Despite turmoil, Brazil remains key partner to Norway
The political commotion in Brasilia is affecting the daily routines at the Norwegian embassy, but despite some minor setbacks, Brazil remains a very important partner to Norway, ambassador Aud Marit Wiig says in this interview with Nordic Light.
It is not the first time Norway´s ambassador to Brazil, Mrs, Aud Marit Wiig witnesses political unrest up close. Before coming to Brazil in 2012, she served at the Norwegian embassy in Pretoria and as Norway´s ambassador to Pakistan. She has been head of department in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has also served as one of the top officials in the ministry
The many uncertainties that have marked the first months of 2016 are also affecting the daily routines at the Norwegian embassy in Brasilia, and trying to interpret what is going on and report back to Norway is taking a lot of the ambassador´s time these days. Aud Marit Wiig describes Brazilian politics as «full of surprises». She is however optimistic that when the dust settles, Brazil will arise as stronger and more prepared to face a long list of challenges the country is facing.
«What we must hope for, is more stability and more consensus in the Brazilian Parliament, and I hope that the politicians now realize the seriousness of the situation. Congress remains the same even if a new president and a new administration has taken office, and the same people are going to decide on possible reforms. Hopefully they realize that this is when they need to act. I don´t think we can expect big changes, but possibly smaller reforms that have been on the agenda for some time», she says.
It is not a simple task to explain what is going on in Brazilian politics these days. The Lavajato investigations and the implications these grave revelations have on both business and politics in Brazil, are also causing concern.
«The current situation obviously affects us on a daily basis at the embassy. The interest from Norway is huge, and we receive a lot more questions on what is going on than in previous years. It has also been more difficult to contact our Brazilian counterparts at senior official level and certainly at political level, to organize meetings as nobody is in a position to make any commitments. It always takes a little time to reestablish contact when people at the officials level change. Having said that, our approaches are always very welcome and I don’t foresee any difficulties.»
In May, a meeting in the Norwegian Brazilian Economic Commission was set to take place in Oslo, but this high level meeting was cancelled. No new date has been set, as the Brazilian officials in the commission will now be replaced.
«The Economic Commission is very high on our agenda. The new government has signaled an intention to increase its focus on trade, and hopefully we will be able to organize the meeting in the commission later this year», Mrs Wiig says.
Forest and fish
The priorities at the embassy remain the same.
«We continue to work on issues important to Norway and the relationship to Brazil remains the same. Major issues are trade and economic cooperation, climate and the environment and research and education. In September we are expecting a political visit from the Ministry of Education in Norway. Fisheries is another important issue and Brazil remains a major partner for Norway in the bacalhau industry.»
On June 1, the embassy organized a big social event, sponsored by the Seafood Council.
«We hosted the «Noite do Bacalhau» for the third time, and it is becoming a tradition and the social event of the year at the embassy. We invite a lot of Brazilians, our contacts on various levels in the ministries, institutions, diplomats we work with, people from Congress, from the government and other who have an interest in Norway», she says.
Brazil is currently the biggest receiver of Norwegian foreign aid, 1.268 million NOK in 2015, approximately 543 million BRA. 97 percent of this went to finance efforts against deforestation through the Amazon Fund. This fund is managed by BNDES, and BNDES are among the federal bodies with a new leadership. Maria Silvia Bastos Marques was appointed on May 16 by acting president Michel Temer.
The new minister of foreign affairs, José Serra has indicated that one of his priorities will be the environment and the important role of Brazil in international climate issues, given the Amazon biome.
«Last year we renewed our commitment to the Amazon Fund and this is something we are going to follow very closely with the new administration. No figures have been said but the Norwegian financial support will continue at a similar level as earlier years. What we are discussing now is how to maintain and make sure that the reduction in deforestation continues. We are looking into ways of ensuring that the trend is sustainable, maybe there is a need for incentives, and this is an area where cooperation with the private sector would be important.»
Ambassador Wiig describes the upcoming Summer Olympics as important to Brazil.
«I think it is going to be a wonderful experience, just like the world cup. The Olympic Games is a chance to showcase what Brazil actually knows how to do best, and Rio de Janeiro has a lot of experience in organizing big events with success.»
Maybe exactly what Brazil needs at this point?
«Brazil is experiencing difficulties and this is not going to change as quickly many hope. Brazil remains a parter that is important to us and we will continue to work with the new administration. I am confident that things will improve and become more stable», Mrs. Wiig says.
When can we expect to see «business as usual» again?
«I actually hope that we will not be seeing business as usual the way it was here in Brazil. I think that the Lavajato investigations and the arrests have influenced public opinion and I believe it will have an impact on the business sector. I hope we can move on to a better usual than business as usual», Aud Marit Wiig says.
By Runa Hestmann, NBCC journalist
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