Since September 2012, Flávio Helmold Macieira has been the Brazilian ambassador to Norway.
Flávio H. Macieira says his first impression of Norway has not changed since he arrived. «I guess my previous information on the country was precise. As it is the practice in Itamaraty for Ambassadors in process of assuming new postings, I intensely studied Norwegian matters before starting my term.”, he explains.
Flávio Helmold Macieira was born in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro in 1952, and graduated from Law school at the federal university Universidade Federal Fluminense in 1975. He took a Master Degree in International relations at the University of Dublin, and initiated his diplomatic career in 1977. In 1999 he was promoted to ambassador, and in the Brazilian Ministry of foreign affairs in Brasília, he held a variety of postings. He served at the Consulate General in Barcelona and at the embassies in Sofia, Bagdad, Paris, Dublin and Bern. In Manágua he served as ambassador, and since September last year, Mr. Macieira has been posted in Norway, as head of the Brazilian mission in Oslo.
Mr. Macieira brought his wife, a professional journalist and specialist in coffee production and handling, and his youngest daughter with him to Oslo. His wife heads the Brazilian branch of the international NGO International Women’s Coffee Alliance, and also helps out in the social obligations of diplomatic life. His youngest daughter has graduated in communications and business administration. The ambassador has another daughter who is currently finishing her MA in Political Science in Switzerland, while the eldest daughter is a web designer who lives in Niterói with her family.
Mr. Macieira assures that Oslo already feels quite like home to him, as it is a seaside town, just like Niterói. He does not agree in the description of the Norwegian capital as tiny.
“I do not see Oslo as a tiny town. It is even very easy for foreign drivers to get lost in the urban area of Oslo – and that has already happened to me. Lost in geography and lost in translation too, because indications are written in Norwegian, and some of the town’s districts and surroundings are very alike. But Oslo is a beautiful hieratic town that changes lights and colors according to the seasons”, he says.
The only serious challenge that Mr. Macieira has identified so far, is the language, but he says both he and his wife intend to learn Norwegian, and he appreciates the English skills that most Norwegians have.
“The cost of living could be a challenge in the country, but we do not complain, we just adjust our budget. As a key to be happy in Oslo and in Norway, we apply the old rule that says “when in Rome, do as the Romans”, and we feel very much at ease. Diplomatic life implies adaptability, and the adaptation to the characteristics of life in Norway is not difficult”, Mr. Macieira says.
The ambassador reveals that in his free time he is a chess player, and he finds it motivating to be posted in the home-country of Magnus Carlsen, currently the best in the world. Mr. Macieira also appreciates literature and classical music. Grieg is another favorite.
“I am pleased to be living in the home-country of Magnus Carlsen, and also in the country that will host the 2014 Chess Olympics, the highest event in the Chess International Calendar. I try to keep an eye on the musical program of the Oslo Opera and Concert houses. And let’s not forget arts in general, and especially master Edvard Munch and the whole painting tradition of Norway. I really appreciated the Norwegian art collections that I visited up to now, not only in Oslo but also in Bergen and in other locations. I have a great curiosity in knowing new places, landscapes and people, and any healthy, outdoor activity interests me”, Mr. Macieira says.
Cross-country skiing is something he is planning to try out whenever he may dispose of winter weekends with no official agenda
“I come from a tropical sea-shore culture. I grew up with one foot , or both, on the beaches of Niterói. Snow and sand are both white. Is there a point of contact there? Probably not, or only a very distant one. But I cannot deny that, in the field of winter sports, my most remarkable capability is to spend some leisure time relaxing in a sofa and watching it on TV.That being said, I promise that I will try to improve my skills. This is however not a guarantee that I will succeed”, he says.
Here is what Mr. Macieira answered to NBCC´s questions. The interview was conceded via email:
Q: What did you know about Norway before being named ambassador and went to Norway?
A: Here is a brief note on all that I knew then: Norway is a well-known country to anyone that deals or has dealt with foreign policy and foreign economy. It has a long tradition in backing the principles of International Law and the UN system, it offers generous amount of international cooperation for development and it strongly supports peace processes all over the world. The Oslo agreements, in the 80s, were some of the most famous examples of the Norwegian contribution to peace-making activities. Norway is a member of NATO, and not a member of the European Union. Consequently it has not adhered to the Euro Zone. In the economic field it is renowned as an important oil and fish producer, and as a huge international investor country, through its sovereign fund. Norway supplies a valued and traditional food item to the Brazilian market: Our so familiar bacalhau seco – or dried codfish. Besides this, I guess I was previously informed that I would see lots of snow, fjords and, with luck, some awesome Nordic lights in Norway – that is, nature in its power and diversity.
Q: You have been posted in several European countries. Have you worked with issues related to Norway and Norwegians before?
A: My previous contact with Norwegian matters has been indirect. It occurred in many areas of political and economic diplomacy, and particularly in the field of international law and defense of the international system, since Brazil, as well as Norway, is an “internationalist” country – a country that cherishes a world ruled by international law in its most advanced expression.
Q: Is there something in your professional background and previous experiences that will be especially useful as ambassador to Norway?
A: I could say that having worked in areas of my Ministry dealing with the UN and peace making operations and with trade policy and the GATT. These have been important experiences to ease the understanding of my present duties in Norway. But the most important experience for me is something much more generic: A rather long period of postings abroad in big and small embassies, thus observing what the diplomatic activity implies in the day-by-day, and what are the priorities and the set of activities that must compose any diplomatic agenda. My previous postings were: Sofia, Barcelona, Baghdad, Paris, Dublin, Bern and Managua. In Brasília, which cannot be viewed as a “posting”, I served three times, in different areas of the Itamaraty in Brasília. My most recent function there was that of head of the office of the Secretary-General, our Vice-Minister.
Q:What are your main priorities as Brazilian ambassador to Norway?
A: My priorities are the priorities that have been recommended by the Minister of External Relations. Generally speaking, as an Ambassador, I must stimulate contacts and work to reinforce links between both sides, in all fields. Oil and gas sectors are a natural priority. So are the training and education of Brazilian specialists in Norway and the sending of researchers to Norway in the frame of the “Science Without Borders” program. Continuous political dialogue is a must, considering the affinities between both countries. Organization of Brazilian cultural events in Norway is also a high priority in the work agenda of the Brazilian Embassy in Oslo. An effort to boost Norwegian tourism to Brazil – aimed at transforming Brazil in a relevant tropical holidays option for Norwegians – is also recommendable. And last but not least, we must ensure that the Embassy will provide as good consular services as possible to the growing Brazilian community in Norway and to all local citizens that require our services. By the way, it is also a priority of the Embassy to keep in communication with the Brazilian community as well as with the business and cultural Norwegian sectors, dealing with Brazilian subjects.
Q: What do you see as the main challenges?
A: Considering the state of the Brazilian-Norwegian relationship, the main challenge is to preserve what has been built in these years by all people involved in activities framed in that relationship. Brazil, with its pre-salt opportunities and huge market opportunity in other fields, besides oil and gas, that is within services, portfolio investments, chemicals, shipping, food production and processing, mining, metallurgy, energy generation et cetera, has become very important to Norway, and Norway – with the stepping up of its famous Brazil Strategy – has become a key partner to Brazil. The goal is to keep that dynamic and mutual benefiting relationship going on and to improve it in any possible aspect, because it is a safe path leading to a future of increased Brazilian-Norwegian links and cooperation.
Q: What is your opinion on the relations between the two countries, when it comes to areas of importance, like energy, oil and gas, environment and forest protection, aquaculture and defense?
A: In general I estimate that the relations are at a highly advanced stage. Energy, oil and gas sectors stand as the pillar of the relationship. Brazil is at a crossroads moment in these areas. The pre-salt era will open huge and new economic perspectives for the country. Norwegian companies are in a favorable position to accompany Brazil in this historic economic boosting. Patience and investment are required at this stage, but the return is expected to overcome expectations. Again in the environment and forest protection fields, Norway is a key partner – with its outstanding policy of supporting the forest-keeping countries, as Brazil, in their endeavors to fight deforestation. In aquaculture – an activity in open expansion in Brazil – we hope to see a strong Norwegian presence in association with local companies. There is an enormous ground for exploitation in traditional cultures (shrimp, tilapia, lobster, shellfish) but also in the development of new productive capabilities in Amazon fish species. In the Defense area, cooperation is philosophically based in the mutual background of Brazil and Norway, two enthusiastically pacifist countries that base their international standings on the respect to International Law and on the reinforcement of the UN system. Sharing these principles, both countries look at their Armed Forces as means to preserve peace. We work side by side in many international scenarios of pacification established by legitimate UN mandates. That coincidence of views allows for the eventual occurrence of other kinds of cooperation. Referring to other fields of activity, it is necessary to mention the solid and successful bilateral links in shipbuilding and the traditional presence of Norwegian shipping companies in Brazil, as well as the noticeable presence of Norwegian-originated companies operating in such multiple areas as Fertilizers, Financial Services, Insurance, Agriculture and Power Generation.
Q: Where do you see room for improvements?
A: “Room for improvements” can be found in all sectors because, as a general stance, in any human activity there is always a possibility of doing more and better. But maybe, regarding the Brazilian-Norwegian relations, rather than talking about “improvements” we should talk about “additional growth”. The Brazilian internal market is vibrant and has an important potential to generate increased economic activity. Departing from such a basis of strong and experienced presence in Brazil, Norwegian companies have a favorable perspective to further consolidate their excellent productive structure and their share of the Brazilian market. Stricto sensu, there is definitely room for improvement in the field of educational cooperation, since the number of Brazilian students and technicians sent to Norway for learning courses and research programs may be considerably expanded.
Q: It is commonly said that Norwegians and Brazilians get along very well. Why is that?
A: From my personal observation both are people that cultivate a good balance in characteristics as frankness, generosity, informality, innovation, interest for what is good in life, love of sun and sea. There can also be some contrasts between the two people, but the common ground is wide.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: I would like to greet the members of the NBCC, and all the readers, and say that the Embassy of Brazil in Oslo is ready and eager to help to build ever stronger links between Brazil and Norway, and to renew the belief in a bright future for that relationship.
By Runa Hestmann Tierno, NBCC journalist