Janne Taalas, the new Finnish Ambassador to Italy: “Potential for greater co-operation between Finland and Italy”
Janne Taalas started as the new Ambassador of Finland in Rome, Italy in September 2015. We had the opportunity to meet him and talk to him about his new position before he journeyed onboard MS Finnstar from Vuosaari Harbour via Travemünde all the way to Italy with his family.
Tell us about your new position in Italy
The Ambassador works from within Finland’s embassy in Rome, although, I also represent Finland in Malta and San Marino. Usually the Ambassador works in one place for four years. However, in New York, I spent five years as the Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations.
One of my main tasks as an Ambassador in Italy is to make sure that the relations between Finland and Italy remain good and straightforward. In Italy, I represent and promote matters that are important for Finland and vice versa: I also make sure that Finland remains aware of the topics that are considered significant for Italy. I have the whole embassy supporting me and my job is also to manage and guide them.
How well did you know Italy before starting as the new Ambassador?
My first trip to Italy was in the summer of 1984 when I was 17 years old and interrailing through Europe. After that I have visited Italy many times but I have never lived in the country before. So you could say that I am excited!
How do you see the relations between Finland and Italy?
The relationship between the two countries is definitely close. We are both members of the EU and we have the same monetary unit. We co-operate to solve issues on a European and Global scale.
The relations have developed further and there are multiple ongoing co-operation projects on many levels. Also the high-level visits have increased. As a relatively recent example, the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö visited Italy 1.5 years ago.
Hundreds of thousands of Finnish people travel to Italy every year but also Italians have started to discover Finland as a holiday destination and for educational purposes.
In economical terms, Finland’s exports to Italy exceed over EUR 1 billion in a year which means more than EUR 100 million every month! Italy is for Finland its 11th biggest foreign business partner.
Do you feel that Finland and Italy could still further develop their relationship?
As an Ambassador I still want to increase the co-operation and I definitely see some unused potential regarding the economic relations.
The most important themes where the two countries need to work together are global migration, the future of the euro and the external relations and foreign affairs of the EU. It is very important that we exchange thoughts about these matters and find common ground. Italy is a big player in the EU and both parties will benefit from playing in the same team.
The shipping industry is and always has been very important for both Finland and Italy. How do you see the shipping industry at the moment and do you have any thoughts on its future?
I am no expert of the shipping industry other than as a customer. But it is clear that if we consider Finland from the point of view of international business, Finland is like an island. Hence, the sea connections and the maritime business are of high importance. Finnlines truly offers a very significant connection for the Finnish business life.
As a passenger I of course wish for even better, faster and safer vessels to travel with in general! But to be serious, I see that the movement of people and business will not stop growing. What I do think is that environmentally friendly solutions will be in demand even more in the future of maritime business.
Finland and Italy have their common characteristics but also differences. Do you see some similarities or differences in the business cultures and what kind of an effect do they have on working together?
Both Italy and Finland have a lot of family-owned businesses. I can see them working smoothly and naturally together. As mentioned earlier, I think there are possibilities for even closer and more efficient co-operation. Finnlines is a great example of a successful family business!
We thank Janne Taalas for the interview and wish him the best of luck in his position as the Ambassador. Welcome on board Finnlines again!
The original interview was held in Finnish and has been translated to English.
Name: Janne Taalas
• Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations in New York (2010–2015)
• Director for Policy Planning and Research in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (2008–2010)
• Deputy Head of the Finnish OSCE Chairmanship Task Force (2007–2008)
• PhD in Philosophy, Oxford University
• Licentiate in Politics and Master of Science in Economics, University of Jyväskylä