Swedish Chamber of Commerce Visit to Stockholm 2012
The weekend of 23– 25 November was the occasion of the inaugural visit of the Swedish Chamber of
Commerce in Ireland to Sweden. A party of 12 in total travelled.
The main group arrived on Friday at noon. Some immediately went to a meeting in Mazars where they received a briefing on the tax regime in Sweden. They learnt to their surprise that the regime was not nearly as severe as is generally thought.
In the afternoon we had a meeting with the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce which has responsibility for the greater Stockholm area extending to the city ofUppsala. We were given a briefing on the major challenges facing the city of Stockholm and we discussed how the two chambers could work with each other.
Afterwards we went to the offices of Invest Sweden. Invest Sweden is the equivalent of the IDA. However it is soon to be merged with the Swedish equivalent of Enterprise Ireland, the Swedish Trade Council. We received a most erudite and comprehensive briefing on the current state of the Swedish economy and the focus of Invest Sweden in encouraging inward investment. We also learnt of some of the challenges that will have to be faced in the merger of the STC and Invest Sweden.
We were joined by John Roche, the head of Enterprise Ireland for the Nordics based in Stockholm. John has just recently moved to Stockholm from Spain. He outlined the main focus of the activities of Enterprise Ireland in the Nordic region and the main sectors in which they are interested.There then followed a most interesting discussion in which we had the benefit of the perspective of Invest Sweden and Enterprise Ireland in relation to a range of topics that faced them both.
Stimulated by an afternoon of interesting discussions and useful meetings, we returned to our hotels for a short break before sallying forth to the wonderful restaurant of Ulla Winbladh. As a result of the kind intervention of Lars Schmidt of the Swedish Embassy (and currently resident in Dublin) we had a private room and a special menu had been organised.
There were 20 people in all in our party. The Chamber had a number of guests. We were honoured with the presence of Her Excellency The Ambassador, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier. We welcomed the former secretary of the Chamber, Gunilla Llungdahl. We were very pleased to see again Claes Llungdahl the former ambassador of Sweden to Ireland. Ragnar Almqvist and his wife Ailbhe represented the Irish Embassy in Stockholm. Finally Helene Rapp represented the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
The drinking of snaps caused the Swedes present to sing some of their traditional songs. In view of the imminent clash between our two countries in the World Cup, this provoked a vigorous response from the Irish, who sang some drinking songs.
We had a magnificent meal and enjoyed great fun in each others’ company.
Despite the revelry of the evening before, most were present and correct for the visit to Skansen early on Saturday morning. Skansen is an
outdoor cultural and architectural museum, along the lines of the Bunratty Folk Park. Original buildings from all over Sweden and Scandinavia have been dismantled and rebuilt in Skansen. There is also a collection of Nordic animals, both wild and domestic. In the weeks leading to Christmas, there is a wonderful and eclectic range of market stalls throughout the park.
The weather initially was very unkind. Some of our group succumbed to the protection of green plastic ponchos, which, although effective, were somewhat inelegant.
Unlike Christmas markets elsewhere, the stalls were not all concentrated in one central square but were spread throughout the museum. There was a wide range of foods from glogg, coffee and Christmas pastries to smoked meats and reindeer sausages cooked on charcoal braziers. However, his daughter did not applaud the purchase of smoked reindeer heart by Paul Keane!
In some of the houses you could enjoy traditional Swedish music played on ancient instruments, in the comfort of a wood fire. In the church, we enjoyed a concert of trumpet and organ music. In a central square there was communal dancing in which Mairead Divilly took a notable part.
Later on in the morning the weather cleared. Some enjoyed lunch in one of the many restaurants in the park. Some of our members, who had not been to Stockholm before, availed of the opportunity to visit the Vasa Museum. Like most people, they were greatly impressed. Others availed of the retail therapy to be found in Drottinggatan or visited the medieval streets of Gamla Stan.
That evening, we ate in a restaurant called Vapiano. It is one of a chain of restaurants. We found that you can dine well and at a modest cost in Stockholm. It is a restaurant specialising in fresh pasta cooked there and then in front of you. We had a feast of dishes with salads and deserts, wine and beer at a cost of approximately €36 each.
Some intrepid souls went to hear the Adolf Fredriks Ungdomskor singing in the Gustav Vasa Church in Odenplan. This is a soaring church of great beauty. The choir were in great voice and are looking forward immensely to coming to Dublin to perform in Christchurch on 16 December.
We returned to Dublin late on Sunday evening thoroughly satisfied with a most enjoyable, useful and interesting visit. There is talk of making this an annual trip, to different cities in Sweden!
Maeve Walsh and Helene Rapp
Sophisticated SCCI in Skansen!
Siobhan feeling the cold despite the brazier
Dancing in the rain
A small part of the Christmas Market in Skansen
Tom Marren and Maeve Walsh