• Sweden's news in English
 
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

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)

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
Agency: Dream in vain of a white Christmas
There is little chance of snow in Stockholm this Christmas. File photo: TT

Agency: Dream in vain of a white Christmas

Sweden's weather agency SMHI has warned those living in southern parts of the country to stop dreaming of a white Christmas or risk disappointment. READ  

Shots fired at Stockholm migrant camp: report
File photo: TT

Shots fired at Stockholm migrant camp: report

Stockholm police have launched an investigation after reports that shots were fired at an EU migrant camp in the south of the city on Saturday. READ  

Löfven launches Swedish 'American Dream'
Photo: TT

Löfven launches Swedish 'American Dream'

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven used his Christmas speech on Saturday to launch his idea of the "Swedish Promise", an equivalent to the more familiar "American Dream". READ  

Hoho: Estelle records cute Christmas message
Princess Estelle pictured in her 2014 Christmas jumper. Photo: Kate Gabor/royalcourt.se

Hoho: Estelle records cute Christmas message

Video: Sweden's little Princess Estelle has got into the spirit of Christmas by recording a special message together with her parents. READ  

Swedes over-estimate English abilities: expert
BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg suffers a linguistic let-down at The White House in 2010. File photo: TT

Swedes over-estimate English abilities: expert

Swedes are generally confident in their own English abilities, a new survey has shown, although one expert has questioned whether this belief is misplaced. READ  

Sweden seeks ban on foreign booze advertising
File photo: Shutterstock.

Sweden seeks ban on foreign booze advertising

Two powerful Swedish lobby groups have turned to the European Commission to try and get a complete ban on alcohol advertising on television, after it emerged some channels were dodging the ban by being registered abroad. READ  

Minecraft creator beats Beyonce in mansion bid
Markus Persson created hit game Minecraft. Photo: TT

Minecraft creator beats Beyonce in mansion bid

UPDATED: Swedish billionaire Markus Persson is reported to have outbid the likes of Jay-Z and Beyonce with his half billion kronor offer ($70 million) for a 2,000-square-metre Beverly Hills mansion. READ  

Accelerated for Ice Music
Ice Music taps Texas troubadour for new tunes
A scene from a 2014 Ice Music concert in Luleå. Photo: Graeme Richardson/Swedish Lapland

Ice Music taps Texas troubadour for new tunes

The world's "coolest concert" is set for a Texas twist in 2015 when Luleå's innovative Ice Music welcomes American musical talent from Austin, home of the South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival. READ  

Second baby on the way for Princess Madeleine
Princess Madeleine at the previous Nobel banquet. Photo: TT

Second baby on the way for Princess Madeleine

UPDATED: Sweden's Royal Court has announced that Princess Madeleine is pregnant with the second child of her financier husband Chris O'Neill. READ  

Video
Video: The best & worst of Swedish Christmas
Tom says he is a big fan of the food. Photo: The Local

Video: The best & worst of Swedish Christmas

What's the best thing about Christmas in Sweden? The worst? And perhaps most importantly, the tastiest? The Local's Paul O'Mahony hits the Old Town's Christmas market as the first snow of the season falls to find out more. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: December 18th to 25th
National
'Unprecedented' Russian activity: Armed Forces
Society
Interview: The Local chats with Melinda Gates
Society
VIDEO: Stockholmers try out some Swedish tongue twisters
Society
Eight things to do when it gets dark in Umeå
Blog updates

19 December

-t or no -t? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! There are many things in the Swedish language that can give you a grey hair or two,..." READ »

 

19 December

Editor’s Blog, December 19th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Father Time has taken another week from us, but never fear – good old Father..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Inside Sweden's first 'light therapy' school
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching: December 17th
Estelle through the years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Society
Why are there so many 100-year-olds in one Swedish town?
Society
Is it time to better celebrate Sweden's diverse identity?
Gallery
Property of the week: Huddinge
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
CATCH UP: Russian plane in Baltic near-miss drama
Lifestyle
How my compass drew me to Sweden
National
The man whose memory you need to remember
Gallery
People-watching: December 13th - 14th
Sponsored Article
How to get your own office anywhere in the world
Politics
'Our party will stand alone': Stefan Löfven
Society
The Local chats to Ruben Östlund, director of Golden Globe nominated Force Majeure
Lifestyle
Ten things to know before a Swedish party
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: December 12th to 19th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The 2014 Nobel Banquet
National
The Local's guide to the Nobel Prizes 2014
Education
Introducing... Education in Stockholm
Society
The Swedish Christmas market with a twist
Lifestyle
Why do so many Swedes have tattoos?
Society
Get 20% off Swedish Christmas decorations
National
Dewani family: We only heard half the story
Business & Money
Business in Stockholm: 'efficiency is money'
Gallery
Property of the week: Östermalm
National
Meet the Swedes hosting festive feasts for 'lonely' guests
Gallery
TIMELINE: Swedish honeymoon killing murder trial
Gallery
People-watching: December 7th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: What's it like to fly planes in Sweden?
National
Submarine hunters 'robbed' of reward cash
National
The Local's Countdown to Christmas
National
'Dangerous' USB charger recalled in Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's King and Queen wrap up France tour
National
Analysis: Should Snowden get asylum in Sweden?
National
Swedish schoolboy in female saint role row
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's political crisis unfolds
Gallery
People-watching: December 3rd
National
What happened to Sweden's ice bucket cash?
Lifestyle
Top Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
SIS: the thinking behind globalised learning
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Family life 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

820
jobs available
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:
psdmedia.se
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Counselling and Psychotherapy in English
Sometimes living in another culture can cause stress, confusion and feelings of sadness and loneliness. Talking to a professional psychotherapist/counsellor might help you. I am a UKCP Reg. psychotherapist. My practice is in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Contact me to discuss your options