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CLIMATE CHANGE: A NEW RISK ASSESSMENT

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today.   The UK is committed to tackling this threat. We were the first country in the world to make our emissions reductions targets legally binding.

This week, the Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay presented a new report produced by leading scientists from the UK, US India and China. The report specifically focuses on the risks of climate change in the longer term. Some of the key conclusions are:

  • The risks of climate change should be assessed in the same way as risks to national security and public health.  The worst case scenarios are the most important to understand.
  • Climate change risk assessments should be updated on an ongoing basis so that new data and changes in experts’ best estimates can be communicated to political leaders.
  • Without stronger political commitments and faster technological progress, global emissions are likely to follow a much higher pathway than is consistent with limiting warming to 2°C.
  • On a high emissions pathway, the risk of crossing thresholds in our ability to successfully adapt will increase over time.  High temperatures could increasingly exceed the tolerance limits of people and crops, and sea level rise could exceed the adaptive capability of coastal cities.
  • The systemic risks of climate change are likely to be larger than the direct impacts.  Climate shocks to food production, magnified by counterproductive policy and market responses, could pose great risks to global food security.  High degrees of climate change could pose a great threat to national and international security.

The Risk Assessment does not make policy conclusions. But it serves to highlight the imperative of an new international agreement. The Paris Conference in December (COP21) will be a pivotal moment. Britain will be working for ambitious, credible and legally binding agreements.

Sweden and the UK have worked together closely on climate policy, including the Green Growth Group, and our and others’ efforts will be needed to achieve the breakthrough we need at the end of the year.

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INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: SEMINAL SEMESTER

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Today begins the UN Finance for Development Summit in Addis. It marks the start of six critical months.

Will 2015 be remembered as a turning point in international development policy, leading to ambitious multilateral agreements? Or will it be known as another year of ‘what-ifs’?

Conferences and summits are no substitute for action. But they are a way of engaging leaders to commit. I worked on the UN World Summit in 2005.

Now the international system faces even bigger challenges. With four hugely important conferences before the end of the year  - on international financing, climate, sustainable development and trade – the international community has the opportunity to work together to find new solutions.

Success will lead toward eliminating poverty and protecting our planet. Failure will condemn future generations to insecurity and risk and put our earth in peril.

The EU has set an important signal ahead of the Finance for Development Summit, with a commitment by European Union member states to spend 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) on overseas development assistance.

The UK has met its target – as of course has Sweden – and has been the first to make this commitment part of domestic law. We encourage other EU member states to do the same.

Development assistance is crucial in helping countries achieve sustainable development and address climate change. But now the conversation needs to move beyond aid and into a more holistic financing approach. “Multi-stakeholder partnership” is an ugly phrase, but it means bringing government, business and others together in a shared cause.

We also need policy reforms in developing countries to ensure the support received can be used in the best way possible. There must be transparency when it comes to tax and the extractives industry, anti-corruption measures in place and enforced, trade barriers reduced and illegal financial flows stopped.

Success in Addis would set the tone for the rest of the year. To follow are the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in New York in September, the Climate Change Conference in Paris and the WTO Trade Ministerial in Nairobi, both in December.

Together Britain and Sweden can provide leadership to break the traditional divisions and help achieve global success.

Because we should look to make 2015 a turning point for progress – not the year of missed opportunities.

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BRITAIN’S SUMMER BUDGET: SECURITY FROM PROSPERITY

Friday, July 10th, 2015

You don’t need to look far afield to see the risks from economic insecurity. Tackling those risks requires foresight, resolve and readiness to take difficult decisions.  Britain is demonstrating this.

On Wednesday, our government reaffirmed its commitment to the interdependent goals of a strong economy and robust security. Our finance minister George Osborne presented the Government’s summer budget and, as he said in opening his speech, “This is a Budget that puts security first”.

Despite financial pressures, the government has put its money where its mouth is and committed to meet the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence each year for the rest of this decade, increasing the defence budget in real terms every year.

The UK will be the only major nation spending 2% of GDP on defence and 0.7% (the international target) on international development.  And our international engagement doesn’t stop there.

  • We have 4,000 personnel on 21 military operations in 19 countries, and a permanent overseas military deployment of over 15,000.
  • We have a budget that means we have been able to commit to spending over £160 billion on equipment over the next decade to keep Britain safe. That includes new Joint Strike Fighters; more surveillance aircraft; hunter killer submarines; two aircraft carriers; and the most advanced armoured vehicles.
  • Our commitment to NATO and to this region is significant and enduring.  We have Royal Air Force Typhoons conducting Baltic Air Policing duties and we will have 4,000 troops exercising with eastern Allies during 2015. The UK remains at the forefront of the development of NATO’s new ‘spearhead’ brigade, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, and we will lead the VJTF in 2017, contributing up to 3000 personnel. Also, the UK will provide at least a battle group of 1000 service personnel each year to the VJTF up until the beginning of the next decade.

Funding this defence investment requires prosperity at home. So we will make Britain even more open for business, reducing the corporate tax rate to 18%, and introducing allowances to hire new employees. Britain is the jobs creator of the Western World, with almost two million net new jobs in the last five years. We will build on that, securing our economic defences, strengthening our international partnerships, building security and prosperity together.

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DEFENDING OUR INTERESTS … AND OUR ALLIES

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

This is an important week for European security, with decisions affecting Europe’s unstable Southern and Eastern borders.

The EU’s Foreign Ministers met at the start of the week. They decided to launch an EU military mission as part of the wider response to the crisis of Mediterranean migration. The UK will be contributing a Royal Navy warship HMS Enterprise to the important task of gathering information about the human traffickers who cause such distress and misery.

Ministers also agreed, as the UK and Sweden have consistently argued for, to maintain EU sanctions against Russia, given the need to see full of implementation of Russia’s international undertakings to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.

NATO’s Defence Ministers, joined by those of key partners like Sweden and Finland, are also meeting this week. The UK is also committed to playing a leading role helping NATO tackle insecurity in the East, including through providing reassurance to our Eastern Allies.

The UK has been at the forefront of NATO’s work to develop the so-called “Readiness Action Plan” endorsed at the NATO Summit in Wales last September.

We have agreed to take part in Air Policing operations in the Baltic states again in 2016. And we are also making a major contribution towards the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), part of NATO’s suite of readiness and reassurance measures.

In 2016, we will contribute around 1,000 troops to a Spanish-led Task Force and in 2017 the UK will lead the Land (ie Army) component of the VJTF with a contribution numbering up to 3,000 troops.

We will also be contributing a 1000-strong battle group to the Polish-led Task Force between 2019 and 2021.

This means the UK will be providing at least 1000 personnel to this important Allied reassurance presence every year between 2016 and 2021.

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INVESTING FOR THE FUTURE: A TRILLION POUND SUCCESS STORY

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

I was delighted to speak to the UK and US Chambers of Commerce in Stockholm yesterday, with my US counterpart and representatives from business and the trades union. Our subject was TTIP. The key points from my prepared remarks are below.

As I was speaking, news came out of a record-breaking year for foreign investment in the UK.

In total, 1,988 investment projects were set up by foreign businesses in the UK during the 2014/15 financial year – a 12 per cent increase from the previous year. We estimate that these projects have created 85,000 new jobs and 23,000 safeguarded jobs across the UK.

We estimate that total foreign investment into the UK has reached £1 trillion – the highest in Europe and third highest in the world after the United States and China. The UK is the top destination for investment in Europe, a performance contrary to global and European trends. OECD and UN data suggest that the global FDI flows declined by 11 per cent in 2014. However the UK’s FDI flow increased by more than 50 per cent in the same period.

The jobs that investment can bring is one of many reasons why the UK government believes that, in the months to come, Europe and the US have an historic opportunity to bring together the world’s two biggest economic blocs in a partnership that protects standards, boosts growth and sets an example to the wider world of what economically liberal, outward facing economies should be doing.

It’s great for Britain but a sad reflection of the situation in many other EU countries that the UK alone produced more new jobs between 2010 and 2013 than the whole of the rest of the EU combined.

So Europe needs growth and TTIP means growth. And the right kind of TTIP, which we believe is within reach, means growth with standards, protecting consumers and the environment.

The projected economic benefits of an ambitious and thorough TTIP are well known by now. Depending on the level of ambition in the final deal, TTIP could be worth an added 120 billion euro a year to the EU’s economy.

It’s not just about big global numbers, however. Small and medium sized businesses will see direct results from TTIP. It is estimated that 28% of the EU’s trade is derived from SMEs exporting to the US – an effective TTIP will be a great boost to the volume of trade and the number of firms able to participate. And it’s those SMEs who are most likely to bring employment benefits to smaller communities across Europe.

Under the sort of TTIP we want, tariffs, already much lower than in years past, will be almost entirely removed, leading to increased revenue for companies, especially in food and drink and textile industries. The sheer volume of trade means that, even where tariffs are already low, businesses will still be free from a significant accumulated cost, freeing them up to employ more people and invest in the future.

Regulations will also be harmonised without leading to a decrease in standards. Many SMEs have had difficulty meeting certain US regulatory requirements even if their products have been deemed safe by EU standards. Having dual testing procedures and licensing requirements has also prevented European companies from exporting.  Big companies can afford to develop and run two distinct product lines, one to match EU standards and another for UE requirements. But that’s something SMEs can’t afford. Shared standards will be of the great help to the smallest entrepreneurs, a fact the critics of TTIP with their caricatures of predatory big business, choose to ignore.

The harmonisation process will not lead to a reduction in regulatory standards. All parties in the negotiations have made this clear. It is also plainly stated in the negotiating mandate, available for all to see on the Commission’s website.

Any food that enters the EU will need to meet EU food safety rules. Labour standards will be upheld, including the right to collective bargaining and protection against discrimination. The UK expects TTIP to reiterate the protection for domestic labour standards and to preserve European governments’ right to regulate including the right to have free public services, like Britain’s National Health Service.  Similarly, environmental standards will be unaffected by TTIP.

So TTIP is a huge prize for Europe, with wider implication, in two senses. First, for global free trade, where the standards set by the US and Europe can, we hope, inspire wider trade liberalisation, to help developing countries gain access to developed markets.

Secondly, at and least as important, it is a strategic prize in these uncertain times, to bring Europe and the US even closer together. Britain, like Sweden, has long favoured an economically liberal, outward facing European Union. TTIP is a central part of that.

But a comprehensive Trade and Investment deal with the US, though a necessary part of the change we want to see in the EU, is not sufficient.

The EU is at a crossroads, with unresolved internal problems as well as big external challenges. In Britain’s view, the Union needs to take ambitious steps to stay relevant in the global market and to become more relevant to its own citizens. Britain wants to be part of a successful reforming European Union, but that requires real change. Our Prime Minister will have more to say about that at next week’s European Council.

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UK CELEBRATES EUROPEAN CLIMATE DIPLOMACY DAY

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

This is a guest post by Dr. Mikael Allan Mikaelsson, Science & Innovation/Energy & Climate Policy Advisor at British Embassy in Stockholm.

Today, British Embassies and High Commissions around the world are celebrating European Climate Diplomacy Day. The day aims to raise awareness of climate change, highlight the importance of a global transition towards a sustainable low-carbon economy and promote international cooperation on climate action.

The importance of climate diplomacy has never been greater than it has been this year in the run-up to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP21, this December in Paris. The COP21 hopes to become a significant turning point in global action to tackle climate change as more than 190 countries try to achieve a legally binding universal agreement on collective efforts to keep global warming below 2°C. The failure to do so may result in irreversible and harmful damage to both our society and environment.

Sweden and the UK have been at the forefront of action to combat climate change. Sweden for example has undertaken some of the most ambitious energy and climate policy targets in all of Europe, and at present has already met its 2020 target of half of its energy coming from renewables.

Similarly, the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act established the world’s first legally binding climate change target, with the aim of reducing the country’s green house gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. The UK Government has also undertaken decisive policy action to decarbonise the UK energy system and boost green economic growth, including electricity market reform – which entails a£110 billion investment to upgrade the UK’s electricity infrastructure – and the establishment of the Green Investment Bank (the first bank of its type in the world) to accelerate the UK’s green economy. Indeed, recent data shows an approximate 10% drop in CO2emissions in 2014, despite having the EU’s highest economic growth.

The UK is regarded as one of the most attractive countries in the world for green growth, with almost £37 billion invested in renewable energy since 2010 and a turnover from the low carbon economy valued at £122 billion, supporting over 460,000 jobs. The UK is also a global leader in offshore wind with 5.5GW installed or under construction, and is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading countries in ocean energy.

This year, the UK ranked sixth on the Global Cleantech Innovation Index, while at the same time topping Europe’s ranking on newly installed solar power capacity. Our UK Trade & Investment and Science & Innovation team at the Embassy are working to strengthen bilateral collaboration between our countries on the low carbon innovation agenda.

Sweden and the UK share strong ambitions and like-minded approach on combating climate change. As such, we have worked closely together to push for the so called “20-20-20” targets: a 20% reduction in EU GHG emissions (based on 1990 levels); raising the share of EU energy consumption from renewables to 20%; and a 20% improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency. Not only have we collaborated on action at home and in the EU, but are committed to supporting other countries in adapting to climate impacts and making the transition to a low carbon, climate resilient development path. Both the UK and Sweden have committed £720m and £350 respectively to the UN Green Climate Fund, clearly demonstrating our international support.

In the coming months Sweden and the UK will work even harder along with global partners to achieve an ambitious and far reaching global climate deal to avoid the most dangerous impact of climate change. To achieve our common objective, the role of Climate Diplomacy will be more significant than ever before.

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THE FRIENDLY INVASION

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Ever since the Vikings explorers from these parts have headed for the British isles.

Last year was a record year for this welcome and friendly invasion of our shores.

According to Visit Britain, the UK’s tourism organisation, more Swedes than ever visited Britain in 2014.

869,000 Swedes came to the UK last year, representing a 5% increase and setting a new record.

Swedish tourists also set a record for spending while in the UK, with £504 million spent over the entire year. (Making up for all that medieval pillaging…?)

London unsurprisingly was the most common tourist destination, but visits increased throughout the UK. Scotland, the Southeast and the booming Northwest were also very popular. Going forward we will continue to encourage Swedes to visit other parts of our fantastic country – whether that is Yorkshire, Wales or the Northeast.

Obviously the British economy benefits from the Swedish tourists. But just as important are the cultural and people-to-people connections established during these trips.

As I wrote in December, Swedes hold the UK in high esteem.  The mutual favourable opinion and the ease of travel between our two countries will only strengthen our relationship and lead to greater opportunities – opportunities for business and for friendship.

Because as we enter a significant year for the UK and its relationship to Europe and to Sweden, it will be important to remember and cherish our friendships.

The Swedish-British relationship shows that we have much in common and that our friendship continues to grow. Our links in business, science and tourism have set a strong foundation for fruitful partnerships at the personal and governmental level.

And more visits will mean an even greater relationship.

I hope to see even more of you in the UK soon.

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SCOTLAND’S FUTURE: MORE POWER WITHIN A STRONGER UNION

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Scotland will soon have one of the most powerful devolved governments in the world. That’s the promise of the UK government.

Last November, following the Scottish referendum, the cross-party  Smith Commission released its report on how to devolve further powers to the Scottish government.

On the first day of this Parliament, the UK Government introduced the Scotland bill, to give effect to the report’s recommendations.

The substantial new powers for Scotland proposed in the legislation include:

  • An extensive range of fiscal powers, including the ability to set the thresholds and rates of income tax in Scotland and keep all the money raised for spending in Scotland;
  • The right to keep half of all VAT raised in Scotland
  • Around £2.5 billion worth of new welfare powers such as decision-making power on benefits for the disabled and elderly

With its new powers, Scotland will have increased authority and accountability.

The Scottish Government will be responsible for raising around 40% of its budget and will be able to decide around 60% of public spending in Scotland.

The UK Government wants the legislation to be adopted before the elections for a new Scottish Parliament in May 2016 so that the voters in Scotland can make their choice based on an understanding of the new powers that parliament will enjoy.

None of the powers detract from the benefits of being part of the United Kingdom including the security of our broader economy, the pound, UK pensions and the UK armed and security forces, and, of course, being part of the UK’s global diplomatic network and relationships.

Last year’s referendum demonstrated that the Scottish people wanted an even more powerful and accountable government in Edinburgh, while retaining its full and historic role in the United Kingdom.

What is in prospect now can be the best of both worlds.

So this is important legislation and an important moment, for Scotland and the future of our United Kingdom.

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UKRAINE: KEEPING UP THE PRESSURE

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

The world is not short of crises. Syria, Iraq and Mediterranean migration have dominated the headlines in recent weeks and months.

But we must not forget Ukraine.  Fighting continues, albeit at a lower level than in the past.  Separatist forces, supported by Russia, continue to destabilise parts of eastern Ukraine.

In February, France and Germany brokered a set of agreements in Minsk, offering a path towards ending the conflict and restoring Ukrainian authority over the Donbas region and Eastern Ukraine more generally.

All parties – including Russia and Ukraine – must be committed to this process and engage seriously and constructively.  When he spoke to President Putin on 25 May, David Cameron stressed again the need for the full implementation of Minsk.

For that reason, it was important, for at least two reasons, that in March the EU linked its sanctions package to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.  First, to signal again our strong collective concern over Russian actions.  And second, to continue to apply pressure on Russia to meet its obligations under the agreements.

We continue to see a clear pattern of continued Russian destabilisation of eastern Ukraine.  Last week the Atlantic Council released a report entitled ‘Hiding In Plain Sight’, about Russia’s continuing illegal and clandestine military activity in Ukraine.  This report contains evidence which has been painstakingly collated over many months. It adds to the body of evidence countering the Kremlin’s claim that it is not fuelling conflict in Ukraine.

Amongst other things, the report documents the transit of Russian military equipment across the border to battlefields in Ukraine.  It provides new evidence that many of the attacks actually originated inside Russia itself, not, as claimed by Moscow, from separatist-controlled areas of Ukraine – based on satellite data, crater analysis, and open source materials.  And it includes satellite imagery confirming the movement of Russian troops and build-up of military camps along the Ukrainian border.

On the ground, we saw a fortnight ago two Russian Special Forces troops captured in Ukraine, carrying Russian-issued equipment and weaponry (including a silenced sniper rifle) and confessing they were there on a mission by the Russian state.

And there is more.  On 12 May Boris Nemtsov’s report ‘Putin’s War’ was posthumously published, identifying at least 70 Russian soldiers who had died fighting in Debaltseve this year.  NATO estimates that hundreds of Russian troops and Special Forces are currently active in Ukraine, with many thousands more poised along the Russian-Ukrainian border.

This stands in contrast to the commitments agreed by Russia in February.  Article 10 of the Minsk agreements could not be clearer: ‘withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment and mercenaries from Ukraine, monitored by the OSCE’.  Russia is clearly not meeting this.

Russia is also breaching Articles 1 (an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire), 2 (allowing the OSCE to monitor the ceasefire) and 5 (releasing all hostages and illegally detained persons).

So we must continue to put pressure on Moscow fully to implement its commitments under the Minsk agreements.  And of course Kyiv must also keep its commitments, including on constitutional reform.

But let us be clear about responsibility. It is vital to remember that Russia is the aggressor here.  It is Russia that has deliberately destabilised a sovereign European country, redrawn its borders by force, annexed part of its territory, and started a conflict which has cost over 6,000 lives so far.

We cannot accept this and we need to be clear about that.  In the EU, we need to stay the course and be ready to take further measures if necessary. And we need to remain united.  I’m confident Sweden and the UK will remain in lock-step over this vital issue.

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CELEBRATING THREE GREAT ENGLISH EXPORTS IN 2015

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Deputy Head of Mission Aidan Liddle joins us for another guest blog today.

In 2015, England marks two major anniversaries. It will be 800 years since Magna Carta was sealed, and 750 years since the formation of the first English parliament.

Anyone who is interested in seeing the document that has been described as England’s greatest export need only visit the British Library, where not one but two copies are on display in a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.

Embedded in the rule of law in over 100 countries, Magna Carta established for the first time that everyone, even the king, had to obey the law.

The document inspired early American settlers, with its principles echoed in the US Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights; it has been used to argue for freedom of the press; and for extending the vote to ordinary people and to women.

It is also the foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Written after the atrocities of World War II, this declaration states that people around the world are protected by fundamental human rights, regardless of their citizenship, race, gender or beliefs. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said that the Declaration may well become ‘the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere’.

Events are taking place around the UK to celebrate the anniversary of the Great Seal being placed on the document at Runnymede, in southern England, in June 1215.

The UK’s stable and prosperous democracy is among the legacies of Magna Carta.

But democracy and human rights are not a given in many parts of the world, including in some parts of Europe. This year’s Human Rights and Democracy Report by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office highlighted Russia and Belarus as ‘countries of concern’, for instance, and drew attention to the significant deterioration in human rights in those parts of eastern Ukraine under separatist control and in Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia a year ago this month.

The second great English export has to be a sport – but which one? Sports that can trace their origins to England include cricket, rugby and football.

Rugby draws its name from Rugby School in Warwickshire, where, legend has it, schoolboy William Webb Ellis picked up the ball during a football match and ran with it in 1823.

This year, the Rugby World Cup comes to England. Twenty teams from six continents will compete to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup on 31 October at Twickenham, the home of English rugby.

And it was at the Freemasons’ Tavern in London where the rules of association football were first standardised.

Representatives of football clubs and schools met in the pub, near Covent Garden, and over the course of six meetings in autumn and winter 1863 they codified a definitive set of rules.  (The delegation from Rugby School preferred their version, and went their own way!)  From these humble beginnings, football spread across the globe and is now the most popular sport in the world.

The third great English export has to be the English language, which is now spoken by many times more people than the 53 million who live in England itself.

It is the language in which Shakespeare wrote, and The Beatles sang.  And now it is the number one language on the world wide web, which was itself invented by English computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

English language and English literature are now taught to hundreds of millions of school children around the world.

St George’s Day – the day when Englad celebrates its patron saint – falls on 23 April. By an extraordinary coincidence, it’s also the day on which three of our greatest poets – Rupert Brooke, William Wordsworth and Shakespeare himself – all died.  So perhaps you’ll be inspired to think of England, and its extraordinary contribution to global law and culture, over the next few weeks.

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