The Minister of Foreign Trade and Development of Finland visited Minsk for the first time in the history of Belarusian-Finnish relations. Kai Mykkänen brought with him the delegation of the Finnish business representatives of three energy companies (Wärtsilä, Valmet and KPA Unicon), Safegate company, which specializes in lighting the airport runways, the Kesko retail chain and the manufacturer of industrial chemistry, polymers and plastic Telko.
At the meeting with First Deputy Prime Minister Vasily Matyushevsky, you said that Finland is ready to increase investment in Belarus. Are there any specific projects?
Eventually, investments depend on companies. But as the government we are here to pave the way, to help them come to Belarus. For example, our second largest retail chain Kesko owns most of OMA's hypermarkets and plans to expand this network with new investments for tens of millions of euros. Olvi owns the main shareholding of Lidskoye Pivo.
Finnish business can come to modernize the Belarusian energy sector. For example, this applies to peak-reserve power plants, the creation of which will increase stability of the national power system in changing loads, and will be especially relevant after the increase in the share of nuclear energy in the country's energy balance. We face these challenges in Finland and can offer you our experience.
There are also companies that invest in the development of your airport, but the main potential is in the energy sector. Finnish energy companies work here, such as Wärtsilä, Valmet and KPA Unicon.
Have any agreements been concluded during your visit?
No, and we did not have this intention this time. We wanted at high, ministerial level to convey the expectation that our investors will have an equal approach. I mean the uniform rules for access to tenders in the energy sector and opportunities for new investments.
Have you received such guarantees?
We saw positive signals from the Belarusian government. They are interested in the fact that Finnish business here has successfully developed along with the investments and technologies that it brings with it.
Is Finland interested in the project of BelNPP? Can you become a buyer of energy?
This is a very distant prospect; we have not discussed it yet. Finland is part of the NordPool system, so everything will depend on the connection of BelNPP to this system. As for cooperation in this large nuclear project, some Finnish companies are already participating in the construction of backup power plants near BelNPP. Our technologies in this area are considered reliable and competitive.
In Europe, now there are big discussions about the advisability of using nuclear energy, some countries are shutting down their nuclear power plants. How do you personally feel about this?
Nuclear energy can be used safely. In Finland, we invest in two nuclear power plants, and this is much better than using coal or natural gas to produce electricity.
But it is important to invest in safety and in the creation of an independent regulator – both the construction and operation of nuclear power plants. If you have an ideal station, but it does not work to the best standards, it becomes dangerous. This is the most important work that the Finnish government started back in the 80s, when the USSR was building a nuclear power plant.
The Finnish IT sector is considered to be the one of the global success stories. Belarus also wants to count on this direction. What is your secret?
By the way, I began to look much more optimistic about the Belarusian IT sector after my yesterday’s visit to the Venture Day Minsk English conference at the National Library, where hundreds of young people represented their start-ups. I asked the Finnish IT gurus, and they confirmed that the best coders come from Belarus. You have a huge potential for a strong engineering and mathematical education. This, by the way, is also relevant for Finland.
For us, the boom of startups in Finland was a surprise. Last November, about 20,000 startups came to the Slush conference in Helsinki. Our secret is an investment in high-quality education and the creation of the Finnish Innovation Fund. Previously, it dealt mainly with the scientific development of large companies, but now began to focus on financing small start-ups.
According to tut.by