Jari Vilen Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Finland and the Global Economy: Conversation with Jari Vilen, Minister for Foreign Trade, Finland, 
    January 23, 2003 by Harry Kreisler

Page 6 of 6

Lessons Learned

You are the youngest minister in your government.

That's true.

What advice would you give to students who watch this interview and want to think about preparing for the future?

You have to believe in your dreams. But if you believe in dreams, you also have to have a plan for how to fulfill those dreams. Be committed, be stubborn, and look for the different ways to achieve this goal. It's not only one path which takes you in the direction. And usually it's not even the straightest path; you have to make some curves in other areas. So, make plans for various options for your life. Believe in your ideals, and believe what you're doing, and I think, then, you can fulfill your dreams. Of course, trying to find the right balance of work, and dreams, and your private life, also.

Because I love politics, I've been in politics forever and I think I will always be in politics. But I do hope that, sometimes, you can find various ways of doing politics. I'm now a minister. Nobody knows what will happen in the future. Actually, we'll be having elections coming in two months' time. I've been interviewed by my constituents [to determine] if I have a right to continue as their deputy in the Finnish Parliament, and we will see what happens. But when you get involved in politics, it's such a ... it's a life which I adore, because every single day is different, there are new challenges every single day. And what I love mostly is, in politics, you learn new things every single day. A new working day to me is always a new exploration. I meet new people. I have a chance to get to know new people. I learn new things. This is something that I don't think anything else can give to me except politics.

What lessons do you think that students might draw from your particular journey? How do you see your intellectual journey coming together with that of your career and how its shaped your country's trade policy?

The more things I learn, of course, it gives me more thoughts about how we can improve our trade policies and what challenges we are facing. What we can do internationally? What we can do in global perspectives? How we can do in regional perspectives? What should be the Finnish strategy for the Asian markets, for Russia? So those are the issues that I have to discuss and ponder in my cabinets and among the people I have the privilege to work with.

But personally, also, I do believe that every day in politics gives you perspectives for another kind of life, even in the private sector. Something which I admire in the USA, and which we don't have in our culture, is that the shift between the private sector and the public sector, from politics to the business life, is something which I do hope would also be in Europe. I think it would be beneficial for both parties -- the private sector, to learn more about how politics is done, what are the realities which will affect the decision-making procedures, but at the same time, also, the politician must know the realities of the lives, how the business is conducted, how we're making the results. That's why it would be equally important to have people from the private sector come to work in politics. This is the culture and tradition I wish to be able to bring to my country, also.

One final question. What do you think an American audience should know about Finland, its trade policy, and what it's trying to accomplish in the world?

Finland tries to be as open market as possible to everybody. We pose trade opportunities for people. It's a small market area, but it has a lot of purchasing power. It's one of the richest nations in the world at the moment. And, especially, the people are very open-minded. I would say, basically, everybody speaks English there, for the American audience. So it's very easy to work with the Finns these days. And it's a nation which is very functioning. It's a very safe nation. We've been ranked among the international reserves as one of the most competitive nations in the world, together with the U.S. in the last two years. We've been ranked as the most developed nation in sustainable development in the world. And we've been also ranked as the most non-corrupted nation in the world for five consecutive years.

You're also the most connected nation.

Exactly. Exactly, the most connected nation in the world. So we can offer a society which works, a climate which gives you four seasons -- from the beautiful summertime to the harsh winters; and people who are very open-minded and very much in love with Americans, and eager to learn about the U.S. way of living, and about the people and their thoughts. But, also, a country which is located in the further corner of Europe, but which gives great opportunities to explore the northern part of Europe.

Mr. Minister, on that note, I want to thank you very much for joining us today, talking about your own intellectual journey and, also, the changes that have taken place in your country. Thank you.

Thank you. It was my privilege.

And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation with History.

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