Sitra’s Russia Programme has generated increasing mutual interest between Russia and Finland
The Russian economy is growing and many business sectors in the country are undergoing a transition as new structures are being created. Simultaneously Finland is growing more international and is seeking competitive advantage through cooperation with Russia. The Finnish-Russian partnership forum organised by Sitra discussed the current relations between Finland and Russia and paved the way for tomorrow’s cooperation.
“Russian-Finnish relations are improving and the economies of our countries will be closely integrated in the sectors that are of interest to our business communities,” says Alexei Mordashov, the main shareholder and Chairman of the Board of Severstal and one of the Chairs of the Partnership Forum. “This kind of development furthers mutual trust and creates a collaborative ethos and helps us to understand how to operate in each other’s markets. This in turn will build a solid foundation for intensified cooperation in high-end technology.”
In 2004, Sitra made the correct prediction that Russia’s international significance would increase and identified a clear need in the Finnish markets for addressing Russia-related matters and for the systematic development of that area. In order to respond to this need, Sitra launched a three-year Russia programme in 2005, aimed at developing Finland’s relationship with Russiaby adopting a wide-ranging approach. – It was a natural and suitable role for Sitra to act as a network builder and as a facilitator for a common vision, says Esko Aho, President of Sitra and the Finnish Chair of the forum. – The Russia Programme has developed new ways of cooperation between Finland and Russia. It is important that these good operating models and practices are capitalised in order to enhance public and private sector Russia know-how, continues Aho.
One of the programme’s achievements was Finland’s economic Russian strategy, which Sitra drafted and which in turn gave impetus to the Russia 2017: Three Scenarios report published by the Finnish Parliament’s Committee for the Future. Furthermore, the new Government Programme has emphasised Russia’s significance in Finland’s foreign and economic policies. The business and industrial sectors have also changed their views about Russia, and rather than seeing it as a threat, they consider it as an opportunity.
“The Russia Programme has succeeded in providing new operating models that are appropriate for today’s economic cooperation, and these have become established practices in business and have enhanced the networking between Finnish and Russian business and political operators,” says Maaret Heiskari, Executive Director of Sitra’s Russia Programme. “We are happy to hand down these models and practices to benefit the work of forums and organisations promoting Russian-Finnish partnerships.”
The Finnish-Russian Partnership Forum was the closing event for Sitra’s Russia Programme, and it was attended by high-level political and economic operators who discussed topical question related to the economies of both countries. The themes included the Northern dimension, forestry, the environmental sectors and the innovation society. The aim was to find wider-ranging and deeper cooperation opportunities and models to be utilised by the two countries. The Government was represented in the Partnership Forum by Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen and the recently appointed Minister of Economic Development and Trade Elvira Nabiullina. In connection with the Forum, four Finnish companies signed investment agreements with the Kaluga regional government.
Partnership Forums have been organised previously for specific sectors, including the construction, forest and environmental sectors. “These economic forums have aimed at creating favourable conditions for equal bilateral partnerships to emerge and develop,” says Heiskari. “We have discussed the future of the sectors that are key to the economic growth of both countries, and have explored how we could together plan that future in a way that would be mutually beneficial.
“Through its Forums, Sitra has roused interest among high-level representatives from the public and private sectors in working towards common interests. A flexible operating model such as this has helped both parties to openly discuss matters that are important to both sides and to consider the real possibilities for cooperation and to allow for coordination of actions between different parties. It has become evident during the programme that Finland’s interest in Russia is increasing rapidly, and similarly, Russians have shown more interest in Finland.”
Maaret Heiskari, Executive Director, email@example.com, tel. 050- 431 1650
Satu Valkiainen, Programme Assistant, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. 040-515 7759
Laura Niemi, Communications Manager, email@example.com, tel. 050-373 8602