Sunday, May 31, 2015
Via The Local: The Swedish coast guard ship Poseidon has arrived in the Mediterranean and tomorrow begins taking part in operation Triton, the EU border rescue operation. Poseidon's mission is to save the lives of migrants trying to get to Europe. Sweden’s participation in operation Triton comes as the Mediterranean migrant crisis reaches a new apex. More than 5.000 people trying to reach Europe have been saved from boats in distress in the Mediterranean since Friday and operations are currently underway to rescue another 500, European Union authorities said on Sunday. In an interview with Swedish Radio News, commander Peo Allard said that the Swedes on board Poseidon had never undertaken a mission quite like this one, but had been trained and mentally prepared at home. “They received information on why people are driven to flee”, he said. “The most difficult challenge will be meeting these overcrowded boats”, he added. “It’s a completely new kind of assignment for us, but something I have no doubt we can manage”. The Poseidon has been outfitted with special equipment in order to take on a large number of migrants. The ship has portable toilets and private rooms for women and children. Sails have been put up to create shade for protection from the Mediterranean heat. The Swedish government announced more than a month ago it was prepared to send surveillance ships to the Mediterranean as the humanitarian crisis there continued to grow. Before the Poseidon set out on its mission from Gothenburg on May 21, Home Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman spoke of what motivated the government to participate. “It is the suffering we are seeing in the Mediterranean where thousands of people risk their lives in flimsy vessels”, he said. “It was obvious to the government that Sweden should help”. Sweden sent planes and ships to the Mediterranean in 2009, 2010, and 2013 to help spot migrant boats and has contributed twice to the anti-pirate mission Atalanta off the coast of Somalia. Operation Triton is being run by Frontex, an EU agency that manages cooperation between national border protection agencies to cut down on illegal immigration and human trafficking. Sweden will participate in operation Triton until the end of August.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Via The Local: Travelers from Stockholm will have an easier time entering the U.S. in the future. The U.S. has decided to make Arlanda a “preclearance” airport, meaning customs procedures will take place on Swedish soil. Under the preclearance system, the US passport control and customs service will set up facilities in Arlanda and international travelers will undergo checks there instead of after landing in the United States. Sweden’s is one of nine countries where the United States has recently decided to set up these so-called “fast lanes”. “Arlanda was chosen because it meets many of our requirements”, U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Mark Brzezinski told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. He said Arlanda had a high technical standard, a good administration, and that the Swedish government had expressed enthusiasm about gaining preclearance status. “It will simplify travel, reduce waiting times and the pressure in our arrival terminals, and increase security”, he added. Swedavia, which operates all airports in Sweden, sent a letter of interest about the preclearance plan to the U.S. last year. The U.S. government then began an assessment of the applicant airports to decide which airports to begin formal negotiations with. Those negotiations are set to begin soon and expected to last from 12 to 18 months. The preclearance procedures could be introduced shortly after that, Brzezinski said. Swedish Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg had fought hard to get preclearance status and said he was very satisfied with the American decision. He did say there were still legal challenges ahead. “American border control procedures will be carried out on Swedish soil, so we have to straighten out the rules that will apply”, he said. “It will likely demand new legislation so there is serious work to be done”. But he said the advantages to preclearance status were clear, not only for travelers but for Sweden’s competitiveness within Europe. The U.S. preclearance system is currently in place in only two airports in the EU, both in Ireland.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Via The Local: One of Sweden's biggest banks has warned that too many potential buyers in Gothenburg and Stockholm are set to spend more than 30 percent of their disposable income on monthly mortgage payments and related costs, putting them in danger of potential financial problems in future. Apartment prices have shot up in Gothenburg and Stockholm in recent months with one-bedroom properties in central locations regularly selling for more than three million kronor ($352.439). Researchers at Swedbank, which has eight million customers across Sweden, have been closely analysing mortgage payments for the bank's annual Boindex (property index) and are warning that people living in the heart of the nation's cities are facing growing "affordability problems" due to needing to fork out more than 30 percent of their post-tax salaries on mortgage payments and other related costs. "Housing affordability is rather good on an overall basis in Sweden but there is a very divided market and the average buyer of a cooperative apartment in Stockholm or Gothenburg is facing a higher risk than in the past", Jan Ihrfelt, an analyst for Swedbank, told The Local on Thursday. The bank's Boindex scores the purchasing power of households, with 100 presented as the minimum figure needed in order to avoid financial risk, and the point at which mortgage payments and other fees and bills linked to accommodation represent less than 30 percent of disposable income. While the average result across Sweden for those living in cooperative apartments is 120, households in central Stockholm scored 99, while in Gothenburg city centre the figure was 97 in the latest research. For those able to afford houses in Sweden's major urban centers, the Boindex suggested a slightly more favorable picture, with Stockholm given a score of 110 and Gothenburg reaching 104. "This admittedly gives a bit of a margin, but not a major one", said Ihrelt. "These figures might sound very close to 100, but they represent a critical point. Once people exceed spending 30 percent of their income on accomodation costs, they have lower margins and could be at risk for example if interest rates go up in a year or year and a half", he added. "We should learn that the pricing of city located residential apartments is reaching its limit because people can't really afford what they are buying". But his warning suggests there could be good news for first-time buyers hoping to make an apartment purchase in the near future, as people become "more hesitant" about making purchases. "When we have studied housing bubbles in other cities in the past we have seen that every single bubble starts with high priced new build apartments. Then when people put more than 30 percent of their disposable income down on housing costs, prices are eventually pushed down".
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Via Disclose.tv: The universe is full of mysteries that challenge our current knowledge. In "Beyond Science" Epoch Times collects stories about these strange phenomena to stimulate the imagination and open up previously undreamed of possibilities. Are they true? You decide. According to ancient Indian legend, King Rama built a bridge between India and Sri Lanka more than a million years ago. Some have looked at NASA satellite images and noted what looks like the remnants of such a bridge. The question is whether it is man-made or a natural formation. The Encyclopedia Britannica describes it as a “chain of shoals”, but notes: “Traditionally, it is said to be the remnant of a huge causeway constructed by Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic ‘Ramayana,’ to facilitate the passage of his army from India to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) for the rescue of his abducted wife, Sita. According to Muslim legend, Adam crossed there to Adam’s Peak, Ceylon, atop which he stood repentant on one foot for 1.000 years”. It is known in English as “Adam’s Bridge”. It is often called Rama Setu or Ram Setu in India, named for King Rama. The truth of its origin is buried in political and religious controversy. Some have wanted to destroy the remnants of the bridge to open up a shipping channel. The proposal has been denounced by others as heresy and destruction of an important ancient heritage structure. Dr. Badrinarayanan, former director of the Geological Survey of India and former coordinator of the survey division of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) in Chennai, studied core samples from the bridge. He told Rediff magazine that, in the 32-foot (10-meter) samples, “We found marine sands on top and below that was a mixed assemblage of corals, calcareous sand stones, and boulder-like materials. Surprisingly below that up to 4–5 meters [13–16 feet], again we found loose sand and after that, hard formations were there”. He surmised that the boulders must have been artificially placed there. Puzzled by the appearance of boulders on top of a marine sand layer, he surmised that the boulders must have been artificially placed there. The “Ramayana” describes the dimensions of the bridge as 100 yojana in length and 10 yojana in width. One yojana is equivalent to about 5 miles (8 kilometers). This would mean a bridge of astronomical proportions, clearly not fitting the bridge observed there today. Yet, the ratio thus described may fit. The ratio of 10:1 (length:width) fits the actual measurements of the bridge observed today. A group dedicated to a scholarly study of traditional Indian culture from a spiritual background, Bharath Gyan, noted that the ratio of 10:1 (length:width) fits the actual measurements of the bridge observed today. The bridge is about 35 kilometers (21 miles) long, and 3.5 kilometers (2.1 miles) wide. Of course, the bridge as it exists today is not perfectly uniform and the width varies slightly at different points.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Via The Local: Russian military forces have launched an unexpected huge military exercise, which is taking place as Sweden continues to host thousands of troops from nine countries for a similar war games simulation. Russia’s military exercise is more than three times the size of the event taking place in northern Sweden this week and is set to involve more than 12.000 soldiers. The Russian military exercise involves 250 aircraft and other weapons. It also said long-range Russian bombers will launch cruise missiles at practice targets at a Siberian firing range. The exercise is part of a series of Russian military maneuvers taking place amid tensions with the West over Russian actions in Ukraine. The current drills are preparation for even more massive Center-2015 maneuvers set for later this year. The event, which was described by the Russian defense ministry as a “massive surprise inspection”, according to the BBC, is designed to check how prepared the country is for combat. It is understood to be taking place in Russian airspace and in the Komi Republic in northern Russia and will include cruise missile strikes on practice targets. The manoeuvres come at a time of heightened tension in the region as Nordic countries report increased Russian airforce activity close to their borders. Sweden’s security service Säpo recently stated that the biggest intelligence threat against the Nordic country in 2014 came from its eastern neighbor. The parallel Nordic air force exercises simulating a UN peacekeeping mission got underway in Sweden's sub-Arctic north on Monday. The war games -- involving 115 fighter planes and 3,600 troops from nine countries -- are being held under the auspices of Nordic military cooperation between non-aligned Sweden and Finland and their NATO neighbor Norway. Joining the Nordic nations were troops and planes from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands -- all Nato members -- as well as neutral Switzerland -- using bases in the far north of Sweden, Norway, and Finland. "I'm looking forward to exercises that prepare Sweden's and Europe's airforces for future challenges and missions", Colonel Carl-Johan Edström, head of Sweden's northern air force fleet, said in a statement at the launch of the Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE). "We create our security together with others and that means we need to train", he added. Similar exercises involving fewer countries were held in 2013. In April all five Nordic defense ministers published an op-ed article in a Norwegian daily announcing closer military cooperation. "The Russian military are acting in a challenging way along our borders", they wrote, adding that "we must be prepared to face possible crises or incidents". The exercises continue until June 4th and will be followed on June 5th by NATO’s annual Baltops (Baltic Operations) manoeuvres with 4.500 troops from 17 countries. "These kind of activities send a security policy signal that demonstrate that we can carry out advanced operations," said Swedish Major General Karl Engelbrektson in a statement. "At the same time we're showing solidarity towards the other participants, especially our nearest neighbors".
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.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Via RT: The Vatican has become the latest country to recognize the state of Palestine, after a new treaty was finalized on Wednesday. Unsurprisingly Israel has hit out at the move, saying that it damages prospects for peace in the region. The treaty, which was agreed, though has yet to be formally signed states the Vatican has switched its diplomatic allegiance from the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the state of Palestine. It was finalized days before the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is due to visit Pope Francis. Abbas is traveling to the Vatican to attend the canonization of four new saints by the Pope, two of which are Palestinian nuns. The move to grant them sainthood has been described as a "sign of hope" for the region by the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, Vatican Insider reports. The Vatican has been unofficially referring to the state of Palestine for over a year. Pope Francis visited Israel last year and the Vatican’s official program referred to Abbas as the President of the state of Palestine. During his visit to the Holy Land, he called for peace from both sides. A spokesman for the Vatican, the Reverend Federico Lombardi confirmed the news saying: "Yes, it's a recognition that the state exists", AP reports. The decision has brought condemnation from Israel, with the country’s foreign ministry saying it was “disappointed” at the move. "This move does not promote the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations", the ministry said in a text message, AP reported. "Israel will study the agreement and will consider its steps accordingly". Vatican Foreign Minister Monsignor Antoine Camilleri said the move was not politically motivated, but was simply in line with the Holy See’s position. In 2012, the Vatican welcomed a decision by the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state. However, the latest treaty is the first legal document between the Vatican and the state of Palestine, which can be considered as official diplomatic recognition. The treaty in question concerns the activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine. In April 2014, a Catholic Monastery was vandalized not far from the Israeli capital of Jerusalem in a hate crime carried out by Israelis. Slogans condemning peace talks with Palestine as well as graffiti disparaging Jesus and Mary was daubed on the walls. This is not the first time that Pope Francis has made a diplomatic decision that was not to everyone’s liking. In April, he honored the 100th anniversary of the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks and called it “the first genocide of the 20th century”. During a mass at the Armenian Catholic rite at Peter’s Basilica, the Pope said he had a duty to honor the innocent men, women, children, priests and bishops who were murdered by the Ottoman Turks. “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it”, said the pontiff.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden's decision to take in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU nation remained in focus on Wednesday as the European Commission formally presented its plan for member states to share responsibility for refugees fleeing the Middle East and Africa. Asylum figures by the EU's statistics watchdog Eurostat this week confirmed that Sweden is continuing to take in a bigger share of asylum seekers than any other member state, when compared to existing population size. Around 9.6 million people live in the Nordic nation and asylum was granted to more than 33.000 refugees last year. This means that for every one million people in Sweden, the Nordic nation took in 3.424 asylum seekers in 2014. By contrast, Germany took in 589 per one million, while for the UK the figure was just 218. Sweden's rate of acceptance was also the highest in the EU. 77 percent of applicants were granted protection in their first attempt and 18 percent of appeals received positive decisions in 2014. In Germany, 42 percent of applicants got asylum on their first attempt and 16 percent of appeals were successful. The figures emerged as the European Commission - the part of the EU that thinks up EU policies to be voted on by national leaders and MEPs - revealed its full proposals for addressing the influx of migrants seeking to reach the continent. The key points from the plan had previously been leaked, as The Local reported on Tuesday. In its report, the Commission said it planned to beef up European border controls and introduce quotas for the number of migrants each country should take in, seen as a way of more fairly sharing responsibility for refugees. "The plight of thousands of migrants putting their lives in peril to cross the Mediterranean has shocked". "It is clear that no EU country can or should be left alone to address huge migratory pressures", the Commission wrote in its report. Sweden's Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson is a strong supporter of the proposed quota system. “Our Common European Asylum System is not very common in a situation where a handful of Member States are taking the responsibility for over 90 percent of the asylum seekers”, he told The Local on Monday after the Commisson's plans were leaked. “For the Common European Asylum System to be sustainable in the long run, a more even distribution of asylum seekers within the EU is needed”, he added. The Commission's report comes amid ongoing concern about growing numbers of refugees, especially from war-torn countries like Syria risking their lives to get to the Europe. Over the past few weeks, hundreds have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea by boat. Other proposals within the Commission's plan include better targeting of people smugglers, whose unsafe and over-crowded boats have been blamed for recent tragedies, and expanding resources for search and rescue operations. It also calls for better methods for identifying migrants, improving ways for qualified immigrant workers to get jobs, and monitoring those whose applications are rejected to ensure they make it home. The Commission has also said it is looking into finding ways to solve the problems that cause people to flee their home nations in the first place and building "stronger partnerships with key countries outside the EU".
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Via The Local: Plans to force wealthy European nations such as the UK to take in more refugees have been backed by Sweden, which currently takes in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU nation. Proposals to ensure a more balanced spread of refugees across the EU are expected to be put forward by the European Commission in Brussels on Wednesday, alongside plans to increase legal means for migrants to travel to Europe. The move, first reported in Britain’s The Times newspaper on Monday, aims to create legislation that would force all 28 member states to share responsibility for “mass influxes” of non-EU migrants during times of emergency. Sweden’s Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson has told The Local that he is “looking forward” to seeing the full Commission Agenda on the issue, and said media reports already suggest the EU’s policy-making body is “on the right track” at a time when “it is clear we have to improve the responsibility sharing within the Union”. Sweden dealt with more than 81.410 asylum cases between March 2014 and March 2015, while Germany processed the greatest number in the EU: 247.635. By contrast, the UK dealt with 29.340, while the figure for Netherlands was 23.780. “Our Common European Asylum System is not very common in a situation where a handful of Member States are taking the responsibility for over 90 percent of the asylum seekers”, he said late on Monday. “For the Common European Asylum System to be sustainable in the long run, a more even distribution of asylum seekers within the EU is needed.” Italy and Austria are among the other member states backing the proposals, while a spokesperson for the UK Home Office told The Times that Prime Minister David Cameron’s new Conservative government “will oppose any EU proposals to introduce a non-voluntary quota”. “Mad and unfair” was the description Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban gave to the plan. Germany is strongly in favour of the idea, having long pushed for quotas, while France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve also came out in support of the proposals on Monday. “I think it is normal to share out the asylum claimants”, he said. Under the reported proposals, the number of refugees sent to each EU country would in future be determined according to a formula which considers factors such as unemployment, economic performance, population size and the number of previous arrivals. It is estimated that more than 5000 migrants have died over the past year while making their way to Europe from war-torn nations such as Syria, Iraq, and Libya, in packed boats travelling in dangerous conditions. Sweden’s Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson told The Local that he also backed the Commission’s proposals to secure a safer passage to Europe for refugees. “The lack of regular channels to seek protection fuels smuggling", he said. “Therefore we need to see a substantial increase in the use of resettlement on an EU-level. Sweden also wants the EU Commission to investigate other realistic possibilities for people to seek protection in the EU”. In the meantime, Sweden is continuing to prepare itself for new arrivals. Fifteen thousand more asylum places are expected to be needed in the Nordic country this year. To cope with an increasing flow of refugees, the Swedish Migration Board announced in March that it has more than tripled the maximum number of residents allowed at each asylum centre in the nation from 200 to 650. EU leaders are set to discuss the quota proposals in Brussels when they meet on June 25th.
Monday, May 11, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden has earmarked 70 million kronor ($8.44 million) in bilateral aid to Iraq in the coming year, the Nordic country's Development Aid Minister revealed on Monday. The Minister for International Development Cooperation Isabella Lövin announced in a press release on Monday that Sweden's center-left coalition government had decided to raise Sweden's humanitarian support from 60 to 70 million kronor in 2015. Another 30 million kronor set to be spent in 2016. Sweden's former center-right coalition, which was ousted in September's general election, voted in 2013 to phase out the bilateral support to Iraq after it classified it as a medium income country that could survive on its own. But as the Middle Eastern country struggles to rebuild civil services in areas ravaged in armed conflict with Islamic extremist group Isis (also known as IS or the Islamic State) the current center-left government has decided to instead increase support. "Sweden has a strong commitment to and close contacts with Iraq. The government feels a responsibility to come to the aid of the population in this very serious situation, said the Minister for International Development Cooperation Isabella Lövin. The money is part of Sweden's wider humanitarian support to Iraq – a total of 203 million kronor in 2014 – which goes to UN groups as well as non-governmental organizations and includes food and work to improve the lives of Iraqi children. Monday's announcement comes just weeks after Sweden pledged 1.5 billion kronor in humanitarian aid to Syria over the coming years. Isis, which rules a swathe or territory in Iraq and Syria, is believed to be attracting growing numbers of foreign fighters. Up to 40 Swedes are currently estimated to have been killed while fighting alongside the terror organization, according to Sweden's security police Säpo. In April Sweden announced it would send up to 120 troops to northern Iraq to train Iraqi and Kurdish fighters as part of the US-led coalition against Isis. The Swedish forces are expected to be in place in June and will be under US command. No end-date for their participation has been announced. The international coalition fighting Isis in northern Iraq includes Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. It has been in place since August and has carried out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
Saturday, May 09, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden's Spotify, the world leader in music streaming, announced on Friday it had tripled its losses in 2014 due to heavy investments, as U.S. media reported the group would soon begin streaming videos. Created by Swedes in 2008, Spotify, which offers users a catalogue of "over 30 million tracks", has yet to turn an annual profit. The net loss in 2014 amounted to 1.5 billion SEK ($182 million), compared to 46.1 million in 2013. The company's operating income was also negative, according to the Luxembourg-based holding company Spotify Technologies. "This is explained by substantial investments that have been made during the year, mostly in product development, international expansion and general increase in personnel", the company said. While sales topped the one billion euro mark, at 1.08 billion, the company's growth has begun to slow and was 45 percent last year compared to 74 percent in 2013 and 128 percent in 2012. Spotify defended its progress, noting that it had 60 million users in 2014, compared to 36 million at the end of 2013. Of those, three-quarters listened to the free service, which includes regular advertisement interruptions, while one-quarter paid for the premium subscription with no advertisements. The company has users in 58 countries and in "10 of these countries, at least a tenth of internet users use Spotify". Meanwhile, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times reported that Spotify plans to launch video streaming services to rival YouTube on May 20 in New York, citing sources familiar with the company's plans.
Thursday, May 07, 2015
Via The Local: A Swedish lawyer has told The Local how he raised tens of thousands in just a few hours after starting up a social media campaign in response to southern Swedish residents' attempt to outmanoeuvre a group of beggars from other parts of the EU in their town. Residents in the Swedish town of Mönsterås in south-eastern parts of the country told public broadcaster SVT earlier in the week that they had started their own street collection – in an attempt to specifically outcompete a group of EU migrant beggars camped up in their area. They said they wanted to use the 1,700 kronor ($207) raised to buy 'fika' (a word for 'having coffee and cake' and a popular Swedish tradition) for elderly people. "The beggars often target the elderly, so we wanted to buy them at least a free 'fika' ", said one of the residents behind the initiative. When lawyer Viktor Banke, who lives in Stockholm, heard this he was shocked. He started a campaign on Twitter to raise money for the beggars in Mönsterås and after just three hours he had collected more than 19.000 kronor. "[It's a] pleasant surprise", he told The Local on Thursday about the social media sensation. "I think that many people feel a desire to hit back against the general tendency of a harsher attitude towards society's vulnerable groups in general and migrants in particular", he said. Banke told The Local he had been in touch with connections in Mönsterås to ensure the migrants received the money. "I don't see those who are trying to get rid of the beggars as any monsters, but it's sad that they think that you have to choose between Swedish pensioners and migrants. It's a fabricated contradiction that only racism benefits from", he said. "I felt a need to show these vulnerable people that not all Swedes want to get rid of them, as well as showing those who are trying to get them to leave that their views are not representative of the majority", he added. The number of EU migrants in Sweden is thought to have doubled since last year, with around 4.000 believed to be begging on the country's streets. A survey by Expressen/Demoskop last week suggested that a majority of Swedes, some 71 percent, would support banning organized begging. But a parliamentary justice committee rejected a proposed ban this month. The idea remains controversial with some of its critics arguing that careless use of it simply stigmatizes all EU migrants. And Banke told The Local he has faced many reactions – both positive and negative – since he started his Twitter fundraising campaign. "An overwhelming majority of positive shout-outs, as well as anonymous hatred. As usual, in other words", he said.
Monday, May 04, 2015
Via The Local: A rare Nordic language used by a tiny forest community is set to be taught in a preschool in central Sweden. Elfdalian, which shares some similarities with Old Norse is a hot topic at an international linguistics conference in Copenhagen this week, as Scandinavian language experts campaign to stop it dying out. It might sound like something from Lord of The Rings or The Local's recent April Fool's Day prank but Elfdalian is a real language currently used by around 2500 people in central Sweden and is understood to date back to Viking times. Previously regarded as a Swedish dialect, leading linguistics experts now consider it a separate language and are battling to save it, after figures emerged that less than 60 children can currently speak it. "Often Norwegians, Danes and Swedes can understand each others' languages and dialects. But Elfdalian can't be understood by any Scandinavians apart from the ones that grow up with it, and that is why we consider it a separate language," Yair Sapir, a linguistics expert who lives in Copenhagen and teaches at Lund University in Sweden told The Local. The Israel-born professor has dedicated his career to studying the language after initially spending two weeks living in Älvdalan in 2002 and eventually teaching himself Elfdalian. "The people of Älvdalen are wonderful but they are different to the city folk I am used to. They are in general less educated but more connected to nature and each other than people in urban areas", he explained. On Thursday and Friday this week Sapir is hosting an international conference on Elfdalian at Copenhagen University designed to raise awareness of the language. The event comes as the small isolated town where it is spoken, Älvdalan, prepares to start teaching it in one preschool from September. Pupils who begin learning it aged six are set to keep it as part of their curriculum until they turn eighteen. "It's a highly threatened language and so it is great that the municipality is going to experiment with teaching it to children in preschool", said Sapir. "In the past, children from this area didn't go far beyond the farms they lived on but now they go to school and consume so much other media that it is hard for them to keep Elfdalian as their main language", he added. "The language was suppressed for centuries by the authorities. They need more books on their language and more recognition and validation of their culture. Hopefully the lessons in preschools will be the start of that". Sapir admits that Elfdalian sounds like a mystical or other-worldly language but insists its name "isn't supposed to sound Tolkien-like" and has nothing to do with elves. It translates as 'river valley' in Swedish. "It was just a word designed to sound more English than Älvdalian to help with international recognition and writing about the language". Through studying Elfdalian experts have also increased their understanding of the Viking language Old Norse, which which it shares some words, features, and expressions. "Elfdalian is a goldmine. It works almost like a linguistic deep freeze, where one can get a glimpse of Old Norse traits that have long since vanished in the other Nordic languages", language historian Bjarne Simmelkjær Sandsgaard Hansen, co-organizer of a the Copenhagen University conference told Danish newspaper Politiken on Monday. "It has preserved many old features, which we may not even know existed if we didn't have Elfdalian", he added.
Sunday, May 03, 2015
Via Before It's News: In this video, we look at how BBC's Apocalyptic documentary called "End Day" points to September 24-28 as the start of the "Day of the Lord" (or the "end day"). They show a meteor coming to the earth, which they attempt to nuke, but this only causes it to break into many huge meteorites that hit the earth. I believe this event is what triggers the tsunami, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and pandemic shown in the documentary. They also reveal how CERN will be turned on at this time to try to open a portal to another dimension, which could cause far more chaos and destruction than the meteor.
Via The Local: Is Gotland on the march? According to Facebook, many Gotlanders have stealthily infiltrated the Norwegian county of Hedmark, just east of Oslo. Sweden and Norway may have not had a full-scale military conflict since the 1814 Swedish-Norwegian war but, with the inadvertent help of Facebook, many residents from the Swedish east coast island of Gotland have moved to Hedmark county in Norway, 450kms away from the island but only a short marching distance from Oslo. Should the Norwegian army mobilize? Are we about to see a Nordic conflagration? Luckily, no. The apparently silent invasion of Norway has taken place only on the servers of Facebook, where several individuals and many businesses from Gotland now appear, erroneously, to be residents of Norway. A Swedish Facebook spokesman, Mandarva Stenborg, was bemused when approached by the Gotland Allehanda newspaper about the bug. "We will investigate this and come back", she told the newspaper. However, the bug may have financial implications for some Gotland businesses, such as the Tofta Viking Village and local hotels. "Gotland companies pay to reach people through Facebook", said Julia Bendelin, who works for an advertising agency that markets the brand Gotland. "It is clear that we should not be in Norway".
Saturday, May 02, 2015
Via The Local: The mayor of a town in southern Sweden kept members of the neo-Nazi Party of the Swedes off the streets for their annual May Day demonstration - thanks to pre-empting their moves a year in advance. The demonstrations by the Party of the Swedes has deteriorated into violence in the past two years, and town officials had been left scratching their heads as to how to stop it from happening again. Last year, officials considered denying the party a protest permit but feared such a move could make things even messier. To prevent a repeat, Mayor Mats Green pre-empted that the party would seek another permit and booked out every single public area a year in advance - meaning the neo-Nazis simply had nowhere to go. "It's time to take back this town and show the values that we are proud of", Green told the Jönköping-Posten newspaper at the time. The party's May 1st demonstrations and marches in years past have made headlines the world over after they have resulted in violent clashes between the party and counter demonstrators.