Sweden confirms continued support, trade links to Laos

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Laos and Sweden established diplomatic relations on October 10, 1964, with the two countries boasting embassies in each other capitals.

The closure of Swedish Embassy in the capital marks the end of an era but cooperation between two nations will continue to support development and economic opportunity between the northern European nation and Laos.

This was the message relayed by the Ambassador of Sweden to Laos Staffan Herrstrom at a reception held on Thursday to introduce the new Swedish Honourary Consul to Laos Peter Fogde.

Laos and Sweden established diplomatic relations on October 10, 1964, with the two countries boasting embassies in each other capitals.

However, the Swedish embassy in Vientiane was downgraded to a section office in Vientiane in 2008.

This move followed the Swedish government’s decision to divert more its development aid to Africa, where it said people were in more dire need.

At Thursday reception, Ambassador Herrstrom reminded the audience about the long history of relations between Sweden and Laos, which he said were not only between the governments, the development agencies and civil society organisations, but also deep links between individuals.

The ambassador, who previously served as the Director General of Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) spoke about the Sweden’s support to Laos over the past 40 years, with close cooperation found among contacts, networks and activities in many crucial areas of development.

Swedish assistance to Laos was valued at 94 billion kip (100 million SEK) in the 1970s, to 113 billion kip (120 million SEK) in 1980s, to 130-150 million SEK yearly in 1990s (some years not consumed), reaching some 160 million SEK in the years between 2000 and 2010.

Swedish aid focused on forestry, environment, import support, water sector, humanitarian aid, roads, health service, electricity and hydropower plants, water and sanitation, public administration (Statistical Centre), legal sector education, strengthening the rule of law and research cooperation among others.

“I was able to see some of that 12 years ago in Vientiane in my capacity as Director-General of SIDA,” Herrstrom said.

“Relations previously were based on development partnership, now taking these forward to a new level,” he added.

He pointed to commercial relations and investments saying both sides could build on networks and the trust that had been created in various sectors.

Contributions by delegations on sustainable transport and this year on sustainable forestry were highlighted by the ambassador as examples of continued cooperation between the two countries.

He said much Swedish private sector was active in seeking opportunities to contribute in Laos as the two countries moved from a focus on development cooperation to mutually beneficial trade and investment.

He said he was pleased that Laos was closing in on its ambition to graduate from least developed country (LDC) status while making attempts to turn from deforestation to reforestation, moving towards 70 percent total forest coverage.

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