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As already mentioned by The Lobby in June (see Pirates could secure two seats in new European Parliament) the Swedish Pirate Party has secured another seat in the European Parliament following the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.
Amelia Andersdotter, 22, is on her way to Brussels, thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, perhaps ironically, a Treaty she is personally not in favour of. But as she says herself in an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, “if it now has to enter into force, it’s good that the Pirate Party gains another seat…[as] two people can perform double the amount of work” (free translation).
She effectively becomes the European Parliament’s youngest MEP.
Well done, say we at The Lobby!
With only 2 months left of the Swedish EU Presidency and winter already closing in on Sweden, The Lobby thought it would be fitting to mark the coming 20th anniversary of the world’s largest ice hotel – the Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel.
Many have heard about it, few have been and the place actually only exists for about five months a year. But if you happen to be in Sweden in late December to mid April, pop up to the Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel, it’s just above the arctic circle. Check-in to an ice-room, have a drink in the ice-bar, watch the sky at night in the hope of enjoying the Northern Lights (It’s amazing! –ed (though better in Finland – Ed ed)), and discover what darkness actually means. What’s more, the Ice Hotel has taken the carbon footprint concept to the extreme since they plan to be CO2 negative (!) by 2015.
If that’s not cool enough, wait another year or two. Ice Hotel Travel, the travel agency that’s linked to the Ice Hotel, has teamed up with Virgin Galactic, and space tourism is set to take off from Space Port Sweden starting in 2012, courtesy of Richard Branson.
You see, there is actually more to Sweden than meatballs and IKEA.
The Swedish-Israeli row that broke out over an article published by Swedish daily Aftonbladet on 17 August, relating to alleged organ harvesting from dead Palestinians by Israeli soldiers, today reached new heights.
Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt made a public statement on the dispute, rejecting demands from Israel to condemn the claims made in the article.
Previously, on 20 August, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt gave a discreet and diplomatic response to Israeli calls for intervention against Aftonbladet in a statement on his blog, declaring that “this is not how our country works – and this is not how it should work either” (free translation by The Lobby). Bildt also made reference to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad carton controversy.
In a similar vein Reinfeldt today stated that “It’s important for me to say that you cannot turn to the Swedish government and ask it to violate the Swedish constitution”. The comments by Reinfeldt and Bildt are a far cry from statements made by the Swedish Ambassador to Israel, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, who expressed anger and indignation in the wake of the publication of the article.
Others have joined in on both sides of the argument; the Editor-in-Chief of Aftonbladet Jan Helin, former Israeli Ambassdor to Sweden Zvi Masel, and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to name but a few.
So what conclusions can one draw from this debate on press freedom, freedom of expression, and self-censorship (and more!)? Perhaps the fact that whether you are a blogger, journalist, government, or simply an individual expressing an opinion, we should all be aware of the fact that the public debate today, whether online or offline, often enters the political arena and can be used as a political bargaining chip!
Surely the Israeli government did not expect the Swedish government to condemn an article in the Swedish press, most notably because of Sweden’s long standing tradition of press freedom which is very securely protected by the Swedish constitution. Carl Bildt will be visiting Israel in two weeks time, let’s hope this story will not hamper constructive talks!
When The Lobby last cast its eyes upon Sweden, the present holder of the EU Presidency, we dispelled the myth about rampant levels of suicide in Sweden and confirmed that Swedes keenly engage in eating fermented herring (no really, it’s true). So what’s next? Exceptionally long holidays and husbands that stay at home taking care of the kids? Well, yes actually, if one is to trust recent research.
A new study by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) shows that Swedes enjoy on average 33 days of collectively agreed annual paid leave – the largest number of days in Europe – the runner-ups are Denmark and Germany with 30 days, and Italy and Luxembourg with 28 days. At the other end of the spectrum you find Cyprus and Estonia with ‘only’ 20 days per year. Furthermore, the study shows that Swedes are among those that spend the least amount of time at work each week, almost an hour below the EU average (Working Time Directive anyone?).
Sweden’s long-standing tradition of promoting gender equality is based on the idea that a more just and democratic society results from women and men sharing power and influence equally. This all sounds well and good, but is it true, and do Swedish men make good husbands?
According to research conducted by Oxford University economist Almudena Sevilla-Sanz Swedish men make for great husbands. According to Sevilla-Sanz’s research, outlined in an interview with Swedish online paper The Local, Swedish men are much more willing than many of their international counterparts to do the cooking at home or the laundry. In addition, the study shows that men in more egalitarian societies are more willing to take on what may traditionally be regarded as “women’s work”.
So is the solution to all our woes a move to Sweden? Most probably not, but the promotion of gender equality is and should remain an important pillar of the European construct and Sweden should keep leading by example, yet strive to always keep improving.
Long gone are the days of salary differences between Bulgarian and Italian MEPs of up to €9,000/month. When MEPs met in Strasbourg this week for the first plenary of this new European Parliament, for the first time they are all being paid the same – and being paid by the EU.
So what’s the big deal? Well, in most Member States it isn’t a big deal, except perhaps in Sweden, Germany, and the UK. High salaries for politicians are simply not compatible with Sweden’s tradition of equality and are generally frowned upon. To illustrate this, Swedish MEPs will, if they choose to enter into the new salary regime, make a whopping 36% more than a Swedish MP. For instance Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt “only” makes around €11,940/month, while Swedish MEPs will now make around €7,840/month.
In an article published by the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, Swedish MEP Marit Paulsen says “I cannot tell you I’m worth this kind of monthly salary. But at least now it’s taxed and transparent”. This attitude is echoed by Eva-Britt Svensson who says that she only uses part of her salary (the same amount as when she was employed in the Swedish public sector), approximately €2,050/month, and donates the remaining €5,800 to, among other things, women’s shelter organisations. Christian Engström of the Greens has said he will donate part of his salary towards the Pirate Party-movement.
It’s easy to put a positive spin on this, but shouldn’t taxpayers have a say when a politician chooses to systemically donate a significant part of their EU salary (taxpayers money don’t forget) to an outside organisation? If they don’t want to receive the full amount, can’t they give it back to us?!
In Sweden everyone is blonde and polar bears roam the streets. No really it’s true. Sweden also has the highest suicide rate in the world, and Swedes eat rotten fish (willingly!).
There are many myths about Sweden, and in light of the Swedish EU Presidency The Lobby thought it should dispel some of them.
The idea of Swedish sin stems from Swedish films in the 50s, 60s and 70s featuring nude scenes. Sure, Swedes have a more laid back attitude to sexuality and nakedness than many other nationalities. In terms of hard facts however, Sweden is usually at the bottom of international comparisons when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies.
Actually Sweden is in 15th place on the European suicide table. This myth originates in a speech given by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960 in which he claimed that “sin, nudity, drunkenness and suicide” in Sweden were caused by welfare policy excess. The truth is that Sweden was the first country to start keeping honest statistics about suicide.
A taciturn people
Many foreigners find Swedes lacking in humour, and some even go as far as calling Swedes boring. The fact is that Swedes tend to like low-key humour, subtle references, or sly allusions, something that is often lost in translation for non-Swedes. In addition, Swedes prefer to listen rather than speak which can sometimes be interpreted as arrogance. The truth is that Swedes find boasting and showing off to be highly contemptible human qualities.
‘Surströmming’ or soured herring is a delicacy in Sweden and consists of fermented Baltic herring. The herring is caught in spring, when it is in prime condition and just about to spawn. The herring are fermented in barrels for one to two months, then tinned where the fermentation continues. Half a year to a year later it’s ready to be served up with a special bread, chives, potatoes, and the obligatory glass of ice cold aquavit. It’s not bad actually, but certainly an acquired taste.
Yes, it’s true. Brunettes and redheads too for that matter. No surprise here. (and all Swedish men look like Björn Borg in 1976!)
The Lobby will keep bringing you information about Sweden during its EU Presidency, hopefully casting some new light on this often misunderstood nation.
Ellen Söderberg is only 18 years old and is still in high school.
She’s also a pirate…
Ellen is an MEP candidate for the Swedish Pirate Party, the second most popular party in Sweden among voters aged 18-29 years. In an interview with The Local she says she hopes “to get a more open EU Parliament, to speak about integrity, surveillance and piracy. Knowledge is a right as a human. I want knowledge and culture to be free”.
Despite being presently predicted to gain up to two seats in the European Parliament the Swedish Pirate Party still has an uphill struggle ahead of them. They might have the election’s youngest candidate on their side, as well as up to 6% of Swedish voters backing them, but the key for a party that has so much young support, is to make sure theses youngster actually cast their votes on the big day.
Perhaps Ellen’s aspirations and young age will motivate other young voters?