• 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
Brit's charity tractor trek heads for Sweden
The vintage tractor ready to travel from UK to north Norway. Photo: Peter Matheson

Brit's charity tractor trek heads for Sweden

A British man is set next month to drive from Scotland, across Sweden, and to the northern tip of Norway on a vintage tractor to raise money for a cancer charity. READ  

Sweden agency hikes heat warning to 'extreme'
This canine friend is not amused. Photo: TT

Sweden agency hikes heat warning to 'extreme'

Swedish weather agency SMHI has raised its weather warning, giving notice of "extremely high temperatures" in parts of the country. READ  

Songs for a hot Swedish summer
Ted Gärdestad. Photo: TT

Songs for a hot Swedish summer

Contributor Paul Connolly has put together a list of Swedish songs to capture balmy summer days, which in his neck of the northern woods are pushing the mercury above 35c for the first time in a century. READ  

Swedes suffer as buses boil in the summer sun
Photo: TT

Swedes suffer as buses boil in the summer sun

Stockholm's local traffic authority has received almost 300 complaints since June 1st with many regarding stifling heat on the city's buses, which lack air con. READ  

Grounded flights strand Swedes in Tel Aviv
Photo: Matt Rourke/TT

Grounded flights strand Swedes in Tel Aviv

UPDATE: About 270 passengers planning to fly to Stockholm are still stranded in Tel Aviv, and airlines have stated that flights will likely be grounded on Thursday as well. READ  

The Local List
Top ten: Swedish taboos
The butter knife is for butter. Photo: Mats Sandelin/TT

Top ten: Swedish taboos

From standing in line to taking your hols in the off-season, Sweden is a society with customs and faux pas, the Danes might say taboos. Here is a list of ten to watch out for. READ  

Fears mount for Swede kidnapped in Ukraine
A tank in Horlivka. Photo: Dmitry Lovetsky/TT

Fears mount for Swede kidnapped in Ukraine

A mediator who handles prisoner exchanges between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels said on Wednesday that he feared for the life of a kidnapped Swede. READ  

Vattenfall cuts losses despite 'tough market'
Photo: TT

Vattenfall cuts losses despite 'tough market'

Swedish power group Vattenfall said on Wednesday that second quarter losses had been cut despite trying market conditions, forecasting that energy prices were unlikely to recover in the "foreseeable future". READ  

Swedes 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Swedish actors Peter Johansson, Anna Sahlin and Måns Zelmerlöw. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Swedes 'most beautiful' in the Nordics

Who is the fairest of them all? Swedes are, according to the rest of the Nordic nations in a recent survey. READ  

My Swedish Career
American teams up with Swede to beat cancer
Matthew Volsky holding the Gynocoular colposcope which is used for screening cervical cancer. Photo: Gynocoular

American teams up with Swede to beat cancer

When Matthew Volsky first came to Sweden he didn't think he would stick around. Six years and a pioneering invention later he tells The Local about the medical device which is helping save lives around the world. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Blog updates

22 July

Det (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! “Det” is a personal pronoun that can be used in many ways, and it might me confusing if you always translate “det” to English “it”. In this article I will do my best to guide you to how to use “det”. Det replacing a word, a phrase or a clause Let us begin with the less confusing..." READ »

 

22 July

PROTECTING GIRLS FROM ABUSE OF THEIR RIGHTS (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Today (22 July) my Prime Minister, David Cameron, and UNICEF, are hosting the world’s first #GirlSummit in London. The Summit’s aim is to mobilise domestic and international efforts to end the appalling practices of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child Early Forced Marriage (CEFM). This is a high priority for the UK government and the Prime..." READ »

 
 
 
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Gallery
People-watching July 11-13
National
Malmö mayor slams Danish beggar ban
National
Swedish anti-abortion midwife sues county
National
Swede's salary chopped for Facebook use
National
Northern Sweden warmest in 90 years
Gallery
'Victoria Day': Crown Princess Victoria turns 37
Politics
Mona Sahlin to fight extremism in Sweden
National
EU tells Sweden to cover up snus flavours
Society
Swede snags assassin role in Tom Cruise film
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

702
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