Back from Szczecin
Two days in Szczecin are now behind me. I would have loved to have had more time, because we did not really see so much of the city itself. On the other hand – what we saw was definitely attractive to say the least. My wife Karin said it reminded her about Göteborg (which is about the highest grade you can receive from her given her origin on the Swedish west coast).
We are surprisingly close to each other. The Mayor Piotr Krzystek told me that Stockholm is slightly closer to Szczecin than Warsaw (when you draw a direct line on the map). And the proximity to Malmö and Skåne in general is even more obvious. Many, many Swedes and Poles experience that proximity in practice through the ferries between Ystad and Świnoujście, located at the Baltic Sea north of Szczecin but in the same region, Western Pomerania – or Zachodniopomorskie as it is called in Polish. I look forward to a hopefully intensified cooperation between the regions of Skåne and Western Pomerania that I beleive is under preparation. We have so much in common on both sides.
Additionally, we are closely linked through history. Szczecin was the capital of Swedish Pomerania between 1648 and 1720. I believe this is not as well known in Sweden as it should be. We might have some improvements to make in the level of knowledge about the history of our closest neighbourhood. I have definitely had some catching up to do myself in this respect.
Nowadays the linkages obviously have a different character. When arriving at the airport we were immediately met by pictures of the two new buildings for office space, constructed by SwedeCenter in the very heart of the city. Signs and posters from companies like Skanska, KappAhl, H&M, Medicover and Nordea were visible all around us, and I had a very interesting chat with Magnus Isaksson from the real estate firm Realkapital on the advantages of investing in Szczecin, who stressed not least the excellent location, the skilled workforce and helpful administration.
Yesterday I inaugurated the matchmaking event on Swedish wood with representatives from 17 Swedish companies and 25 Polish, connecting Polish demand with Swedish supply. Later the same day I inaugurated our exhibition about the Nobel Price Laureate Tomas Tranströmer at the Szczecin Univeristy – illustrating the diversity of the programme. The Department of Philology presented me their exciting ambitions to eventually introduce education in Scandinavien languages, an effort that I will do my best to support.
Linkages with a very concrete character are also created, here and now, by the presence of 97 Swedish medical students in Szczecin. We met roughly half of them yesterday morning to listen to their experiences – which were clearly positive.
And all of this was made possible through the excellent support by our Honorary Consulate, not least the consul Dominik Górski himself, who accompanied us through the programme. Inlcuding yesterday evening at the airport when we waited for information on whether our delayed plane from Warsaw actually had taken off or not…
Dominik is working for the Foundation for Local Democracy since many years – an organisation that earlier received support from the Swedish Association for Local Authorites with financing from my department at Sida. It was quite fascinating to listen to his experiences and comments on the impact of the support: opening the minds of people to the new concept of local selfgovernance.
Approaching the end of the week I am also happy to remember the visit of the Chairman of Swedish “Men for gender equality”, Tomas Wetterberg, during Monday and Tuesday. The Polish interest for these issues was very clearly demonstrated. Including by Minister Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz who arranged a special meeting with participation also by some members of the Sejm. More on this theme will follow.