Ambassador of Finland to India Nina Vaskunlahti graduated from the University of Turku in 1983 with a Master’s degree in political science, after which she joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland in 1984.

Her first posting was to Canberra, Australia, from 1985 to 1988 followed by two postings in Brussels, Moscow and the headquarters in Helsinki.Between September 2000 and May 2004, she was posted as Deputy Head of Mission to the Finnish Embassy in Moscow, after which served as Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative at the Permanent Representation of Finland to the European Union, Director General of the Department of Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After four years as Finnish Ambassador to Turkey,her tenure in India commenced in September 2016.In this interview with Sarah Berry,Ambassador Vaskunlahti talks about the growing cooperation between India and her country, with focus on renewable energy, environment,innovation and others. Excerpts:

Question: Has direct air connectivity between India and Finland helped enhance people-topeople contacts between the two countries?

As you may agree, ease in connectivity is one of the most important factors in enhancing people-to-people contact. One vital component, thereof, is a direct air connection. Finnair connects Helsinki and New Delhi thrice a week, and October onwards, five times a week. In fact, another well-known destination amongst Finns, namely Goa, is also connected to Helsinki with a twice-a-week connection during the winter months. A flight from Delhi via Helsinki is indeed the shortest way to get to Europe.

Question: Finland is a member of the European Union (EU). Why have India and the EU failed to ink an FTA despite 10 years of negotiations?

Talks in this connect have been stalled since 2013 and may see a revival of sorts in 2018. Maybe the EU-India Summit taking place in October in Delhi can push the negotiations forward. There are not so many issues to be negotiated but they are, of course, the most difficult ones.

Question:  Why is the volume of trade between India and Finland still below its potential?

Trade is one of the cornerstones of Indo-Finnish relations. Having said this, I do not completely agree with the question, as during the last decade trade between India and Finland has increased significantly, making India Finland’s fourth largest trading partner in Asia. Finnish investments to India are still relatively modest, but close to 599 million euro, and Finland ranks as number 32 among the foreign investors. The main exports from Finland to India includepulp & paper, timber, heavy machinery and telecom equipment. Finnish imports from India include textile products, clothing and machinery instruments. The annual trade volume is just below one billion euro, and increasing. Besides this, there are about 100 Finnish companies operating in India. Initiatives such as Finn partnership offer services for companies and organisations in all sectors planning or improving business activities, free of charge. Another organisation called Finpro, consisting of Export Finland, Invest in Finland and Visit Finland, helps Finnish SMEs go international, encourages foreign direct investment in Finland and promotes travel to Finland.

Question : How is Finland assisting India in the field of new and renewable energy?

Key areas of cooperation between Finland and India are, predominantly, in the areas of climate change, air quality, sustainable energy solutions, waste management, water and sustainable production and consumption. For instance, the Joint Working Group on Environment (JWGE) between Finland and India provides a vital platform for meetings and discussions between officials, besides bringing companies, research organisations and experts of the two countries together. Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen, responsible for Energy, Environment and Housing, will visit India with a large business delegation in October.

Question: Do you support India’s candidature for inclusion in the UN Security Council as a permanent member and in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG)?

Finland supports India’s aspiration for a permanent seat in the UNSC and we also support the quest to become a member of Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.