Neutral Sweden to host Nato conference

Forty-six foreign ministers from Nato and its 20 partner countries are due to meet this spring in the Swedish ski resort of Åre. Twenty-six of the foreign ministers due to attend represent countries already a part of Nato. Part of this representation includes Germany’s Joschka Fischer, Britain’s Jack Straw, and U.S.’s Condoleezza Rice, recently named the most powerful woman in the world. Sweden’s foreign minister Laila Freivalds will attend and Göran Persson, Sweden’s prime minister, is likely to be present.

The final decision to hold the meeting at Åre on May 24-May 25, will be made by Nato’s general secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. However, the decision is practically finalized, as Nato already asked Sweden last year if it would like to host the meeting. In addition, Åre is seen as an ideal location, as it has new conference facilities and great views. Åre has already been inspected by a delegation from Nato, receiving positive reviews.

Sweden will have to prepare for its largest security force ever to properly protect against possible attacks by terrorists and extremists. Säpo, Sweden’s security service, will be in charge of the forces. There will also be additional security from other countries. The security forces combined with administrative personnel and foreign ministers brings the total to over a thousand people due to visit the small ski town.

As news of the meeting emerged, Sweden also announced that it will take part in a Nato crisis management exercise on a strategic level. This exercise is on decision making and not a practical exercise using troops. Sweden and 8 other non-Nato countries will participate in the exercise. Sweden has participated in peacekeeping missions before, noteably working with Nato within the framework of Partnership for Peace (PFP), but not on a strategic level.

Sweden is working at a more intimate level with Nato than ever before, raising questions about whether Sweden will join in the long term. Yet any attempts to become an official member of the alliance would be certain to meet with strong opposition from many in Sweden’s ruling left-wing coalition.

Sources: Göteborgs Posten, Aftonbladet

Sharon Tomcko


Five of Sweden’s political parties planned to evade party financing laws

Five of the eight political parties in the Swedish parliament discussed evading party financing laws with a businessman secretly working with journalists, a new investigation by broadcaster TV4 has found.

Five of Sweden's political parties planned to evade party financing laws

“There’s every reason to demand moral and political responsibility,” political scientist Jonas Hinnfors said of how Sweden’s society should react to the investigation’s findings. “It’s a threat to democracy.”

The new law on donations to political parties which came into force in 201  dictates that parties must declare all donations received from private individuals or businesses. Donators can remain anonymous, byt only as long as their donation does not exceed 24,150 kronor (€2,281). Larger donations must be declared along with the name of the donor.

The Kalla Fakta team which produced the documentary hired two businessmen to call each parliamentary party and ask how they could donate half a million kronor, while staying anonymous. The conversations were recorded and meetings filmed with a hidden camera.

Three parties – the Centre Party, the Left Party and the Green Party – said that it wasn’t possible for the donor to remain anonymous. 

But the other five parties – the Social Democrats, the Moderates, the Sweden Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals – suggested different ways of getting around the requirements.

Christian Democrat press secretary Peter Kullgren suggested splitting up donations and donating to individual candidates so that each donation remained under the legal limit.

Another method, proposed by Sweden Democrat head of finance Lena-Karin Lifvenhjelm, consisted of giving the money to another individual who would donate it under their name instead.

Magdalena Agrell, the Social Democrat’s head of finance, discussed finding someone else to act as a front in recorded telephone conversations.

The chairman and communications chief of the Social Democrat’s youth organisation, Diyar Cicek and Youbert Aziz, suggested that the businessman instead create a foundation to donate the money.

The Moderate Party’s ombudsman Patrik Haggren proposed that donations could be sent from different members of the businessman’s family in order to remain anonymous.

Lisa Flinth, who is responsible for leadership support in the Liberal Party, also proposed this method, providing the contact details of a middleman, the consultant Svend Dahl.

Dahl first proposed that his company send an invoice of half a million kronor to the businessman, but later suggested that the money be transferred to him to donate to the Liberals in his name, thereby avoiding having to pay tax.

“It’s important you keep yourself anonymous,” Dahl said in Kalla Fakta‘s recordings of conversations with the undercover businessman.

Dahl is a political scientist and has previously been head of media organisation Liberala Nyhetsbyrån.

Flinth was well aware of the fact that the method undermines the aim of the law, telling the businessman in a telephone conversation that it was very important that nothing could be traced back to the party.

“It could have serious consequences,” she said. “We don’t really have any margins when it comes to credibility.”

“If there was an article about this in the middle of a heated election campaign and we miss the threshold for getting in to parliament, I would never forgive myself,” she said.

Political scientist Jonas Hinnfors, who commented on the conversation for the Kalla Fakta team, said he was shocked after hearing it.

“They know what the point of the new legislation is,” he told Kalla Fakta. “Going against that is political dynamite.”

In a written comment on their website, the Liberals’ vice-party secretary Gustav Georgson stated that the party would not use Dahl’s consulting services again and that it “takes the statements made by Kalla Fakta seriously and will act forcefully to avoid similar situations happening again.”