From enchanting winter wonderlands to never-ending summer days – Finland’s scenic beauty is beyond description all year around. The Finnish Embassy in Indonesia was established in 1974, but the relationship between the two countries can actually be traced back as far as the 1920s.

An Interview with H.E. Paivi Hiltunen-Toivio Ambassador of Finland to Indonesia

We spoke with H.E. Päivi Hiltunen-Toivio, who is now entering her third year in Indonesia, about the many different fields in which the two countries cooperate, the growing number of local tourists exploring Finland, as well as her personal highlights of her time in Indonesia.

What do you think are the main pillars of the partnership between Finland and Indonesia?
Finland and Indonesia have a long history of a mutually beneficial partnership despite the fact that both countries are relatively young republics. Indonesia has passed 70 years and Finland will celebrate its 100 years in 2017. Finland and Indonesia are both resource-based economies. Waterways have played a crucial role in their development, and forests are a distinctive feature of their landscapes and economy. Our relationship has evolved along the economic development from the resource sectors into IT and digital economy while natural resources are still the undergrowth from which the widening and deepening of our relationship springs. Today it is energy, forestry, industrial machinery, engineering, and telecommunication as well as education that are playing the most prominent role in our relationship. Our cooperation has got impetus from high level visits between our countries and the MoUs signed in several fields.

In terms of economy and trade, have you seen a growing interest of Finnish companies to invest in Indonesia?
In Finland, Indonesia is seen as a country with huge economic potential. The interest of Finnish companies in the Indonesian market is constantly growing. As Finland has relatively few consumer-oriented industries, the investments have so far been limited. However, at the moment there are companies looking for investment opportunities in particular in energy sector, forestry and services, where many Finnish companies are world leaders.

One Finnish leading company in biomass technology has started a construction of a heavy machinery workshop near Jakarta. This factory is planning to start operation in 2017 and will serve clients not only in Indonesia, but in the whole ASEAN region. Another Finnish global investment company in power generation has recently expressed its desire to invest in Indonesia’s power industry.

Finland and Indonesia cooperate within the energy and environment sector. Could you highlight some of your joint activities and efforts within this field?
In the field of energy, Finland and Indonesia have joined their efforts based on a Memorandum of Understanding in which renewable energy, energy efficiency and smart grids technology play a central role. An energy working group is a concrete example of this cooperation. Indonesian Minister of State Owned Enterprises Ms. Rini visited Finland this autumn. During her visit Minister Rini and the Finnish Minister of Foreign Trade and Development, Mr Mykkänen, endorsed this cooperation by signing a Ministerial Statement. Finland and Indonesia are also activating the work of a forestry working group to promote exchanges in the field of sustainable forestry. Finland has been supporting sustainable forestry projects with promising results, for example in Sumatra and Kalimantan, drawing from the Finnish expertise as well as the innovations of Indonesian researchers.

When we speak about popular travel destinations for Indonesians, Finland – and Scandinavia in general – is probably still falling a little behind other European countries. Are you trying to change this? And in return, what do you do to promote Indonesia as a potential destination for Finnish tourists?
Finland has a lot to offer for Indonesian travelers. All our four seasons present beautiful and magical natural wonders. During the winter the land is covered by frost and snow and tourists are able to practice skiing and other winter activities. Natural phenomena like aurora borealis and midnight sun are distinctive features of Finnish nature. It is said that the Finnish Lapland is the only remaining true wilderness in Europe. It offers for instance excellent hiking and fishing possibilities. Clean air and the peacefulness of our forests attract an increasing number of tourists to Finland every year. Finnish design, high technology and innovation are world famous and also of interest to many visitors. In addition, Finland is full of music and art festivals during the summer.

I am happy to see that the number of Indonesians travelling to Finland has risen. Our Embassy regularly participates in travel fairs in Indonesia and promotes Finland on social media platforms. Our national airline Finnair together with Garuda offers the quickest way from Indonesia to Northern Europe. It has just started using the brand new Airbus A350 aircrafts from Singapore to Helsinki.

Scandinavia is well-known for its innovative approach to urban planning; its cities are often deemed the most livable in Europe. How do you think Indonesia can benefit from this expertise?
Indonesia and Finland share the same type of natural treats, especially in terms of water. Finland has 188 000 lakes while Indonesia has 17 500 islands. These natural features are at the same time both an opportunity and a challenge for urban planners. Regarding Finland, the Helsinki University of Technology has always stood out as a cradle for architects. Alvar Aalto and Eliel Saarinen are world famous Finnish architects. The starting point of their architecture and city planning has been the local environment and conditions. The needs of the local population determine the way of special planning and construction. As a result a lot of recreational areas have been reserved in the vicinity of sea and lakes. Furthermore, Finland was one of the first countries to successfully adopt a garden city concept that sets open green spaces at centre of city plans. Another feature of Finnish cities is well-functioning public transport that makes it possible to commute without private cars.

Indonesia can benefit from this approach and even take a step further by using the newest technologies and experiences of Helsinki. Helsinki is building an integrated smart district that combines technical, architectural and ecological solutions. Furthermore Finland is known for its smart living solutions as well as waste management and recycling systems. One way to learn about these experiences could be creating city-to-city links between Indonesia and Finland.

You have been in Jakarta for two years now. Looking back, what have been your highlights, both at work and personally?
One of my professional highlights during these two years has been the state visit of our President Niinistö to Indonesia last November. This very successful visit enhanced the bilateral cooperation between our countries and raised our relations to a new level. It also gave impetus to some concrete projects in the fields of energy and infrastructure.

Personally, I mostly enjoy spending my free time, usually on the weekends, meeting my Indonesian friends and enjoying the local food. Not only do I enjoy eating spicy dishes, but I also like to learn about the fascinating and diverse culture and customs of Indonesia.

Did you have the chance to travel? What is your favorite place in Indonesia?
This is a difficult question, because there is such a big variety of idyllic destinations in Indonesia, each and every city and province having their own uniqueness. I have had the chance to travel quite a lot across the archipelago, but mainly for business. In the future I would also like to spend more time exploring new places on my own. From a professional point of view, Aceh has been very interesting, because it is a special place for us Finns as our former President Ahtisaari was the mediator in the peace process. The Peace Agreement was signed in Helsinki in 2005. I am a big fan of nature and animals, so if I am to mention only one favorite place in Indonesia, it would probably be Kalimantan.

Katrin Figge

Katrin Figge

Katrin Figge is a previous editor of NOW! Jakarta. An experienced writer and avid bookworm.