Working with India to find solutions to Covid pandemic: Finland envoy
Finland and other European Union (EU) states believe disputes such as the India-China border standoff should be settled through negotiations as the world grapples with the widespread impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Finland’s ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde has said.
The pandemic also offers an opportunity to India and EU states to work together to make changes to ensure cleaner growth and to move towards a green economy, which is a priority for Finland as it prepares to become a carbon neutral country by 2035, she said in an interview.
“We are following carefully what is happening around the world and we are concerned [by] some of the issues. When it is a conflict or a dispute, we always want that there is a possibility for negotiations, the possibility to sit down and have a dialogue and it’s much better to have this sort of dialogue than let conflicts escalate more,” she said in response to a question on Finland’s perspective on global security and situations such as the India-China standoff.
Like other EU states, Finland believes in “conflict prevention”, which is “a smart thing to do because it’s much, much cheaper to invest in the early stage than to solve the situation afterwards”, said Koukku-Ronde, one of Finland’s most senior diplomats who has also served as the envoy to the US and Germany.
The pandemic has “shown very strongly that we need strong multilateral cooperation and rules-based order”, but the crisis is also an opportunity to make changes to address issues such as climate change, she said. “We shouldn’t be blind to other major concerns such as climate change, and this is a great opportunity to build future growth in a clean manner,” she said, adding India and the EU have a plan of action till 2025 with emphasis on the green economy.
Finland is looking toward close cooperation with India to find healthcare solutions to the pandemic. “We are globally together in this struggle to find solutions as soon as possible,” Koukku-Ronde said, noting there is considerable interest in vaccine projects pursued by India.
She also referred to specific areas of healthcare cooperation, including import of generic medicines from India and collaboration based on Finland’s biobank technology, which collects biological samples and data with the donor’s consent for future research and product development. Biobank technology can be combined with India’s big data for possible healthcare solutions, she added.
Covid-19-related restrictions have suspended flights between the two countries and Finland is working to slowly open up its immigration services, particularly for students and skilled professionals, from November, Koukku-Ronde said. “Finland trusts in the free movement of people, goods and services, and we are very dependent on exports and international trade. This is hitting us very hard,” she said.
Finland is currently home to 1,000 Indian students and two programmes – Talent Boost and Future is Made in Finland – are aimed at attracting more students and professionals, she said.
Koukku-Ronde said her country is also keen on cooperation in new areas such as 5G and 6G, clean technology and bio-solutions. In this field, she said, Finnish companies have technology to use crop stubble to make materials to replace plastics that can help tackle the annual problem of stubble burning. In Assam, two Finnish companies have formed a joint venture Numaligarh Refinery Limited to produce ethanol from bamboo to reduce the fossil fuel footprint.