Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by recalling the famous Estonian proverb for craftsman: “Õppinud mehed, Rootsi riistad” or “Skilled men, Swedish tools”.
For Estonians, Sweden is a respected and highly valued country. Sweden and Estonia have excellent relations – be it cultural, defence or economical.
In addition to your yellow-blue flag and very competitive cross country skiers, Sweden combines the traditional with innovation and high quality.
Swedish machinery and industrial equipment, such as SKF ball-bearings and Alfa Laval’s separators, were highly valued already before the Second World War. Today, Husqvarna, Electrolux and Volvo are sought-after trademarks for Estonian households and companies.
As of now, Sweden is Estonia’s most important export market and foreign direct investor. It accounts 17% of our exports and 26.5% of the foreign direct investments. This strong exports connection is the result of Swedish investments. We export machinery and equipment, including electronics, but also timber products and many other industrial goods to Sweden.
Swedish investments are primarily in the financial sector, but there are sizeable investments also in the communication, retail and manufacturing sectors. Many of our top companies are Swedish subsidiaries or are trading with Sweden. It started at the beginning of the century, when Estonians started subcontracting to Ericsson. This year – again – the number one foreign investor in Estonia was a Swedish company – the ABB.
Due to interdependency of our economies, the cooperation is of essence. By combining the best everyone has, the result is not just the sum of the parts, it is something more and to a greater extent special. The brightest star in that sky is the creation of Skype, where Estonian start-up know-how met Swedish capital and connections to make a global product. It has now become a verb and an inspiration like other great brands.
Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Current economic situation in the World, and particularly in Europe, is not very promising. It demands new approaches in the ways companies produce and sell. Only structural changes in the economy are the basis for a new growth in Europe. Estonia has its own challenges to continue to grow. Namely, increasing productivity and expanding the production of higher value-added products. As Estonia ranks top in PISA rankings (Programme for International Student Assessment), we have great potential.
Already many Swedish companies have noted the potential of Estonia, but there is more to discover. For example, we also have a dynamic and growing ICT sector with a lot of innovative ideas. I hope you have already heard of e-residency, where we offer our digital identity and digital ecosystem to the rest of the world. The Silicon Valley is already taking notice and, since you are friends, I´ll beg you not to sleep on it too long.
Let me assure you that we are not stopping here. We are going forward and today I invite the Swedish companies to take part in this journey. Be it the Estonia’s space project EstCube or European Spallation Source, located in Lund and in which Estonia also actively participates.
Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Swedish investments and trading with Swedish companies have benefited Estonian economy a lot. We have learned and discovered many things: new investments, new technologies, new products and new markets. But also modern management practices and know-how vital for long term sustainable development.
The Swedish Business Award’s draws our attention back to an important factor that all successful companies will need to take into account - how to generate sustainable growth while remaining socially responsible. In our day-to-day business we may forgot that and it is good that we have events like this to remind us.
Let us have the “good old Swedish times” the brave new!
Tack så mycket!