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Helsinki and the Northern Region of Brewers of Europe

On 17/11/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The UK and Ireland are part of the Northern Region of Brewers of Europe and we meet on a regular basis to exchange views and learn from each other – collectively we then have one place on the Executive Committee of BoE and we make sure that we put forward positive and collaborative views.

Helsinki, 1,800 miles to the East of the UK with a population of around one million people. I last visited some 25 years ago for a conference and some of its architecture was and is stunning. It is very much ‘east meets west’ with Lutheran and Orthodox cathedrals. Given its proximity to St Petersburg, you might expect Russian Orthodox, but apparently the congregation is the responsibility of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop! Next year Finland will celebrate 100 years of independence from Russia in 1916. They are one of the few cities where you can find a monument to a Russian Tsar.

On the Gulf of Finland which leads to the Baltic Sea, Helsinki is at this time of year rather cold and dark. The sun does not rise until nearly 8.30 and car lights are on soon after 2pm. Christmas in a sense comes early as fairy lights are seen everywhere, but an impressive number of people were out running with me at 7am on Friday, although I suspect few were as aware as I was that it was still 5am in the UK!

Border trading is clearly an issues for Scandinavia; particularly with the German border where beer duty is so much lower and with Estonia where cruise ships cross backwards and forwards to Helsinki all the time. I gave an interview to a Finnish marketing magazine and newspaper, talking about the prohibitive attitude of the Finnish Government which prevents advertising of alcohol even through social media and our work in the UK on the responsibility deal and what can be achieved when Government and industry work together.

Northern countries are striving to help migrants; Sweden in particular has taken 86,000 refugees this year alone. Swedish breweries have decided to offer four months of unpaid work at their breweries to offer training and skills to help these people find new jobs.

Little did any of us know of the unfathomable cruelty and acts of terrorism which were to take place in Paris that evening. Everyone was united in wanting to help those in trouble. Their thoughts and ours are with the people of France.


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