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'There is much more to World Cup than winning'
20 Jan 2014 Beata Balogová Foreigners in Slovakia
WHILE the ultimate dream of many Brazilians for 2014 is to see their homeland win the World Cup, hosted by Brazil, Susan Kleebank suggests that there is much more to the event than winning, as it will “reinforce the positive image of our diversity and promote values such as tolerance and mutual respect among people of the most different origins”.
The Brazilian ambassador to Slovakia explained in an interview with The Slovak Spectator the challenges associated with hosting such a high-profile event, as well as the issues her homeland faces in other spheres: environmental protection, the fight against corruption and the strengthening of the economy.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Brazil will be dominating 2014 in the sports world as the host of the World Cup, which will take place in 12 cities across Brazil. What are the main challenges for Brazil associated with this event?
TSS: Last year world media reported on several protests against the amount of money to be spent on the World Cup 2014. Have these protests affected the preparations or the event itself?
TSS: After the World Cup, Brazil will host the Olympic Games in 2016. Will your country use this global event for communicating some broader messages that transcend the boundaries of sports? If so, what messages will Brazil try to emphasise?
TSS: After a decade of growth, Brazil’s economy, considered a rising star, grew over the past three years at barely 2 percent on average and in the third quarter of 2013 it shrank more than analysts had predicted. What are the main challenges your homeland’s economy currently faces so as not to lose its momentum?
TSS: While Brazil has made improvements in fighting corruption, Transparency International still ranks the country among those suffering from a high perception of corruption. A new anti-bribery law is expected to become effective in February 2014. What are the main features of this legislation?
Another landmark law in the fight against corruption in Brazil is the Transparency Law, which ensures the right for any Brazilian citizen to request information on government activities and expenditures. It is important to emphasise that information on all expenditures by the Brazilian government are available online at the so-called Transparency Homepage.
TSS: Deforestation of the rainforest is a major environmental challenge. Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said that deforestation increased 28 percent between August 2012 and July 2013. How is Brazil addressing this trend and what are the most important changes over the past couple of years?
I think that a very important one is the fact that, according to our Forest Code, all land properties must keep a certain percentage of their area intact and fully preserved. In the Amazon region, this proportion reaches 80 percent. This is on top of the fact that Brazil has 313 Protected Areas, which cover 9 percent of the national territory. Brazil has also made progress in enforcement, admittedly a very difficult challenge in remote areas of the country. The government is able to keep track of deforestation in real time, through satellite images provided by INPE, the national space agency.
At the international level we have emphasised the view that the world needs a comprehensive approach to preserve the environment. In order to work towards this common endeavour, we must not forget the importance of sustainable development and social inclusion. Poverty leads to environmental destruction.
TSS: While hydropower remains Brazil’s main source for generating electricity, there are plans to build more nuclear power stations. What are the reasons behind these plans? Are there any possibilities for the development of Brazilian-Slovak cooperation in nuclear energy?
Nuclear power does not have a leading role in our energy matrix. Its participation is about 2 percent, a level that will persist until 2020. The first nuclear plant, Angra I, was built in the 1970s. The second, Angra II, started operations in 2000, while Angra III is under construction and will be ready in May 2018, generating more than 10 million MWh/year, an amount of energy sufficient to simultaneously supply the capital Brasília and Belo Horizonte, ranking 3rd and 4th places in the participation in the Brazilian GDP respectively. At this point, I have no information on specific cooperation initiatives between Brazil and Slovakia in the sphere of nuclear energy.
TSS: The Brazilian 200-million market also attracts Slovak companies and some have already succeeded there: for example Sygic supplies its navigation systems. In which sectors do you see the greatest potential for Slovak companies to succeed?
Despite the still modest Slovak presence in Brazil, there is growing interest in exploring new opportunities, as shown by numerous requests for information addressed to the embassy, as well as by the results of the seminar “Doing Business in Brazil”, promoted together with the Slovak Chamber of Commerce last November. At that occasion, for instance, investments in biofuel production and in infrastructure, construction and maintenance of ports, airports, roads and highways, stood out as promising areas.
TSS: What sectors of the Slovak economy might be attractive to Brazilian investors? How do they view Slovakia as an investment location?
All Brazilian investments are located in Spišská Nová Ves: Embraco, a producer of refrigerator compressors, employs more than 2,500 workers and is expanding its production plan. Its Brazilian suppliers, CRW, Rudolph Usinados and Micro Juntas, are doing very well; working in full capacity, together with Embraco-SK and Embraco-Italy, they are supplying other important companies such as VW, Bosch, GM and CZW. Their perspectives are very positive and they are a showcase for the good investment possibilities in Slovakia.
TSS: You have already organised several events involving Brazilian architecture here in Slovakia. What aspects of Brazilian architecture do you believe are interesting to Slovaks? How do you assess the responses of Slovaks to these events?
The Slovak public showed interest regarding several areas, such as the influence of the modernists Oscar Niemeyer and Paulo Mendes da Rocha in contemporary architecture worldwide, Brazilian projects abroad, urban planning, local construction techniques, for example, the “cheaper concrete” conceived by architect Joao Filgueiras, official programmes to promote lower income housing, like “My House, My Life”, one of the main social programmes of President Dilma Rousseff’s government, among others. The local response was very positive, and the embassy was encouraged to pursue new initiatives in this area.
TSS: Do you feel that Slovaks know enough about Brazil? What aspects of Brazilian culture have you presented in Slovakia and what aspects do you consider to be of interest to Slovaks and vice versa?
TSS: Brazil is the top destination to visit in 2014, according to the Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2014. Has the tourism potential between Slovakia and Brazil been fully explored? What aspects of Slovakia might be of interest to Brazilian tourists?
Tourist agents are in contact with the embassy and Latam, while the embassy’s trade section can provide any information of interest in this regard. There are no direct flights between Slovakia and Brazil, but connections are easy and convenient. For instance, Latam offers a €855 pass that enables the traveller to visit seven cities in Brazil and another three South American countries in 40 days.
TSS: You started your diplomatic mission here in Slovakia more than a year ago. What has surprised you the most, either positively or negatively, after arriving here?
Slovakia also supported Brazil in a number of important international issues.
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