IMG_4430 (2)Twelve days have passed since I posted my latest blog. What have I been doing?

Travelling quite a lot – five out of eight working days. Słupsk. Poznań. Wrocław.

The background to these visits were very different. We were invited to Słupsk earlier this year during a visit to our Embassy by the new Mayor Robert Biedroń because he wants to develop the cooperation with Sweden. A Scandinavian orientation is of course natural already from a geographical point of view. Additionally several Nordic companies are already present in the city and its surrounding region, among them Scania with almost 500 employees.

In the Scania factory we could see buses produced for several different buyers, including both Stockholm and the city of Słupsk. The yellow and blue ones, looking very Swedish, were actually the vehicles that soon are going to be handed over to the local city authorities… That ceremony will take me to Słupsk once again quite soon.

During the visit I was invited to shortly address the new advisory council set up by the Mayor and following the deliberations that followed, where also predecessors and previous competitors to the Mayor took an active part. I was happy not least to see the many young people that attended the meeting, perhaps in this way getting their first impressions and insights from local democracy.

Next steps? Exchange of experiences in the area of environmentally sustainable development with our expert Józef Neterowicz and the City pełnomocniczka (commissioner) for i.a. green modernisation Beata Maciejewska as key contact persons – but hopefully also partner relations established with a suitable city in Sweden.  We are working on it.

Then Poznań last week with a very diversified programme. A lecture for students in European law about drivers for economic growth in Europe: like removing barriers for the EU internal market, like the trade and investment partnership with the US (TTIP), like more women on the labour market. The students present were asking more questions than almost any other group I have met, extremely inspiring.

A very different student group followed Thursday afternoon, the ones studying Swedish. I have visited the Scandinavistic department at the University many times and I am equally impressed by the level of the language skills their students acquire. They wanted to hear from my wife Karin and me about our impressions from Poland during the almost four years we have spent here. It is easy to describe e.g. the growing importance of Poland in the EU that has developed these years. A bit more difficult to pinpoint any concerns. When I get that question my thoughts often move in the direction of traffic safety. Changing in the right direction yes – but still room for some significant improvement…

Our breakfast meeting with Swedish companies was one of the best we have held outside Warsaw. Very diversified profiles but quite similar experiences including the strong focus on quality (and their “Swedishness” as one positive factor connected to this).

Later Friday morning the new Mayor Jacek Jaśkowiak was kind enough to receive us. A frequent visitor to Sweden through his participation in the famous ski race, Vasaloppet (90 kilometers…). His interest in environment was striking and obviously encouraging for us visitors.

We concluded the day – and the journey – in Gniezno together with the new Primate of Poland, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, whom I now had the honor to meet for the third time. His open attitude has helped me a lot in my efforts to get a clearer perspective and improve my understanding of the Catholic Church in this country.

Finally Wrocław two days ago.

Though I guess I should also highlight what took place three days ago as well – Team Sweden with ten participants finishing the Warsaw Halfmarathon. Lovely weather. Very good organisation. And we did it.

I was feeling less exhausted than expected when boarding the plane to Wrocław Monday morning. It could have been a bad idea to travel the day after the Halfmarathon, but actually it wasn’t. And I was honestly very happy that I accedpted the invitation to the ceremony where the Swedish artist and printmaker Mikael Kihlman was presented the title Doktor Honoris Causa by the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Art and Design. He has a 25 year long history of cooperation with Poland and, as it seems to me, found a lot of inspiration in Polish city environments. Amazing pieces of art – and two exhibitions are now ongoing in Wrocław. If you have a chance, go there!

Looking in my calendar today, Wednesday, I feel Easter coming closer. Fewer official meetings, more internal work. And honestly I prefer staying indoors in this rough weather.

Easter in Poland. Looking forward to some quiet days.

Wesołych Świąt!