100 years ago, the Czech Republic and Finland received the international recognition as the new, independent and democratic republics in Europe.  Within coming years, both countries developed their reputation within European and world industrial community focusing, among others, on free trade advocacy. The question whether and how our mutual trade can create win-win situation for the both countries is an underlying topic of our interview with H.E. Ivan Jukl, the Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Finland.

Economic and political outlook of the Czech Republic today – and what are the prospects for the country?

Czech Republic is currently enjoying strong economic growth, which is supposed to continue not only in this year but also during the next one. Wages are increasing (however being still low compared to Finland) and the unemployment rate is historically the lowest. Together with low interest rates, it creates very favourable conditions for attracting more investments. Since the public finance continue to be in a good shape, further increase of infrastructure investment is expected. Population ageing and commitments of increasing security and defence expenditures, similarly to Finland, belong to the main challenges for our future.

Which kind of business opportunities there are for Finnish companies in the Czech Republic?

It would too simple to narrow business cooperation of our countries just to opportunities on the Czech market. Traditional sectors of the both countries are struggling with stagnating productivity and thus new innovative and globally relevant solutions, creating new markets or changing current ones, are the must. Robotics, digital solutions for population ageing are just one example. The so-called closed loop economy is another opportunity. Of course, Finnish technologies like total recycling of tyres or robotic waste classification sound very interesting to us. However, we should not forget that Czech Republic also belongs among countries with unique circular economy solutions. For the Nordic business community, it sounds a bit surprising but the feedback we received here for our technology transforming demolition waste into new building blocks is probably the most evident example.

How to enter the Czech Market as an exporter or an investor?

For about 14 years we have been a part of the EU single market and my country has always belonged, together with Finland, to the group of like-minded countries advocating free trade. Generally, I do not see any substantial barriers neither for our mutual trade nor for investments. We should keep in mind that Kone, Tieto or YIT belong amongst the most successful investors in the Czech Republic. Likewise, our Škoda Transportation has helped its Finnish daughter Transtech in increasing its competitiveness both in fields of trams and trains production. To answer more business specific questions, I encourage our Finnish friends to contact my team at the Czech Embassy.

Two elections (legislative and presidential) have been arranged in the Czech Republic in 2017 and 2018. Will there be any major changes for business after these elections?

Czech Republic passed successfully the transformation in 90s and we are fully democratic country where the election results do not have substantial influence on our economy.  It does not mean that there is no space for improvement in our business environment. On the contrary-every Czech government tries to find a way forward regularly consulting with private sector representatives.

How Czech enterprises have been able benefit from the Free Trade Agreements the Czech Republic has signed separately or as a member of the EU?  

To me there is no difference between the Czech Republic and Finland in terms of using advantages of EU single market and common EU trade policy. The size of our markets should not become a limit for our industries, so we will always advocate a free trade. Our growing export and FDI numbers are the best evidence of rationality of this approach. What we obviously should pay attention to, for example, is reaching good compromise with the UK where the effort of keeping mutually advantageous conditions for market access should belong to basic values to be preserved after Brexit.

We know Prague as a great tourist destination very well. Which other towns and regions you would recommend us to visit and why?

Of course, the Czech Republic is not just a country of Prague, beer and glass. All three “ingredients” are still in great condition however, I believe the perception of my country has changed. Those who regularly visit our numerous UNESCO sites, spas, castles, ski-resorts or vineyards can easily confirm that opinion. I am also glad that more and more Finns are discovering the attractiveness of our new golf courses or international cycling tracks. Discovering countryside beauties is a way in which we can inspire each other.

As we see – getting over some stereotypes in our mutual perception might become the best opportunity to enhance our trade, investments and tourist visits. Being an Ambassador in such country as Finland reminds me of the importance of permanent innovation every day. Being an active part of that process between our countries is my absolute priority.

Ivan Jukl

Embassy of the Czech Republic
Armfeltintie 14
00150 Helsinki
Tel: +358 404 878 090
FB: @CzechEmbassyFinland