Three weeks without blogs…
Three weeks without blogs. What have I been doing?
First of all having vacation. One week in New York together with my wife Karin was a great experience. I have been there before on a couple of duty trips during my time at the Swedish development agency, Sida. But never touristing in this way. Additionally we managed to reconnect to some former colleagues and good friends from our three years in Tanzania now working with or for the United Nations.
In this job you meet so many people you would like to stay in touch with. It is of course easier nowadays with mail and facebook. But nothing can replace the personal contact. These were people I have not met for four-five years. They meant a lot to me in Dar es Salaam and still do. I hope there will be more opportunities like this in the years to come.
When we returned to Warsaw the long weekend was already approaching. Early May means celebrations. May 1st there was a European Picnic arranged in the marvell0us Łazienki park close to our Embassy celebrating the 9th Anniversary of Poland’s accession to the EU in the presence of President Komorowski. Very nice, very relaxed. And celebrating something that definitely is worth celebrating. Next year I guess the scale of this will probably be even bigger.
Poland’s National Day followed – May 3rd. In this case celebrating the Constitution from 1791, the first of its kind in Europe. Again with President Komorowski at the centre, this time with a speech that spelled out his ideas about what modern patriotism should be all about. Not inward looking but rather promoting values like openness to others, conomic modernisation, integration in Europe.
Finally the third week. It started with a one day visit to Katowice, my first as Ambassador. The visit was triggered by the inauguration of the “SKF Solution Factory”, the 23rd of its kind, in the presence of i.a. the Mayor of Katowice Piotr Uszok and the CEO of SKF Tom Johnstone. But it also gave me some opportunities to rapidly get acquainted with the region of Śląsk and the city of Katowice, now rapidly transforming itself: The Mayor told me i.a. about the cultural centre that has somewhat symbolically been located on the grounds where there used to be a mine.
The week continued in the same high speed. Videoconference with Stockholm (which is an excellent way of improving communication at the same time as it means less travelling and hence less emissions of CO2…). >Then a visit to the office of the Women’s congress quite close to our Embassy discussing the opportunities for cooperation – and the possibilities of Swedish participants at the Congress in mid-June.
Next event: Inauguration of the exhibition “Bits and pieces between life and death” at the Muzeum Wojska Polskiego coming from the Swedish Army Museum in Stockholm. Something very different indeed. No weapons and uniforms. Instead the personal belongings of the soldiers at war. 1200 objects in total. Everything from chewing gums (still smelling peppermint) to grammophone recordings. Really worth visiting for those of you living in Warsaw.
My Wednesday programme ended with a reception for Members of Parliament with a special interest for Sweden, primarily those belonging to the Polish-Swedish friendship association within the sejm, chaired by Mr Stanisław Szwed. Great opportunity for me to get to know more about issues discussed in substance recently in Polish politics. Pension systems was one of them. But obviously I could also share some Swedish experiences from different thematic areas. I sincerely hope that the exchange will continue, primarly of course between the MP:s from our two countries. The forum in Stockholm last November was a very good start.
After having celebrated Europe Day May 9th I spent most of my Friday at a Conference organised by Minister Irena Wóycicka, responsible for social policy in the Chancellory of the President, in collaboration with the Employer’s organisation Lewiatan. I had been invited to present Swedish experiences about how to reconcile work and family life, which I was very happy to do. It is a theme close to my heart and it is an area where Swedish experiences are increasingly given attention in Poland, not least since Prime Minister Donald Tusk referred to Sweden in his second exposé last atumn. The whole speech is available through this link http://www.swedenabroad.com/pl-PL/Embassies/Warsaw/Wiadomoci-i-wydarzenia/Wiadomoci/Zatrudnienie-przyjazne-rodzinie–seminarium-w-Paacu-Prezydenckim-sys/
But to make a long story short – this is the essence of my messages: 1. Make sure that fathers take parental leave (including the system of non transferable months). 2. Provide affordable high quality day care for all children. And care for the elderly as well. 3. Introduce a high degree of flexibility in working life.
We will continue addressing similar issues next week at a conference organised by our Embassy, the Polish Institute of Public Affairs (ISP) and the Swedish instute when our new Swedish Minister for Gender Equality Maria Arnholm is visiting Poland for the first time.
The week ended with something totally different – a visit to Warsaw by the Art club of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. They left yesterday evening with many happy smiles. As Swedish visitors to Warsaw usually do.
End of one week, beginning of a new one today. Slightly less intensive. But there is a lot happening now all the time. As it should be.