Opening of Stockholm Embassy

Speech

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Opening of Stockholm Embassy

8 November 2018

Thank you all for joining us tonight for the re-opening of New Zealand’s Embassy in Stockholm.

No doubt you all know the pop group Abba?

They’re pretty popular in New Zealand too. They had six number one singles and twelve top ten hits in New Zealand, and their greatest hits album remains our best-selling album of all time, topping the charts for 18 weeks and being certified 24 times Platinum.

One of their most popular songs complains: “yes I’ve been broken hearted; blue since the day we parted”, and asks the poignant question “why, why did I ever let you go?”

That sums up my feelings about New Zealand’s diplomatic presence in Sweden.

It was obvious to me when I initially made the decision to open an Embassy in Stockholm in 2008 that there was much more value to be had from New Zealand’s already excellent relations with Sweden, and indeed with the broader Nordic region.

It was therefore deeply disappointing to see that Embassy closed four years later, as part of some fairly major budget cuts following the global financial crisis. 

Re-opening it has been a priority for me since the current New Zealand Government came to office last year.

Appropriately enough, today’s opening takes place on the cusp of a major milestone in New Zealand-Swedish relations.

Next year will mark 250 years since the first Swede visited New Zealand.

Renowned botanist and scientist Daniel Solander spent six months travelling around New Zealand in 1769 as part of Captain James Cook’s epic voyage of discovery, and was the first European to catalogue our unique flora and fauna.  

Almost 250 years after Mr Solander’s journey, what brings us here today?

The decision to re-open our Embassy in Sweden is grounded in the same basic realities that led us to open a post ten years ago.

Put simply, you would be hard put to find two more natural partners than New Zealand and Sweden; and there is much more we can and should be doing together.

New Zealand and Sweden are committed to the same fundamental values: democracy; the rule of law; open and inclusive government; equality, human rights and personal freedoms.

We have followed similar paths in seeking prosperity, social justice and opportunity for all at home; and we remain at the forefront of countries seeking to advance a just rules-based system and contributing to collective efforts to address shared global challenges.

New Zealand welcomes the contribution Sweden makes in our South Pacific region, both directly and through the European Union. 

And we are equally grateful for Sweden’s strong support for our efforts to deepen our ties with the European Union, including through the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement.

Over the coming year we will explore how we can build on these firm foundations and take our partnership to the next level.

There is no doubt much more we can do together in tackling key global challenges, such as climate change; as well as in sharing experiences in priority social issues.

Our trade and investment links will also be an area of focus.

Two way trade is at about NZ$425 million and could be much better.

There are some great examples of mutually beneficial commercial cooperation already.

New Zealand’s dairy industry is literally “driven” by Swedish vehicles and equipment. Volvo provides around 92 percent of New Zealand’s fleet of milk collection trucks – with Scania accounting for the remainder.

New Zealand companies are also finding opportunities in Sweden in sectors ranging from high quality meat and wine to personal fitness services.

This means in your own country you can enjoying an evening feasting on fine New Zealand food and wine – and then the next day use the best of our fitness programmes to work it off !

These stories are a good start. But we are only scratching the surface of the potential in our trading ties.

It is of course the links between people that lie at the heart of any strong relationship. I expect this Embassy to facilitate a lift in the close ties between our peoples.

Swedish migrants have made a tremendous contribution to New Zealand, from Mr Solander down to my own Senior Private Secretary Helen Lahtinen, who is here tonight.

We’ve got a good number of kiwis here in Sweden as well.

Sister Patricia has been a prominent member of the Brigittine order of nuns for around 60 years, and has taught thousands of young Swedes over her long career in Vadstena.

A lot of New Zealanders have married Swedish partners and settled here.  I’m told they describe themselves as “love refugees”.

A couple of kiwis in that community have launched the successful Nordic Kiwi Brewers company making craft beers, which are being served here tonight.

Our new Ambassador Andrew Jenks also has a Swedish wife – although that is not why he landed this exciting new diplomatic post! 

Ambassador Jenks has had a distinguished career in our foreign ministry, speaks Swedish, and has previous experience of living and working here.

He now has an opportunity to draw on this experience in taking our relations to the next level. 

Please extend Ambassador Jenks your full cooperation and support in these endeavours.

But you must promise to return him at the end of his four years.

Finally, our heartfelt thanks to our Honorary Consul, Anna Belfrage, for her tireless efforts on behalf of New Zealand and New Zealand-Swedish relations over the past 5 years.

Anna, we deeply appreciate all that you’ve done for us. We hope to retain you as a close friend and partner as we seek to take the relationship forward in the years ahead.

As well as deepening our links with Sweden, this Embassy will also provide a platform for greater engagement with your neighbours.

The same factors that make us natural partners with Sweden also make it important that we invest more in our relations with Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Norway.

It is our intention that we do so, and that this Embassy lead these efforts.

So as we open this Embassy tonight, we look forward to the new possibilities that it will also be opening up for our already close relationship.

A relationship that will draw on our historical ties and shared values to forge new and deeper partnerships, and that will deliver value for Swedes and New Zealanders alike. 

A relationship that Daniel Solander probably never dreamed of, but that would make him proud were he alive today.

It is a very great pleasure to declare the New Zealand Embassy in Stockholm open.