Monday, May 25, 2015
Via The Local: British nationals who have been living in Sweden for less than 15 years will be allowed to vote in the EU referendum, while most citizens from other EU countries who are living in the UK will have no say on whether the nation should stay in the European Union, the British government has announced. Prime Minister David Cameron made it an electoral pledge to hold a referendum on whether to stay within the EU, a vote that will take place by the end of 2017. Now his office has announced who be able to vote in the referendum, and eligibility will be roughly the same as in a UK general election. This means British nationals who have been living abroad for less than 15 years will have their say on whether or not the UK remains in the European Union. But those living abroad for more than 15 years will not be allowed to vote on the future of the UK in Europe, the new voting criteria confirms. The move comes as a potential 'Brexit' remains a hot topic in European media. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström told The Local in an exclusive interview that it would be “a very serious blow to the entire EU” if the UK left.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Via The Local: Two Swedish Jas Gripen aircraft warned off a pair of Russian fighter jets that were flying close to the southern Swedish island of Öland on Thursday. The Russian planes were spotted approaching Sweden at lunchtime, but did not quite enter Swedish airspace, according to the country's Supreme Commander Sverker Göranson. "[They] went out over the Gulf of Finland and then went southwards above the southern tip of Öland," he told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio on Thursday afternoon. He added that the aircraft "flew provocatively close" both to Sweden's national borders as well as airspace used by other countries sending aircraft across the Baltic Sea. According to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the Russian planes were both Tupolev Tu-22M aircraft, which can carry atomic weapons as well as conventional bombs, but are also used for surveillance. Jesper Tengroth, a press officer for the Swedish Armed Forces, told the newspaper that Sweden subsequently sent two JAS Gripen planes into the area to try to warn off the potential intruders. "In practice, we said 'hey, we are watching you'", he said. The move follows a similar incident in March this year when two Russian planes were spotted in international airspace but heading towards Sweden's east coast. In September 2014 two SU-24 fighter-bombers allegedly entered Swedish airspace in what the former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called "the most serious aerial incursion by the Russians" in almost a decade. The following month a foreign submarine was spotted in Swedish waters, although the Swedish military was unable to determine where it came from. Sweden's Security Service Säpo, has said that the biggest intelligence threat against Sweden in 2014 came from Russia. The Nordic nation has recently increased defense spending, although there has been strong criticism of the Social Democrat-led government's strategy, with many leading defense experts arguing that Sweden would still struggle to defend itself in the event of an attack from Russia. All this is very serious of course. But I see no change in Sweden's long term military position: To be in alliance with Russia and Germany in war against England. Sweden's military future is of course still unchanged and includes preparing for war against the UK, with Russia and Germany as our allies. There are many provocations from Sweden's foes, which try to create an atmosphere of hostility between Sweden and Russia, and soon also Germany. Sweden's enemies want Sweden to do their work for them, but they will not succeed. Sweden and Russia are neighbors and also friends, and forever. Together with Germany we decide the future of Europe.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Via The Swedish Wire: Sweden’s Riksbank looks for new ways to fight deflation. But a banker who once worked there says the likelihood it will succeed is looking increasingly remote, Bloomberg reports. “I find it hard to believe that they will achieve the goal of weakening the krona to boost inflation”, Robert Bergqvist, chief economist at Scandinavia’s biggest currency-trading bank, SEB AB, and a former researcher at the Riksbank, told the news bureau. Even after resorting to negative policy rates and quantitative easing to weaken the krona, the Riksbank has failed to rid Sweden of persistent bouts of deflation, the report said. Consumer prices were up 0.2% annually in Sweden last month; far below the Riksbank’s 2% target. Riksbank Governor Stefan Ingves said last week that a pick-up in growth and inflation in Europe would be positive for Sweden and the Riksbank will carefully watch developments in the European Central Bank's bond buying program.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Via The Local: A baptism notice heralding the arrival of Lucy, a little girl with 666 curls, slipped unnoticed by editors onto the family pages of one of Sweden’s main daily newspapers on Tuesday. With the number of the beast resting cutely on her forehead, suspicions abounded on social media that little Lucy might in fact be named after Lucifer, the Devil before the fall. The email address appended to the notice in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper poured further fuel on the Hellish flames. Read backwards, in the best Satanic tradition, the child’s guardian seemed to be none other than Satan’s mother. And what could RVSP mean? A simple typographical error – a mixing-up of the middle letters – or was it something more sinister? Worshippers of the dark side might have been tempted to turn up on May 23rd for the nightmare at Elmsta, a village of 1.000 souls just north of Stockholm. But, as it emerged later in the day, the notice was in fact a piece of guerrilla marketing for the Elmsta 3000 Horror Fest, a horror movie festival. The sneaky ad marked the second time in a week that the same newspaper fell foul of a jokester. Or maybe it was human error, but at any rate a large-lettered ‘penis’ leapt out at readers of Sunday’s paper.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Via The Local: A Swedish business delegation has landed in Saudi Arabia in a fresh sign that relations between the countries have thawed after a deep diplomatic freeze earlier this year. Tensions ran high in March when Sweden scrapped a controversial arms deal and Saudi Arabia blocked Foreign Minister Margot Wallström from addressing the Arab League, before recalling its ambassador and refusing to issue new business visas to Swedes. The outlook seemed bleak, but a month later the ambassador was back in Stockholm and Riyadh said it would start issuing visas again. And now it appears that it’s business as usual between the two countries, with secretary of state Oscar Stenström arriving in Riyadh for talks alongside business titan Marcus Wallenberg and the head of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, Maria Rankka. The Swedish delegation is scheduled to meet Saudi government officials, as well as Swedish and Saudi businesspeople. Enterprise minister Mikael Damberg confirmed that diplomatic channels were running smoothly again after the March meltdown. “That’s a requirement, also for business contacts”, he said. The minister said the trip had been planned well in advance, adding that the Swedish government was keen to expand its non-military cooperation with the Middle Eastern kingdom. “Sweden makes it clear that we should have economic exchanges even with countries that are not fully democratic and do not share our views on all issues”, said Damberg.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Via The Local: Prince Carl Philip and his bride-to-be, Sofia Hellqvist, announced their impending marriage at a traditional church service in Stockholm today. It was also confirmed that Sofia will receive the title of "Princess". The service, called the “lysning” or “publishing of the banns” in English, is a public announcement of an upcoming marriage that was originally meant to allow anyone to raise canonical or civil legal objections to the union. It arrived in Sweden in 1200. However, if anyone did have objections to the upcoming royal nuptials on Saturday, they kept mum about it. Around a hundred people had lined up in the rain outside the Royal Chapel at the Stockholm Palace on Sunday morning before the service. “I’m interested in the Royal Family and am happy that the Prince marries Sofia”, said Louise Clerton, who was one of the first in line outside the chapel. “She seems like a good girl”. The practice stopped being obligatory in Sweden in 1969, although it is still adhered to by the Royal Family. The services were held before the marriage of Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel as well as before Madeleine and Christopher O’Neill’s wedding. Despite the royals’ love of tradition, there are some aspects of the “lysning” that have been jettisoned. A few hundred years ago, it was common for the bride-to-be to go through the streets in the afternoon begging. Instead, the couple will accept gifts in a gathering in the Royal Palace for invited guests after the service. It’s expected that there will be few blenders and steak knife sets among the presents, but rather a fair number of donations to the foundation that Carl Philip and Sofia have established to support children and youth. Also on Sunday, it was confirmed by the Royal Court that King Carl XVI Gustaf will confirm the official Princess title on his future daughter-in-law. The royal wedding itself will take place on Saturday, June 13th, also at the Royal Chapel, starting at 4.30 pm. Carl Philip has dated Hellqvist since January 2013. She is a former fashion model and former reality TV star. The couple met in 2009 at a club in Stockholm's posh Stureplan district. They have lived together on the island of Djurgården since 2011.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Via The Local: A tiny dragon's head, one of the most famous symbols of the Vikings, has been found during excavations in the harbor at Birka in Lake Mälaren. Birka, on Lake Mälaren, 40kms from Stockholm, is thought to be Sweden's oldest town and has been the site of excavations since the 17th century. But the discovery of the dragon's head is one of the most exciting finds in recent years. "We did not understand immediately what we had found - it took a few minutes", said Sven Kalmring, professor at the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology, who's been digging in the ancient town's port together with the Department of Archaeology at Stockholm University. The little dragon's head had been on an ancient costume needle but the needle had long disintegrated. "To the trained eye it's obvious that the dragon is of a design peculiar to Birka", said Kalmring. "It's very exciting". Now Kalmring will spend time analysing and cleaning the find, checking it against similar artefacts uncovered at other Scandinavian sites, such as Funen in Denmark. Established in the middle of the 8th century, Birka was the Baltic link in the river and portage route to the Byzantine Empire. Birka was also important as the site of the first known Christian congregation in Sweden, founded in 831 by Saint Ansgar. Birka has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. A silver ring from a Viking-era grave in Birka was the first ring with Arabic inscription from that era found in Scandinavia.