• Sweden edition
 
STOCKHOLM DIPLOMATIC FILES
Irish ambassador: We're learning from the Swedes

Irish ambassador: We're learning from the Swedes

Published: 03 Dec 2012 12:46 GMT+01:00
Updated: 03 Dec 2012 12:46 GMT+01:00

Carroll is still getting his feet under the table since becoming Ireland’s ambassador to Sweden last February.

A veteran of the Department of Foreign Affairs since 1975, it’s no surprise that Carroll has a penchant for travelling as he is a native of Dun Laoghaire in Dublin Bay which once played host to the Vikings.

Contributor Patrick Reilly caught up with a recent visit by the ambassador to Lund in southern Sweden to find out more about Carroll's impressions of Sweden so far and how his current posting compares to his previous post in the West Bank.

The Local: You were Ireland’s Representative to the Palestinian National Authority before coming to Sweden. How did you end up here?

James Joseph Carroll: In my last job I was in Palestine for three and a half years and Sweden had the European Union Presidency in the second half of 2009 which was a very important period. Nobody did more on [Middle East] issues so I was working very closely with my Swedish colleagues and it struck me that on my next assignment I would ask to come here.

TL: From Ramallah to Stockholm is a radical departure. Are there any similarities between here and your previous post?

JJC: I think there is a lot of respect for rights. One thing I learned from the Palestinians is that they have an innate acceptance that there are God given rights and they feel that history has denied them these. They feel that in the fullness of time, and when justice is done, their rights will be vindicated. I think that strikes a chord in Sweden.

When Sweden had the EU chairmanship in 2009, the best document that the European community had on the issues was written, so that is a tribute to their solidarity with rights.

TL: Have you seen much of Sweden since taking up the role last February?

JJC: I’m trying to, as I promised my office that I would make three or four significant visits in my first year. I’ve been sort of attracted by universities so I went to Uppsala, Gothenburg and Lund.

I also went to Dalarna to get the heart of [Swedish consumer goods retailer] Clas Ohlsson and that kind of stuff.

TL: In Gothenburg you gave a lecture about the parallels between Ireland’s recent economic crisis and Sweden’s crisis in the 1990s.

JJC: We are learning from the Swedes. The Swedish economy overheated in the early 1990s where you had a property bubble that hurt a lot of people when it collapsed.

We allowed something quite similar to happen in Ireland but later. Greed gets out of hand and we let these bank owners really ride the horses to hell.

As Ireland is a part of the eurozone and subject to the rules of the European Central Bank, we don’t have quite the latitude that the Riksbank had to tackle the issues. The Irish Central Bank hired two leading economists from the Riksbank, Stefan Gerlach and Lars Frisell, who’ve come through that and learned the lessons. They are both extremely helpful to us.

Ireland now has export growth. We have a surplus in the national earnings so we have a positive national income. The real challenge is employment and debt.

TL: How strong are the relations between Ireland and Sweden?

JJC: Both nations are akin and have a close rapport. If you look at the European family - the ones who signed the treaty - Ireland is the most open economy and Sweden is the second. We’re both highly dependent on free trade, trade rules, and having the opportunity to do business unfettered from obstructionism.

Ireland and Sweden share the same values as we’ve come from Christendom and also from Greco-Roman law. We are both earning our keep by the sweat of our brow so we do things very similarly.

TL: Ireland changed the rules on the size of retail buildings to allow Ikea to build a giant superstore in Dublin in 2007. How are commercial links between the two countries?

JJC: We have Ericsson, which has a very important plant in Ireland that employs hundreds of people writing creative software. There is also Oriflame cosmetics, which has a presence.

Aer Lingus has restored its route to Stockholm after pulling out around 2001. They are also flying to again to Copenhagen, which is handy for southern Sweden. When the Stockholm route returned last March we had a Riverdance party at the gate!

You can also go from Skavsta with Ryanair, which is packed every day.

There are around 2,000 Irish citizens in Sweden and I suppose now with the downturn in Ireland there are some professionals coming over here.

TL: What impression do Swedes have of Ireland based on your time in the job so far?

JJC: It seems to be a warm and positive assessment. They sense that, in Ireland, the living is reasonably good, people value cultural and personal development, sport, and they get to enjoy life a bit.

But I think in Ireland we are a little bit less formal.

TL: Have you been surprised in the rise of Gaelic football in Sweden?

JC: I know the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) very well, which is the largest Irish cultural association in the world. It has a huge reach even though the game is only played in Ireland. One of my colleagues plays as a goalkeeper with the Stockholm Gaels. It’s terrific as it has all the attributes of exercise and comradeship but is also a marvellous network throughout Sweden.

TL: What do you think Ireland could learn from Sweden?

JJC: One thing I admire about the Swedes is their self-reliance and resilience. They have a very strong ability to get things done when it comes to discipline and time.

I met the man who was the chief executive of Ericsson when the dotcom bubble burst. He told me that he had to cut Ericsson in half overnight in order to survive. It’s now an €18 billion ($23.5 billion) corporation while previous competitors Motorola and Nortel are gone. That resilience and self-belief is something I admire.

TL: The Irish government closed a number of embassies including one in the Vatican recently to cut costs. Is there any threat to the office in Stockholm?

JJC: I don’t think so. When money is tight, it's tough to take difficult decisions and some weren’t ideal.

There isn't a Swedish embassy in Dublin - it closed in 2010 - but we do have a very active Swedish ambassador to Ireland, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, who is in Ireland a great deal of the time.

Sweden has also put a full-time minister-counsellor to run Swedish affairs in Dublin as of the start of November, and there is every possibility that the Swedish embassy in Ireland will reopen.

TL: How do you see the relationship between Ireland and Sweden going forward?

JJC: Ireland has to chair the European Union Presidency for six months from January 1st and it will be my role to lead that. I believe in leading from common ground and not from issues that are of excessive interest to Ireland, but something that interests everybody such as employment.

We share many political positions and anytime I have the honour of meeting [Swedish Foreign Minister] Carl Bildt we have a high degree of assimilation on policy as we face the same issues. Sweden wants the European family to work, as does Ireland.

There is also the small matter of a World Cup qualifier when Ireland comes to Sweden on March 22nd, so may the best team win!

Patrick Reilly

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

19:05 December 3, 2012 by StephenR
"A veteran of the Department of Foreign Affairs since 1975, it's no surprise that Carroll has a penchant for travelling as he is a native of Dun Laoghaire in Dublin Bay which once played host to the Vikings."

It's also where the Blueshirts set sail from to support Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Does that mean he has a penchant for fascism?
10:18 December 4, 2012 by Rey Stockholm
ireland can not afford the cost of this man swanning around Sweden burning money Ireland does not have

What does he think he actually achieves
14:55 December 5, 2012 by shahislam
Test:

It's not what dumb heads in control of economic-machine think. Only human global-guys to lose something from the balancing measures of Obama-Biden are the filthy-wealthy ones with unscrupulously obtained millions / billionns of dollars' worth of labor of $$$$$$$$$$$$$ from elsewhere in the world via oil, arms, insurance, royal-religion businesses etc.

Redistribution of wealth is much easier job than the wise but unnecessarily worried and conditioned golbal folks can guess.
Today's headlines
Interview
'The concept of race is a slippery slope': Ullenhag
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

'The concept of race is a slippery slope': Ullenhag

Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag tells The Local why he plans to remove the term "race" from all Swedish law, how he responds to his critics, and why Sweden must steer clear of xenophobia. READ  

Sweden's tourism figures on the rise for 2014

Sweden's tourism figures on the rise for 2014

Tourism in Sweden is on the rise, with the first half of 2014 seeing a boom in visiting figures for both domestic and foreign tourists. READ  

Northern Dispatches
How I tackled northern Sweden's savage insects

How I tackled northern Sweden's savage insects

Ex-Londoner Paul Connolly has just survived a northern Sweden heat wave. But it wasn't the high temperatures that were the real problem, he recounts. READ  

What's On in Sweden - Pride Parade

What's On in Sweden - Pride Parade

Saturday marks the Stockholm Pride Parade, the biggest event of Pride Week (and the biggest Pride Parade in Scandinavia). Here's what to see and where to be, as well as plenty of other activities in Sweden's three biggest cities for the weekend. READ  

Railway fatalaties on the rise in Sweden
File photo: Carl Dougge/Flickr

Railway fatalaties on the rise in Sweden

Even though Sweden's Traffic Agency has drastic plans to reduce the number of people killed by trains in Sweden, a new report shows that figures are on the rise. READ  

Woman finds Ikea bags stuffed with 80 skeletons

Woman finds Ikea bags stuffed with 80 skeletons

UPDATED: A woman in southern Sweden is furious after stumbling upon scores of skulls and human bones inside Ikea bags in a church. The man who dug up the bones, however, says it's not as bad as it looks. READ  

Swedish Wikipedia jumps to second biggest

Swedish Wikipedia jumps to second biggest

There are now more Swedish Wikipedia entries than any other language in the world, besides English. And there's one Swede who's largely responsible. READ  

Assault with iron pipe 'no hate crime': police
The aftermath of the attack in Seved, Malmö on July 6th 2014. Drago Prvulovic / TT

Assault with iron pipe 'no hate crime': police

Police in southern Sweden have concluded that a man who was beaten with an iron pipe for hanging an Israeli flag in his window was not a victim of a hate crime. READ  

AstraZeneca hikes earnings outlook
Photo: Claus Gertsen/TT

AstraZeneca hikes earnings outlook

After fighting off a fierce takeover bid from Pfizer, Swedish-British drugmaker AstraZeneca raised its 2014 earnings outlook and posted rising second quarter sales on Thursday. READ  

Race to be scrapped from Swedish legislation
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag meets children in Husby, Stockholm. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Race to be scrapped from Swedish legislation

The Swedish government announced that it plans to remove all mentions of race from Swedish legislation, saying that race is a social construct which should not be encouraged in law. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Stockholm demonstration against Israel
National
Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats
National
Gender neutral pronoun 'hen' enters dictionary
Society
Top ten cafes in Stockholm
People-watching
Gallery
People-watching - Stockholm Pride
Blog updates

31 July

Calling a speedo a speedo (Blogweiser) »

"There are a lot of speedos on Europe’s beaches. Some European males are evidently more comfortable sporting small, stretchy suits on public beaches than I would be. I accept it may be nice to have swimwear that’s not long and cumbersome. A speedo is maybe also good for tanning. But strolling around town in a..." READ »

 

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 
 
 
Photo: Henrik Trygg/Imagebank Sweden
Society
Sweden worst in EU at getting foreigners jobs
Lifestyle
Stockholm Pride kicks off
Analysis
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ
National
Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high
National
Politician reported for selling 'negro ball'
National
Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'
Gallery
Stockholm Pride: Allsång på Skansen with Conchita Wurst
Skatteverket
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

735
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se