Middle East

Saudi artist builds carpet-painting business one brush stroke at a time

RIYADH: Cooperation and collaboration are key to the success of this year’s World Circular Economy Forum in Finland, the country’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia has told Arab News, praising the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 as offering “limitless opportunities.”

This year’s World Circular Economy Forum brings together global leaders from the circular economy. It runs from May 30 to June 2 in Helsinki, the Finnish capital.

“We are expecting to gather the brightest minds to Helsinki this week. We are first of all wishing to highlight the importance that it is a matter that one cannot do alone,” Anu-Eerika Viljanen told Arab News.

“We need government-to-government cooperation and we need government-to-private sector cooperation. So everybody has their role and I think cooperation and collaboration is the key to success,” Viljanen added.

It is really important that women are at all levels — at all functions present in Saudi society because we women have a voice, and it deserves to be heard.

Anu-Eerika Viljanen

The ambassador said that one of the missions of the forum is to “go green,” adding: “Maybe there are new ways and new practices shared during the conference.

“Circular economy is an area that Finland has been at the forefront of for decades. Finland was the first country to establish a national circular economic road map and we have really been focusing on that area for a long time.”

The envoy began her Saudi mission in August 2022 and said that it is her first posting to the region.

“I am extremely delighted and extremely honored to serve here as Finish ambassador,” she added.

“The diplomatic ties between our countries are on a solid basis. The foundation is very solid — we have been working very effectively since the late 60s.”

Though economic matters were the previous focus of bilateral ties between Finland and Saudi Arabia, the latter’s Vision 2030 has added a range of new areas in which to cooperate, Viljanen said.

“Now with your Vision 2030, there are new areas emerging. The opportunities in your country now, with Vision 2030 — they are limitless,” she added.

The two countries are also working on digitalization as a central focus of cooperation, with systems including AI, cybersecurity, gaming and the metaverse a focus of bilateral efforts.

Viljanen said that during her tenure, many visits Saudi and Finnish ministers have made trips to one another’s countries.

“Those visits are really important to step up economic relations and with those visits, we always find new areas that we can intensify the already existing cooperation,” she added.

Viljanen hopes to see further cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Finland in digitalization and the circular economy.

“I would like to see my country partner with you because there are so many areas that we have also been focusing on that you are now focusing on,” she said.

And as Saudi Arabia earns a new reputation as a regional peacemaker, Viljanen said that Finland can offer lessons to the Kingdom.

“Finland has a long history in being the peacemaker,” she added.

Viljanen has been following the “achievements of Saudi Arabia” in efforts to broker peace across the region, including in Sudan.

Discussing Nisreen bint Hamad Al-Shibel, Saudi Arabia’s new ambassador to Finland, Viljanen said: “I’m really glad that there are more and more Saudi female ambassadors.

“It is really important that women are at all levels — at all functions present in Saudi society because we women have a voice, and it deserves to be heard.”

When asked how she would describe the cooperation between the two countries, Viljanen said: “Intensified collaboration.”

She added: “I would say the energy levels of your country and the positive energy that is present everywhere, and the changes, and transformation is really remarkable.”

And on the economic front, Saudi-Finnish initiatives covering digilitzation and the green agenda “go hand in hand” as part of bilateral efforts, Viljanen said.

“You need digitalization to advance the green agenda.”

Viljanen said: “I would like to increase the level of knowledge of Saudi Arabia and Saudis in Finland.

“I would love to see more Saudi students in Finland, more Saudi tourists in Finland, and also vice versa.”




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