On 14 May, 2014, the Swedish embassy opened in Qatar as the country is experiencing a dynamic social and economic development. “It is important for Sweden to be present to lead a political dialogue and promote trade. Our Trade Minister, Ewa Björling’s visit to Doha, and the opening of the Embassy of Sweden, emphasizes the importance of our relations with Qatar,” says Ewa Polano, Sweden’s Ambassador to Qatar.
Simultaneously, Qatar will soon open its embassy in Stockholm, and His Excellency Hamad bin Muhammed Mubarak Nasser Al Khalifa will be appointed as the Ambassador. At present, in accordance to the Swedish embassy’s records there are approximately 470 Swedish citizens residing in Doha, and around 4,000 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Since Her Excellency Polano was appointed Ambassador in September 2014, she has built relations in the triple-helix model including the Qatari government, private businesses and universities. “In addition to a strong emphasize on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is on the agenda at every meeting, and this is an area where we believe Sweden can make a difference as we lead as an example, especially in human rights.”
Ambassador Polano adds that there is a diversity of trade and positions held by Swedish citizens residing in Qatar. For instance, some work for Qatari entities like Qatar Airways, Qatar Rail and Al Jazeera, and in financial institutions while others hold positions in private organisations. In addition, Ericsson Qatar has a Swedish Country Manager and Qatar University has some Swedish professors of Arab origin.
“In the medical field we have professors and pharmaceutical managers and rehabilitation medicine – looking to employ Swedish professionals. It would be right to say Swedes are scattered in the government, private and educational infrastructure of Qatar.” Furthermore, Swedish exports to Qatar are at US$260 million, mainly consisting of iron ore, equipment for electric power distribution, telecom and vehicles. Qatar is currently Sweden’s eighth largest trading partner in the Middle-East. Whereas, imports to Sweden from Qatar were approximately US$73 million, mainly compromising of fuel, which is a 55 percent growth in comparison to the year before.
“Sweden can offer excellence within environment-technology; information technology and telecommunications; education and health. Those are all areas where Qatar is making extensive strategic investments. There is room for trade expansion – both ways. We are looking into medicine and health, CleanTech, Networked Society, SymbioCity, infrastructure and food,” adds Polano.
At present, the largest Swedish company based in Qatar is Ericsson. “Envac and ABB do business here as does Volvo, Saab and H&M. No one can avoid the brand new IKEA store in Doha,” highlights the ambassador.
The diplomat further adds how Sweden has a lot to offer in many areas of culture. “There are endless possibilities within art, music and also film. Qatar is promoting art as well as sports – and also the Swedish sports culture can share their experiences in Qatar. In March this year we have 58 people coming with a youth team to train at Aspire from Malmö FF (football club).”
Despite being a brand new embassy, and with limited manpower among their main duties is to promote organizations, and assist Swedish companies interested to invest and or be present in Doha. “Qatar is a country with the highest per capita income in the world. The development of the country is growing at a rapid speed in all areas. Many embassies were established before we arrived and the competition is fierce. Qatar’s slogan is ‘Qatar deserves the best’ and we believe Sweden can offer the best in many areas,” concludes Polano.
- By Erika Widén
The Times Kuwait correspondent