Bildt ‘has party’s support’

Sweden's embattled foreign minister, Carl Bildt, has strong support from within his own party, Swedish news agency TT has reported.

Bildt has faced criticism for his connections to the oil industry and alleged links to the American pro-war lobby. But a survey of senior members of his Moderate Party around the country showed that Bildt’s position within the party remains strong.

“He is very skilled and a big personality. He has strong support as foreign minister,” said Jan Hallberg, leader of the Moderate group on Gothenburg council.

Margareta Pålsson, chairwoman of the Skåne branch of the party, agreed.

“We think that it is right to have this debate, but we are not altogether happy about the angle that is taken,” she said.

In Stockholm, the party’s stronghold, county chairman Erik Langby said support was holding.

“We think that he is quite right in many of the current questions, such as the Middle East issue. There is nobody who beats him when it comes to opening doors for Swedish interests,” he said.

Bildt has faced severe criticism from newspaper columnists and opposition politicians.

“He is foreign minister in a country with a tradition of neutrality, democracy and human rights. There must not be the slightest suspicion that there is something else behind his position on the issues,” said Veronica Palm, a Social Democrat member of the foreign affairs select committee.

Bildt himself said he was the victim of a media campaign.

“The media sometimes gives the picture that all politicians are potential bribe-takers, highwaymen and fraudsters,” he said. Bildt added that there was a “legitimate interest” in holding politicians to account, and admitted that the criticism could be due to the fact that he has not appeared in front of the Riksdag’s foreign affairs committee as often as he has been asked to.

“It’s always a question of striking a balance between being present [in the Swedish Parliament on the island of] Helgeandsholmen and in Brussels,” he said.