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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.
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.
With all the talk about the new EU Presidency, The Lobby feels that the official kick-off to the Swedes’ term in charge will be this weekend in Brussels with the Swedish Presidency football tournament. This year’s event brings together more than 16 Member State teams and much of the EU affairs community.
Held at Stade des Trois Tilleuls in Boitsfort on June 27-28 and July 4-5, it will mark the outgoing Czech and incoming Swedish Presidency. Officials, lobbyists, journalists, stagiaires, and Commissioners (yes, you read that correctly), will be busy kicking each other…sorry, playing the beautiful game.
In keeping with last year’s Slovenian Presidency tournament, The Lobby will be there to demonstrate its considerable footballing ability. Players to watch this year include Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, playing for the Finns, together with fans’ favourites Ilja Lorenzo Volpi for the Italians and Michael Brown for the Brits. Unfortunately, we have been informed that the exchange of business cards or any other lobbying activities are not permitted in the penalty box during corner kicks.
A swimming pool and a bar/small restaurant will also be open during the whole tournament to cater for non-footballers. So if you have no weekend plans you could do worse than pop down to Boitsforts to cheer on your national team, enjoy a cold refreshment, and soak up a pretty cool atmosphere.
– Ilja and Michael
Swedish Minister for EU Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, and Cabinet Secretary, Frank Belfrage, yesterday met with the diplomatic corps based in Stockholm. The aim of the meeting was to brief foreign top diplomats on the upcoming Swedish EU Presidency.
Naturally the uncertainty surrounding the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty poses a major challenge for the Swedes. However, during the briefing it was made clear that Sweden will push on as if the Treaty will be ratified under the Swedish Presidency. When (if?) ratified, the Treaty will effectively trigger a host of institutional changes that Sweden will have to begin implementing.
During the meeting several participants asked what, if any, special dimension Sweden would bring to the fore during its Presidency; Malmström answered that the Presidency is aiming for a focus on openness and accessibility, in line with the new Swedish Presidency website. The website is apparently going to be more generous when it comes to sharing information compared to previous Presidency websites.
For the Brussels press corps (and consultants alike!) this sounds like a gift from heaven…or ‘jättebra’ as the Swedes would say.
Yesterday’s opinion piece by Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Finance Minister Anders Borg in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, citing the Lisbon Strategy as a failure, lent an unexpected favour to the long running plan of economic reforms aiming to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world”. In the hustle and bustle of the lead-up to the European elections, the incoming Presidency points to the lackadaisical performance on the part of Member States in meeting the goals set back in March 2000. Reinfeldt and Borg call for sustainable public finances and the Lisbon Strategy to be restarted.
In these hard times of economic meltdown, calls to re-focus and re-boost the Lisbon Strategy go down well. However, this time around, the commitment lies not on the part of the European Commission, but on the leadership in the Council. Is this a subtle indication that it is time to re-balance environmental priorities with economic ones? There is room for interpretation…