Monday, January 02, 2006

The First Week

Well, I fear the holidays are now more or less over, and different activities are slowly starting up.

It's a beutiful day here in Stockholm. It's been snowing the last few days, and today the sky is as clear as it gets with the sun shining over the white. Stockholm looks like a postcard.

Tomorrow and on Wednesday I'm off to Oslo for the big annual conference of the Norwegian Federation of Industries. The theme of the discussions - with speakers ranging from different international representantatives to the Prime Minister - is the new challenges of the High North.

It's not only a question of the expected gas and oil resources of the North Atlantic and Barents Sea, but also the environmental challenges, the fisheries resources and not the least the legal and political challenges in the vast area where Norwegian interests are meeting Russian ones.

I would suspect that this discussion - as well as many others around Europe these days - will be influenced directly or indirectly by the way Russia is now handling its gas dispute with the Ukraine. The NHO conference is the same day as the energy ministers of the European Union are meeting in an emergence session to discuss the immediate impact of the Russian cut-off of gas to Ukraine.

Then I'm back to Stockholm on Friday, only to depart on Saturday in the direction of Hong Kong and the Southern China province of Guangdong.

There, it will be other challenges of this age of increased interdependence and globalisation that will be the centre of the discussion.

I will be visiting factories in the Guangdong province producing toys for the world markets in order to assess worker and other conditions there.

It's part of an effort to make certain that the globalisation of the production chains also leads to an improvement in living standards for everyone concerned. And the focus of the production chain of the global toy industry today very much lies in Southern China.

And from there I go to Brussels for discussions on the global prospects ahead. But that's next week - and another entry.

So the first week brings its pointers for the new year - energy issues, Russia, European Union, China and globalisation.