Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to be able to participate in this important forum organized by Wirtschaftskammer Österreich, gathering a number of important Austrian and Swedish enterprises.
The business relations between our two countries are very much alive and constantly developing. Austria and Sweden are in many ways similar — and I am not only thinking about size, mountains, snow and winter sports. Our countries have many similarities when it comes to social welfare, population structure and economy. We have also been able to adjust to the opportunities that globalization offers. We joined the European Union in 1995 and we have ever since been able to benefit from the enlargement of the European Union eastwards, politically as well as economically. Sweden looks upon Russia, the three Baltic states, Poland and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe as important markets. Austria plays an important role in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Balkans. This makes Vienna and Stockholm important gateways to the markets in Eastern Europe.
Swedish people associate Austria with stability, quality, high-tech, innovation and a number of small and medium sized companies. A number of them are suppliers of components for the automotive industry, which is obviously vital to the Swedish cars and trucks producers.
The Austrian and Swedish economies are right now performing well. Unemployment rates are low and state finances are comfortably within the EU rules.
I am pleased to hear that trade between or countries is developing in a favorable way. Swedish exports to Austria grew by almost 20 per cent during the first six months of this year.
There are similarities and differences that make us into suitable partners. Our companies can work together rather than act as competitors.
Today there are about 120 Swedish companies in Austria with 11.000 employees. I have been told that Sweden and Swedish companies are well known and have a good reputation. This impression makes it easier for new Swedish companies to establish themselves on the Austrian market.
Green technologies and cooperation between business and politics to solve challenges to our common environment and climate are of growing interest. Austria and Sweden have much to offer in this area which is one of the major challenges in our time. That is the reason why we have chosen to focus on these issues in this seminar. I am pleased that the Swedish Deputy Prime Minister also Minister for Enterprise and Energy,
Mrs. Olofsson has been able to join me on this State Visit. She will no doubt be able to have interesting and hopefully fruitful discussions on these important topics with her Austrian counterparts.
I hope that this State Visit can give some extra impetus to Austrian-Swedish business relations. With these words I am proud to be able to open the Business Forum.
Good luck and thank you!