H. E Jan Thesleff, Ambassador of Sweden to the United Arab Emirates and to the Kingdom of Bahrain was born in Lund, Sweden. To him, Diplomacy is a little bit more than a career and very rewarding. The people you meet, the countries and cultures you get to know, as well as your diplomatic colleagues, make it all worth it, he tells us. We find out more about him and his thoughts.
H.E Jan is a family man influenced by his dad, Professor Stephen Thesleff, mother Mr. Ulla Thesleff (deceased) and sibling Dr. Peter Thesleff, a medical doctor and owner of private clinics. H.E Jan got married in 1993 and has two wonderful children. He was appointed as Sweden’s Ambassador to the UAE after serving as Sweden’s Ambassador to Tunisia and Libya, as well as Sweden’s Special Envoy for the Syria Crisis. He has also served as Sweden’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, State of Kuwait, Sultanate of Oman and Yemen.
H.E Jan grew up in a small university town in southern Sweden hoping to follow his father’s footsteps to become a scientist, but he found himself more active in the school theatre. For education, H E Jan attended the University of Lund (Sweden), the University Paul Valéry in Montpellier (France) and the University of Tunis (Tunisia). He also studied history at the University of Virginia (USA), Diplomatic Academy in Stockholm after joining the Foreign Service and has a degree in Law, Business Administration and Languages (French and Arabic).
H. E Jan tells us that Sweden and the UAE maintain close, long-term relations with more than 4200 Swedish nationals living and working here. About 220 companies are active in the UAE, including household names, such as IKEA, H&M, Volvo, Scania, Ericsson, ABB, EF Education, Alfa Laval, SensysGatso, Elekta, Getinge and Axis Communications. To enhance relations, Business Sweden has about 15 consultants. H. E Jan spends a lot of time networking, building and strengthening relations with Emirati contacts and friends, both official and from the private sector.
He mentions, “Our two countries, the UAE and Sweden have a lot in common, investing in innovation, research and development and promoting small and middle-sized enterprises (SMEs). I was very proud when we concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in this area to boost relations even more.”
If not a Diplomat, H. E Jan would have been in the arts. He likes creativity and tries to bring modest artistry and new thinking into the diplomatic work. He enjoys the privilege of being surrounded by diplomatic colleagues from all over the world who are a great support and inspiration to him. Sweden is an active and devoted member of the European Union, so exchange with his European colleagues in UAE is important.
H. E. Jan said, “The greatest achievement of us as Diplomats is that we strengthen relations, build confidence and become privileged partners, in politics, education, business and culture. I am very proud of the visit by Her Majesty the Queen of Sweden, the Global Child Forum, the exchange of ministerial visits, delegations and dialogue we have with our Emirati colleagues for sustainability matters. The hardest moments are always when you deal with individuals in need and despair but helping people in difficulty gives a satisfaction that is unrivaled.”
“Sweden is a country of only 10 million people but we are very visible on the world stage, as smaller countries have to be more active, more innovative and engage in building networks in order to thrive. The UAE is such a dynamic place and it is a privilege to serve here. The vision of the leadership of this country, embodied by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayan (father of the Nation), to build a diversified economy, a transportation and logistics hub, using the natural resources as basis for a sustainable economic development, has been crucial for what we see today. The Dubai Expo 2020 is also a great opportunity for us as well.”
On the personal front, H.E Jan likes architecture and is an avid art collector. For sports he likes running and swimming and skiing. His family has been involved in horse racing both in Sweden and internationally and run a racing horse stud in southern Sweden. For cars, he likes the Embassy’s brand-new Volvo cars, with sleek design and high safety standards.
For yachts, he was basically born on a sailing boat 57 years ago and still sails with friends. H. E Jan enjoys travelling a lot, professionally and privately and as he is also Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, Manama is a frequent destination. He likes going home to Sweden and encourages more Emiratis to visit Sweden as it offers visa freedom, direct flights, breathtaking natural beauty, personal safety and an English-speaking population.
For hobbies, his current reading is ‘Naked Diplomacy’ by the British Diplomat Tom Fletcher. He also likes art books, biographies and enjoys jazz music, opera, listening to Fairuz and his favourite movie is Casablanca. He spends most evenings with colleagues and local friends building networks and promoting bilateral relations. He is very active for professional work on Twitter as he comes from a country that is a leader when it comes to mobile technology and E-solutions having grown up with tech-giants such as Ericsson, Skype and Spotify.
H.E Jan is most happy when he and his family can make positive changes to the lives of others. He appreciates loyalty and continuity and manages to keep a fantastic group of friends from all over the world. He currently lives in the Ambassador’s Residence in Abu Dhabi but has an apartment in the center of Stockholm, a farm in Sweden and a small village house in an 18th century village in southern Spain.
H. E Jan concludes by saying, “I love Abu Dhabi. There is a human touch to the city and cultural life is unique in the Middle East. I look forward to the opening of the new museums on Saadiyat Island. I enjoy the ethnic mix of people from all over the world living and working here and every morning when I wake up and look out of my window, I can see the Arabian Gulf – that is a true luxury.”