Ms Twinning retires
Consulting Counsellor Eija-Leena Linkola, who will retire in September, has experienced a high level of work engagement throughout her long career.
Photo: Pia Linkola
"There has always been fascinating work duties and I have never had to drag my feet to go to work. Good workplaces and inspiring tasks have been the spice of my working life," says Eija-Leena Linkola, head of the Twinning team at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Linkola has a long and interesting career in the state administration. She moved to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs about ten years ago when Twinning activities were transferred there from the Ministry of Finance – and remained in the service of the Foreign Ministry. In Twinning projects, Finnish experts help partner countries develop their own public administrations.
The development of administrations has been the common thread all along her career.
"Many a time have I sat at a clean table to take care of a task that no one has ever done," she says.
Experience from many angles
Twinning became a part of Linkola's work in 1999 when she launched it in Finland alongside her other work duties. At the beginning of the 21st century, she served at the European Commission, where she participated in the creation of rules for the activities.
Linkola gained practical experience of Twinning in the Czech Republic in 2001–2003.
"My duty was to help their ministries get prepared for EU membership and reform their personnel administration and budgeting. I led there an extensive project launched by the Ministry of Finance, which involved 50 Finnish and French experts," she tells.
According to Linkola, for the Commission, Twinning is a success story that has expanded to new countries. Today there are 25 countries with which it cooperates on a daily basis.
She considers that openness and the large number of partners of cooperation are the spice of the work. "You can approach each of them differently because of their different cultures and practices.
Twinning cooperation is results-oriented.
"Performance management was in use in the Ministry of Finance back when I worked there. Our team has its own performance targets that are monitored carefully. We have exceeded them in several years." Linkola says.
Marketing and spurring
Marketing is a central part of the work because it is important to arouse the interest of the leadership of government agencies and ministries and encourage experts to join.
"Cost pressures are enormous on every side and agencies are careful in that where they hire experts at any given time. It seems, however, that they appreciate the opportunities offered by Twinning for international development work that takes place in cooperation. It increases the agencies' expertise and brings them international visibility," Linkola ponders.
Agencies need support also at the tendering phase in order to find correct sales arguments, because competition for projects is intense between the member states. As many as six tenders may be placed out to compete for one project.
According to Linkola, Finnish agencies are not used to advertise their strengths and to sell their expertise.
Working in the forest, travelling and consultancy work
Eija Linkola intends to enjoy the summer at her summer cottage, where she can work in the forest, for example. In the autumn, the newly-retired pensioner may consider interesting consultancy assignments, which there seem to be on offer.
"I could try the private sector and see what it is like to serve as a consultant," she thinks.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has offered short stays in different countries. "It would be nice to learn more about them. In the past three years I have worked with Greece and Croatia, for example. And the beautiful Greek archipelago attracts my interest," she says and mentions also Morocco as a place of interest.
Twinning is a European Union instrument for institutional cooperation between EU Member States and the southern and eastern neighbourhood partner countries. Funding for it comes from the EU's funding channels for the neighbourhood and enlargement policy (Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance, IPA).
Finland has won a total of 175 projects, worth an average of EUR 1 to 1.5 million. About a hundred of them are borne by Finland and the rest of them are a shared responsibility of Finland and another member state. The EU pays projects' direct expenses.
"In a way we are claiming back our membership fee of the EU and gaining a foothold in these countries. The development of administrative structures and legislation has laid a foundation for a better business environment and secondary markets for Finnish companies. Finland has a high quality public administration and I am proud to have been able to showcase it abroad. In that sense, I can retire in good spirits," Linkola says.
The author of the text works as Communications Coordinator in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.