. The mission now is to deepen and broaden the already excellent relations. The most important platform for this being our membership in the European Union. Portugal and Sweden are like-minded in many fields, not least in trade related issues, being advocates of free trade, multilateralism and a well-functioning inner market. Building even closer ties with Portuguese colleagues is an important task also considering the up-coming Portuguese Presidency of the EU in the spring of 2021 and the Swedish Presidency two years later. The entire Department for International Trade Policy and the EU Single Market, close to 40 people, recently visited Lisbon. So has the Director General for Trade, reinforcing existing co-operation and getting to know new colleagues. Meeting in Brussels is good and well but it is not enough.
The Embassy of Sweden in Lisbon, being responsible for relations also with Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, is a small team – altogether three sent out staff, beside myself Deputy Head of Mission Counsellor Sten Engdahl and Third Secretary Carin Otterström who works mostly with administrative and consular affairs. After successful terms here Sten will after the summer be succeeded by Counsellor Maria Linderyd Linder and Carin by First Secretary Cecilia Köhler Sandgren, both coming from the MFA in Stockholm. The Embassy also has six long time local employees and generally a University trainee.
We are also glad to have the Secretary General of CLS being co-located with us and giving increasing possibilities to interact. Together with the Chamber, the rapidly growing Swedish School, the equally rapidly growing section of SWEA in Portugal, the global organization for Swedish women abroad, and the long lasting Swedish Club there is a broad and multifaceted Swedish presence in Portugal. A Team Sweden in short.
The Embassy has recently also hosted the regional meeting for more than 40 colleagues from Swedish missions all over Europe and colleagues from the Ministry, Business Sweden and the Swedish Institute to exchange experiences and increase promotional and communication skills.
In our common endeavours to promote Sweden it is important to know what you, the companies, need. The resources of the Embassy are limited but our doors are open. I would be glad to visit companies and would welcome to hear from you. There is always time for a cup of coffee!
Helena Pilsas Ahlin
Ambassador of Sweden to Portugal