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'Isolationism is passé - Sweden needs to join NATO': Liberals

'Isolationism is passé - Sweden needs to join NATO': Liberals

Published: 12 May 2009 18:16 GMT+02:00
Updated: 12 May 2009 18:16 GMT+02:00

NATO is an alliance of countries with the common cause of safeguarding democracy as a societal model. Though essentially thought of as a defence alliance, NATO is just as much an ideological alliance committed to securing the survival of our pluralistic and liberal societal systems for future generations. For me, and for the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), it is more evident than ever before that Sweden should be a member of NATO. Political parties can't just follow public opinion, they have to influence it too – and isolationism is very passé.

As the world outside moves on, time continues to stand curiously still in Sweden when it comes to the NATO debate. Eastern European and Baltic states have joined NATO: in 2004, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania all became members. Now it's also full steam ahead for some Balkan countries well on their way to full NATO membership. Albania, once ruled with an iron hand by Enver Hoxha, and Croatia, emerging from its recent wars, have both become members of an alliance made up of thirty member states. The eminently competent prime minister of our neighbouring country Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmusson, is NATO's new secretary general.

In Sweden it is politically correct to be anti-American and to have a reflexive dislike of NATO. But with Barack Obama as president, these are hard times for all those who love to hate the United States. And we can never forget that democracy would not have survived beyond 1945 without the US. For Sweden, the transatlantic link is of central importance. All the signs suggest that multilateralism and diplomacy are staging a powerful comeback under Obama. George W Bush's foreign policy has fuelled anti-Americanism the world over. But the closure of Guantanamo is a symbolic act that marks a shift away from the dark worldview represented by Bush. America should lead through inspiration, not domination.

Obama views NATO as an important link between the US and the rest of the free world. The change in office means the preconditions now exist for the western world to coalesce around the great challenges of our time: the climate, terrorism and the financial crisis, as well as jointly standing up for democratic values. This is more necessary than ever before. For the third successive year global freedom is in regression, according to Freedom House. Just 46 percent of the world’s population lives in democracies. Unless NATO and the US act as guardians and drivers of democracy, there will be nobody to assume that responsibility. The EU is not yet capable, a point that makes the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty crucial from a security policy perspective. The EU needs to be able to act in a unified and effective manner.

Sweden’s neutrality and non-allied status mean the country has to be able to defend its own territory in almost any situation. It is just nonsense to say that our security policy is “fixed in place”, as it was so unfortunately expressed in the latest foreign policy declaration. Both the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and the Minister of Defence have stated that Sweden would be unable to defend its borders without help were the situation in Europe to drastically deteriorate. Russia is not the Soviet Union, a fact that bears repeating. But were Swedish to join NATO we would not have to worry about Russia’s ongoing rearmament.

Time and time again the government has insisted that Sweden’s security is based on fellowship with other countries – not independence from others as was the case during the Cold War. Our official defence policy even states that Sweden should “take joint responsibility for Europe’s security” and that “a neutrality option is no longer feasible when it comes to conflicts in the surrounding area”. But despite these changes in Sweden’s security policy doctrine, the NATO debate here is barely live; in fact, it is practically mummified.

The EU is not a military alliance and is therefore not an alternative to NATO. The reintegration of the French military into NATO is a clear sign that even the French have given up on the idea of having a competing organization as a counterbalance to the United States. We have to face up to reality. If we really want Sweden to take joint responsibility for Europe’s security then Sweden needs to play an integral role in the context of European and transatlantic defence. A combination of the EU’s civilian skills and NATO’s military acumen represent the future for European – and, by extension, Swedish -- security.

It's disingenuous to have so few Swedes aware of the fact that their country is in practice already part of NATO. Sweden has a lot more soldiers under NATO Command than under the UN flag, and many Swedes are unaware that we have a NATO ambassador with her own secretariat at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Yet we allow Swedish soldiers’ lives and security to be decided at meetings where we have very little say. If we were members we would be able to take responsibility and exert a far greater influence over these operations. As it stands, we have to rely on others to take responsibility. Really Sweden has already taken the step from neutrality to solidarity vis à vis our security policy. All that remains to seal the deal is NATO membership.

Ever since 1994, Sweden has cooperated with NATO through the Partnership for Peace (PfP). Through its participation in PfP, Sweden can contribute to the construction of a more stable and secure Europe – but entirely on our own terms. To me it seems strange that Sweden doesn’t want to attend the NATO birthday party, choosing instead to stand on the outside looking in with dictatorships like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belarus, who have just about been allowed to join PfP.

Finland has conducted three inquiries into eventual NATO membership compared to Sweden’s none. We have to come to grips with the NATO issue and put all the facts on the table. Voters should have the chance to take a position on NATO membership and the price of exclusion. We need to start talking about the fact that our dogged refusal to even consider signing up the alliance has a political price. With Obama’s presidency and Anders Fogh Rasmussen as new secretary-general, friends of NATO are beginning to see an opening. We can’t be kept quiet any more. It’s time to wake up from the Sleeping Beauty slumber of the Cold War. Springtime has arrived for a new NATO debate.

So, congratulations on your 60th birthday, dear NATO, and I hope to be able to attend your 70th.

Birgitta Ohlsson

Liberal Party foreign policy spokesperson and Member of Parliament

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

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Your comments about this article

09:25 May 14, 2009 by Nemesis
It is time that Sweden dropped the hypocrisy and joined NATO.

Also Swedes need to realise that it is NATO countries who were Swedens real defence screen during the cold war.

The other point is this. During WW2 if it had not been for the sacrificies of Allied troops, Sweden would have eventually been invaded and nazified.

It is time Sweden woke up to reality and joined NATO.
11:19 May 14, 2009 by Fergal
Birgitta confuses neutrality with isolationism. We Irish see no confusion. Neutrality was claimed at the birth of our Republic, and EU membership since 1973, 20 years before Sweden, severs all links between membership and militarism. Ireland plays a full EU role. Our military joins UN missions in peacekeeping and crisis management to create a 'more stable and secure Europe' in a world with reduced conflict. Ireland is secure in the world, not secure from the world. Our ties to Britain and the USA confirm enduring links of culture and attitude, but do not blind us to our own ideals and values. Ireland has have never sought NATO membership. There is no debate in Ireland about joining NATO. Irish people do not 'keep quiet'. Ireland is proud of its neutrality, a force for good that provides a platform for non-violent conflict resolution. It is not necessary for Sweden to join NATO to maintain a strong, effective voice within the EU and across the world. It was not necessary for Ireland.
14:26 May 14, 2009 by Marc the Texan
Do we really need Sweden neutering NATO. If Russia or China starts up, are you guys going to wuss out again. Because we know that tune already. I'm just saying.
16:46 May 14, 2009 by Thebinary1
3 words:

"NATO is OVERRATED!"

Its a good idea to cooperate with NATO. Its a bad idea to join them.
22:11 May 14, 2009 by mkvgtired
Thebinary1, that is a perfect line of thinking. Reap all the benefits and take none of the risks. Sweden, after all, knows if its borders were ever threatened NATO or at least its major members would come to the rescue.
11:15 May 15, 2009 by Thebinary1
Hang on now mkvgtried, you seem to be either ill-informed or biased against Sweden. So, here's a little info:

http://www.nato.int/docu/review/2007/issue3/english/history.html

"Sweden backs up its diplomatic work with boots on the ground " - or maybe you have a different definition of "risk".

NATO's objectives and Sweden's objectives "happend to be on the same track" so far. But like all relationships, disagreements happen and Sweden reserves full rights to deny co-operation with NATO should such a circumstance arise. Despite the unliekliness, it does not change the fact that this CANNOT happen.

"As Sweden has demonstrated many times, full membership in NATO is not always a necessity for countries wanting to play a meaningful role in the world's evolving security environment."

THAT is the reason why Sweden should not join NATO. And here is some common sense that many people like yourself and Birgitta Ohlsson lack:

If something isn't broken, don't fix it!
20:36 May 15, 2009 by Kooritze
PFP = co-operate but dont get involved in the real stuff.

Sweden 1939-45 = co-operate but dont get involved in the real stuff. (co-operating with the Nazis at this time). Have internet look around for info on the extent of this!!! Trade with Nazis, Anti-semitic marriage laws, Nazi gold, Iron ore and Ball bearing exports, invasion of Norway etc etc etc

Classic neutral card being played over and over...............indifference and opportunism as always.
08:33 May 16, 2009 by ashfaq.adeel
wel guyz., i think there is not going to be any WW3 and no one can .... no one is interested in these wars .. people aint got enough food to eat.. and ur all thinking about joing nato..WTF.. .chineese... russians. wont start a war.....wats wrong with u guyz... do u think u'll ever want a war..wana kill people..... and wats with the histories... wat done was done..and no one ever says that being in wars were a good thing...... past is past bro... i agree with Binary1....
17:11 May 16, 2009 by Vendorune
It is easy and pleasant to dream about "mutual" security and the possibility of enhanced influence in far-away lands. However all military alliances must start with local threats and local cooperation. How about Sweden forms some kind of a pact with Norway and Denmark? They are your very close relatives after all. And if you can't do that little "joining" NATO is an empty gesture -- it will only make me laugh and think "there is another good-for-nothing member".
17:18 May 16, 2009 by Thebinary1
Just to make my point perfectly clear since this issue seems to be covering other aspects as well.

I am in no way suggesting that Sweden should demilitarise itself. Infact, it should be the exact opposite. Sweden should be investing heavily in the military - contrary to the conduct of the current government who is cutting defence spending at an amount one could argue to be treasoneous. Sweden's whole militrary organ should be independent and autonomous from NATO.
11:42 May 17, 2009 by Kooritze
Ashfaq.adeel.....agreed the past is in the past......but we should not forget the sacifices in lives made by millions to protect freedom in Europe in WWII. If those sacrifices were,nt made where would we be today? I realise Sweden is indifferent to this because of their history in that time. As for wars in the future..........it is more or less guaranteed..........it is a part of human reality and always was. Am not suggesting Russia or China will invade us.......but more likely an unforseen event begins a chain reaction. 9/11 led to 2 countries being invaded t.ex. Some Iran/Israeli scuffle could lead to middle east destabalisation which draw in a lot of players as resource and energy provision of the west would be directly affected. Even little Sweden could be affected!.......I mean there is no oil here. Too much complacency!
14:39 May 17, 2009 by nic_tester
Here you go again, polluting yet another thread with your malicious ignorance.

Trade with Nazis ... Iron ore and Ball bearing exports

Out of absolute necessity. Ever seen a political map from 1940? Besides, Sweden leased most of its merchant navy to GBR, helping to keep your bleeding ancestors fed.

Nazi gold

Well, a bit distasteful that, I have to admit. But the majority was given back after the war to Holland and others.

Anti-semitic marriage laws

If you gonna bring the holocaust into the discussion, why not mention the tens of thousands of jewish lives saved due to swedish efforts?

invasion of Norway

??? Norway was invaded by sea and air. More of a british responsibility than a swedish one, imho.

180 swedes fought for the germans in ww2, under the special provision they would only serve on the eastern front. If Sweden had listened to idiots like you, it would have been 20 000 like in the other occupied countries and the entire swedish labourforce would have been at German disposal and GBR would have gotten no trade, no ships and no intelligence whatsoever out of sweden and tens of thousands of jews that survived the war would have died and the norwedian resistance would not have had a base to operate from.

Number of people from occupied countries that served in waffen-ss during ww2:

Norway 10,000; Denmark 20,000; France 11,000; Netherlands 20,000.

All countries have bad apples, doesnt say nothing about the country itself.
20:28 May 17, 2009 by wolfen
I am a usa born swedish decsendat,a proud ostro-goth,whose family lived in germany for several generations before moving here.I consider myself a swede,because no matter where I go on this earth,I am what I am,and over my home flies a swedish flag.I agree with,and found this article to be very interesting and up to date with the needs of a modern Sweden.We live in a world of constant revelution and evolution.First comes the revolution of the matter,and the evolution is the result.Sweden must evolve with the changing times,while standing firm on the fundamental foundations that make us a unique people.
21:25 May 17, 2009 by sebseb
I believe that Europe, and especially scandinavia, doesn't need to be in NATO. Nato is only use for the neo-colonialism of the USA, only to comply with the zionist agenda.

And by the way, Obama's mask will soon fall down. Look for the movie "The Obama deception"
00:39 May 18, 2009 by Thebinary1
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created to couter and deter the Communist Influence of Soviet Russia. The USSR no loger exists and therefore by simple inference, neither should NATO.

NATO encourages its member states to be complicit in their defences by "shifting responsibility" of the defence of the member state to other member states. When all or a majority of member states adopt this very popular policy because they end up saving A LOT of money that would have otherwise been spent on defence - we end up with a defenceless, or more appropriately an easily collapsible defence of Europe and America. Sweden should be setting an example by not be going down this road.
10:09 May 18, 2009 by Twiceshy
East European countries became part of NATO because politicians are corrupted or under pressure by USA. NATO is serving imperialist tendencies of Western politicians and aristocracy. If you can, stay out of it.
15:59 May 18, 2009 by nic_tester
Hehe, you funny. And Georgia applied for NATO membership for the same reason I take it?
21:29 May 18, 2009 by whattodo?
I just have to say, I find this article to be contrived, cunning, bullying and insulting. A "good" sales pitch, does not actually have to have anything to do with reality. Using the word "isolationism", contrasting with talking about how other countries have joined, makes it sound more like pressuring to join a gang and be "cool". "As the world outside moves on, time continues to stand curiously still in Sweden when it comes to the NATO debate"...maybe there happens to be a good reason..maybe it is a sign of strength and sovereignty.
09:07 May 19, 2009 by jacks
I think most European nations have no appetite left for war. However, trouble spots on world map such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq- are still burning issues and do not appear to be yielding so far. No one is sure about future. That means Sweden requires at least some preparedness to combat unforeseen future threats. I think it is good idea that Sweden joins NATO.

In addition, Sweden requires more security cooperation for internal crimes of cross-border nature. Joining NATO might possibly help on these fronts too.
19:22 May 20, 2009 by adde
Isolationism is very passé. - Birgitta Ohlsson

"Isolationism is nonintervention combined with economic nationalism (protectionism)" and we don't have that here in Sweden, we have "non-interventionism" which is a foreign policy which holds that political rulers should avoid alliances with other nations and avoid all wars not related to direct territorial self-defense. A similar phrase is "strategic independence". Examples of supporters of non-interventionism are Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (very much quoted during the FRA debacle by Swedish Liberals), who both favored nonintervention while maintaining free trade.
22:23 May 20, 2009 by mkvgtired
Thebinary1, I realize that Sweden cooperates with NATO now, but if NATO were ever involved in a serious conflict the fact Sweden is not a member would give it special privileges to "opt out" if they decided they did not want to contribute anymore. It would definitely give the then current majority party some extra points during election time.

sebseb, what countries has the US "colonized"? I would like to know your definition of neo-colonialism.
22:40 May 20, 2009 by skane refugee
Nic,

I hadn't previously noticed that you'd taken your dubious Swedish war record arguments from the other recent NATO thread where I didn't consider them worth responding to ... to this thread where you've added some new perspectives:

Trade with GBR:

This was almost entirely one way (i.e. essential supplies into Sweden!) ... Sweden desperately needed oil and rubber amongst other key commodities during WW2 ... and couldn't get them from their industrial partners in Germany ... a constant game of cat and mouse was played through WW2 with Sweden promising all sorts of things to GBR in exchange for their next oil 'fix' ... Sweden actually delivering on these promises to the detriment of their real masters in Berlin was much rarer than making the promises! ...

... for example ... in June 1942 the British concluded an agreement with Sweden offering regular oil in exchange for significant reductions in illegal Wehrmacht military transit across Sweden ... the Swedes took the oil of course, but wehrmacht traffic promptly INCREASED from 16,144 (2nd half of 1941) and 17,714 (1st half of 1942) to 19,409 (2nd half of 1942) wagons of Wehrmacht cargo to German units in Finland and Norway! WTF?!

Swedish troops fighting in WW2:

True, the numbers were low (in the hundreds), but that probably reflects the Swedish mentality (pathological fear of conflict) more than anything else ... Churchill famously summed up Sweden as a "small cowardly nation"

As for the 10,000 who went from Sweden to Finland to fight in the Russo-Finnish war ... frankly most of those were Finns (or with strong family ties to Finland) who happened to be living in Sweden in 1939.

Swedish contribution to allied intelligence:

This is a trivial fig-leaf of a point, given that GBR had a virtual lock on vital intelligence throughout WW2, through having the worlds first programmable computer breaking axis codes at astonishing speed ... indeed towards the end of WW2 Churchill was reading Hitlers orders to German generals before the German army itself!

Jewish flight to Sweden:

The relative handful 'saved' needs to be set against all those who perished during the latter part of WW2, a conflict prolonged by essential Swedish military supplies to the axis, and the many breaches of neutrality in favour of the axis.

Also the 'rescue' of the 7,000 from Denmark was in reality one big 'shake down' ... rumour has it that the price for passage and entry across the narrow straights of Denmark was a years average salary per person (man, woman or child!) ... lets say around TSEK250 a head, or a million (in gold and hard currency) for a family of 4 in todays money ... this was divvied up between bribes for German soldiers, Danish and Swedish fisherman (transport) and Swedish immigration officials ... historians debate the ratios, but plenty of Swedes made their family fortunes from this exodus :-(

Swedish ships to GBR:

No idea where that information comes from! can't find it anywhere ... do you have a link?

Are you referring to the 'Gothenburg traffic'? (regulated by Germany and Britain) bringing in essential imports to Sweden ... although the 227/224 ex-occupied Europe sailings were evenly matched, the value of imports exceeded the value of exports by 2 to 1 ... Sweden secured oil, rubber, coffee etc etc all to Swedens own benefit in exchange for paper and forestry products etc that the allies were hardly short of (think Canada!) ... and in any case went to countries like Argentina (Swedens biggest 'Gothenburg traffic' trade partner)

My understanding was that the Swedish fleet plied the Baltic escorting German troop vessels (again in flagrant breach of neutrality)

GBR to blame for the German invasion/occupation of Norway:

wasn't even going to dignify this with a comment for obvious reasons ... suffice to say that this is not a common view in Norway!!! ... sounds like Nazi propoganda from 1940 ;o) ... Nuremburg style trials were clearly needed in Sweden after the war! ... then we wouldn't have to listen to this nonsense in the 21st century!!!
14:42 May 21, 2009 by nic_tester
Im surprised you didnt understand that my post was a response to brainless twits like you who claim sweden should have declared war on Germany. If Sweden had done as you say it should have, there would have been 20k volonteers in the waffen ss, all swedish labourforce and rawmaterials would have been at german disposal right up to the end of the war. Your rediculous claim that swedish trade prolonged the war with a year is utter bullshit, the alternative would have been an occupied sweden which might well have prolonged the war even further.

Imho, you have the perspective of a 12 year old boy waving his toysword around and demanding glory and bravery all around. Grow up and get a mans perspective will you? Swedens ww2 stance was not heroic but definately the best that could be made from a poor situation.

And no, I didnt bring this silly discussion here, Kooritze did.
11:44 May 22, 2009 by TomPennsylvania
I don't understand why Sweden would consider joining NATO when they already enjoy the primary benefit, namely, general peace between Western nations.

That said, I wish NATO had been disbanded after the fall of the Soviet Union. At the least, I hope America follows George Washington's advice (as mentioned before here) and withdrawls from this alliance; it no longer serves any meaningful purpose other than to support corruption.
15:41 May 23, 2009 by skane refugee
So in summary Nic ... you feel that Sweden could have made it even tougher for the allies by supplying even more military transit, material and troops to the axis ... hardly the cv of a self-styled 'moral beacon' country ... and even that assertion is debateable:

The wehrmacht got all the illegal military transit they requested through 'neutral' Sweden (despite solemn Swedish promises to the contrary to secure oil from Britain) so that was as bad as it could get from an allied perspective.

Supplies to Germany from Sweden were running at maximum capacity anyway ... the trade was extremely profitable for Swedish industrialists who had massive financial incentives to maximise production and exports ... so again that was as bad as it could get from an allied perspective.

Germany would have needed a lot more than 20,000 or even 200,000 troops from Sweden to make any recognisable difference to an army numbering millions ... (remember 750,000 axis troops died at Stalingrad, and 620,000 axis troops were lost in North Africa for example)

With a Swedish male population of around 3 million during the war, a full Swedish mobilisation for the axis would have come to a maximum of say 500,000 troops of military age, who would have needed to be trained, kitted out and battle hardened etc, and the majority would have been required to stay and defend Sweden itself.

Therefore I think it is fair to argue that Swedens actual stance in WW2 was just about as damaging as it could have been for the allies ...

... if Sweden had declared fully for the axis, military supplies from Sweden would have dried up through continuous allied bombing of Swedish industry, shipping and transport links, and the axis war machine would have been very seriously damaged, far outweighing even a maximum troop contribution from Sweden.
16:47 February 9, 2010 by JDV
We should have nothing to do with any alliance particularly NATO that is associated with a nation currently involved in not one but two illegal and immoral wars, a country that violates as policy all of the Geneva conventions on human rights and the rule of law while supporting and encouraging other nations who do the same.

What right does any Swedish politician have to argue that young Swedish men and women should be dying as part of America's plot of world domination? Why are we not following Cuba's fine example of sending doctors and teachers to help solve the world's problems and promote civilization and democracy? Europe should do the same… the world is not our enemy... it is America's by their own actions.

Will our new EU representative follow in the footsteps of Bill Clinton's secretary of state… Madeline Albright, who when asked if she thought the sanctions that took the lives of 500,000 innocent Iraqi child was worth it…coldly replied as the international voice of America wit out any remorse "Yes!" Are these the people we want to be associated with?

For the last 70 years America time and time again has shown it is no champion or even promoter of democracy or human rights… it has supported, courted and funded trained the officers of every dictatorship on the planet worthy of the name… including the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Do we really want to be a partnered with nation that spends more than all the other nations of the world combined on a military that rivals the nazi's storm troopers in their crimes against humanity? A country where foreign is military aid to support and create violent instability around to world for it own interests?

Sweden a small country with no enemies to speak of. We should be a neutral peaceful nation that champions and support the Non-Violence of Martin Luther King , Ghandi, Palmer. We should hold in contempt the war mongering and saber rattling of a of world class phony who tried to take refuge in the cloak of a real black man of peace Martin Luther King at his obscene acceptance of the Nobel peace with a defense of war as he actively planned reign more death and destruction on the innocent people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

We should be helping people not killing them to save them. If our young people are going to die in the world outside our boarders then let them be a sacrifice for civilization something of value, with stethoscope, a book or shovel in their hands… reall doing the heavy lifting for peace and democracy by helping others caring for others in a sacrifice for peace… Sweden once understood those principles and values… I remember during the America's illegal war we gave shelter and hope to those who refused to take up arms against their fellow human beings… and now we've become this ridiculous rewriting of history by an opportunistic American Wannbe political person… what honor is there in this?… what dignity?… what noble cause?… What Swedish values?
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