RICHARD MILNE joined The Financial Times in 2003 and soon found himself in Oslo reporting the Nordic and Baltic region’s economy and politics…
Richard, first off: how did you end up reporting the Nordics and Baltics?
Well, I ended up in the Nordics via a pretty typical root: being the trailing spouse. My partner is Norwegian, and when we had children, her homing device came on and we moved to Norway. It’s a fantastic place to bring up children. I first moved here on another job with the FT, then I took up the Nordic and Baltic job in 2012, moving the office from Stockholm to Oslo.
You arrived, I believe, in 2003, when Norway’s oil boom was well-established. Has it changed the nation?
No, I moved in 2011. I started at the FT in 2003. I wrote a piece fairly early on where I quoted an author that said oil ‘changed Norway’s DNA’. I think that’s still true. Something like Jante Law is still there, but less so than it was, because the country has become so rich. The International Energy Agency has said there’s no need to have any new oil fields. The Green Party has said they don’t want to go into government with anyone who wants to carry on oil exploration. But for me the most interesting thing is how sensible Norway has been in diverting all its petroleum into a sovereign fund – the largest in the world, owning the equivalent of 1 per cent in every company on the world stock exchange. For my readers, that’s incredibly important.
Stockholm is often regarded as the ‘capital of the Nordics’. Was it difficult to move your bureau to Oslo?
Yes. My reporting is different to others because it’s equally about business. There, Sweden has always been the most important country. I see parallels between the pandemic and the migrant crisis, both of which set Sweden apart.
As well as reporting the Nordics, your role is also to cover the Baltic nations. Tell us about that.
It’s a very interesting region. You can almost divide it between the three countries. Estonia has cultural links with Finland. Latvia has trade links with Germany. Lithuania has historical links with Poland. I think the region’s importance has only risen since Russia annexed the Crimea in 2014. There’s been a lot of attention on security and defence. But, on the business side, Danske Bank and Swedbank have had scandals in the Baltic countries.
RICHARD MILNE is Nordic and Baltic Correspondent for The Financial Times.
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