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By Nabilah Saleh
KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 -- One of the things that outgoing Swedish Ambassador Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt likes to share with Malaysians is the unique and longstanding ties between Malaysia and Sweden that spans more than six decades.
During an interview with the local media, Juhlin-Dannfelt decribed the bilateral relations in an interesting manner using the marque unique to both nations, Volvo and Proton.
“Volvo's presence was even way before Proton and Perodua were born," he said indicating how far back the bilateral relations go.
“The first car manufactured in Malaysia was Swedish - Volvo, in 1967. The first car ever exported from Malaysia around 1969 was also Volvo, making Malaysia the regional hub for us at that time,” he said of the fruitful bilateral ties.
“I wouldn’t expect a company from my own country, Sweden, to be the first in a country like Malaysia,” he said indicating the high regards the Swedish had on Malaysia right from the start.
“Now, Volvo and Proton are cousins! We are very much related in a way,” said Juhlin-Dannfelt, referring to the fact that both marques now come under China’s Geely and how the bilateral ties had evolved over the years.
Speaking to Bernama recently, Juhlin-Dannfelt who presented his credentials on Dec 2, 2016 feels privileged to have experienced Malaysia’s diversity and modernity besides being awed by the country’s natural splendour.
“I like Malaysia very much. I had a very interesting time of five years experience with three different governments, serving under three different Kings as well.
“We may not agree on every single issue, but at the macro level - the core backbone of our relation is trade,” he said, noting currently around 100 Swedish companies and related commercial establishments being present in Malaysia.
There are room for major investments in the country as the business climate has been very encouraging for both sides.
Malaysia, for what he deemed as a “gifted country” also has the necessary ingredients to be a very successful country especially in navigating into the next stage of its development.
“Malaysia has the potential to punch above its weight and I am certain that although the aim to become a high-developed nation by 2020 wasn’t achieved for different reasons, including the challenges that came from the COVID-19 pandemic, Malaysia is on the verge of qualifying.
“With the right type of policies, governance and management, Malaysia should be able to reach this goal within a couple of years,” said Juhlin-Dannfelt, who also took time off from his rather busy schedule to tour Malaysia by hiking and tracking in the jungles.
Touching on the COVID-19 pandemic, though Malaysia is having a tough time now, he is optimistic that the country could overcome the challenges and even lauded the government’s efforts as significant and excellent compared with many other countries in the world.
Through a digital farewell session he had with Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah recently, he conveyed his compliments besides discussing several matters including potential digital health initiatives and R&D cooperation between both countries’ clinical research institutes.
“I am quite impressed with the results achieved by the Malaysian government, compared with my own country.
“Compared to the situation in Sweden where we now have close to 15,000 casualties, as well as close to one million who got infected by the virus (almost 10 per cent of the population), Malaysia is doing exceptionally very well.
“Considering that Malaysia’s population is three times the population size of Sweden, I think overall Malaysia’s record is quite good,” said Juhlin-Dannfelt.
Speaking on current surge in daily new cases reported in the country, he said as the pandemic itself is a challenge to humankind globally, and is confident that Sweden and the European Union (EU) countries would offer an extra pair of helping hand.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1958, with the establishment of the embassies in both the capital city of Stockholm and Kuala Lumpur.
After almost six years here, Juhlin-Dannfelt whose next posting is in his homeland at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, summed up that his tenure has been very interesting that he will continue to be “in love” with Malaysia.
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