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EU mulls visas for Canadian tourists

AFP/The Local · 15 Jul 2009, 14:54

Published: 15 Jul 2009 14:54 GMT+02:00

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"As the presidency of the EU, we are in favour of this reciprocity," Swedish Migration and Asylum Policy Minister Tobias Billström told AFP.

"But it's up to the Commission to handle the proposal, because the Commission is responsible for the reciprocity mechanism," he added.

Canada imposed visas on Czechs to stave off what it said was a steady influx of Roma asylum applicants from the former communist country.

The Czech government reacted to Canada's decision on Tuesday by introducing visas for Canadian diplomats and recalling its ambassador in Canada for consultations, but it cannot impose visas on all Canadians under EU laws.

Czech authorities were also annoyed that the European Commission did not appear to be in any rush to impose visa requirements on Canadian nationals during the summer holidays.

Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Wednesday chided the EU over reducing the options of retaliating against Canada for imposing visas on Czechs.

"As you well know, Canada can decide and the Czech Republic cannot. It's Brussels that has to decide for us," he added.

At the European parliament in Strasbourg, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed regret about Canada's decision to re-introduce visas for Czech nationals.

The Canadian move, which also affected Mexico, is a bid to crack down on an explosion in the number of fraudulent refugee claims.

"We'll do all necessary efforts to restore the visa free travel," he told lawmakers.

"The Commission will examine the situation carefully and report on this" in a visa reciprocity report due out in September this year, he said.

Story continues below…

He said Czech, Canadian and Commission officials had met already Tuesday in Brussels to discuss the matter.

Billström and Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask will on Thursday and Friday host an informal meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Stockholm.

A solidarity clause within the EU allows all member states to impose visas on Canadian citizens who want to travel to Europe. But the procedure is lengthy, not automatic.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

18:22 July 15, 2009 by Mack
This is really stupid and shameful. The problem in Canada is that our Supreme court has ruled against the government being able to exclude certain countries from the asylum process. A person from any country has the right to apply for asylum. It takes years to go through the process with all of the rights for appeal. There are lots of bottom feeders (lawyers and organised crime) making money on this whole mess as well.
20:01 July 15, 2009 by Greg in Canada
I completely support the Canadian government on this move. We're getting far too many bogus refugee claimants taking away resources from legitimate refugees. I agree that the bottom feeders - the sleazy immigration lawyers and organized criminals posing as refugees have been getting a free ride off the Canadian taxpayer. If the Czechs or even the EU don't like it, then that's just too bad.
21:03 July 15, 2009 by Omidn
I completely agree with Greg, that is enough of getting so many influx of illegal refugee claims which use so much Canadian resources. This way Canadian Government can process legitimate claims faster.
22:11 July 15, 2009 by Greg in Canada
I read an article today written by an expatriate Czech living in Canada that the Czech government has been trying to get rid of the Roma gypsies for years and have even been encouraging them to apply for Canadian refugee status. They're bogus refugees.

If Tobias Billstrom is siding with the Czechs over Canada on this issue then he really is an idiot in my opinion.
22:36 July 15, 2009 by CarlBlack
For Greg: Do you really believe that it is possible that a government would support such thing without being immediately teared apart by media, EU officials and others? I don't know if it is just some statement cut from context or if it is made up, in all cases there should be some proof for that.

I agree with Mack that the whole problem comes from a bureaucratic limitation. The officials cannot just deny asylum to a small number of apparent bogus seekers immediately, they must investigate, allow appeal and so on. So now they have to find the other way around: request visa for a much higher number of normal travelers, employ a number of clerks to take care of it. And in the end they will again just deny the apparent asylum seekers, the only difference from the first case is that the decision cannot be appealed. Isn't that stupid?
22:40 July 15, 2009 by ppk
I think that our Canadian Gvt clearly don't understand what EU is.

How come can we ban an EU member because a particular group of this country?

Are the Gypsies denied to be citizens of EU? Are the Gypsies non grata in Canada?

The only problem with immigration in Canada is our immigration laws based on CORRUPTION.
23:14 July 15, 2009 by Greg in Canada
Some of you people obviously don't know the facts.

Canada only lifted the visa requirement from the Czech Republic in 2007. Prior to that a visa was required.

Since the visa requirement was dropped the number of Czech Roma "refugee" claimants has increased 993% in 2008 since 2006. Seems more than just a little strange wouldn't you agree.

The Czech government is encouraging the Roma to leave and has even been encouraging them to apply to Canada as bogus refugees.

Like Sweden, Canada has a relatively liberal refugee policy, but the Czech (and Mexican) claimants are not legitimate refugees. They are tying up resources that should be for legitimate refugees.

Neither the Czech or the Mexican governments are making any effort at their end to stop this influx of fake refugees into Canada. That left Canada no other choice than to take action on its own and require visas from these countries.

I support the Canadian government 100% on this issue..
23:19 July 15, 2009 by ziabach
Doesn't this annoy you a little bit tho if you have to do extra work to get into Sweden when you finally decide to move/visit Sweden? Hopefully it will all be settled by then
23:29 July 15, 2009 by Mack
Greg.. I don't agree with you. Other countries resolve this problem by just not letting themselves become taken advantage of. If you come from this list of countries then you can't apply for asylum. It should be as simple as that. Why penalize most of the legitimate CZ tourists because of our own inability to put in a workable process for a bunch of Roma? My understanding is that it ring based out of Toronto that has been working the Roma communities in CZ promising milk and honey. It is our system that is broken... that is the real story. Basically we are letting the courts decide something that should be more of a political decision. Personally I think they should trash the whole refugee process and come up with something completely new... i.e. Parliament votes once per year on which countries we want to accept refugees from based on world events and issues.
23:29 July 15, 2009 by Greg in Canada
"Doesn't this annoy you a little bit tho if you have to do extra work to get into Sweden when you finally decide to move/visit Sweden?"

Actually I have no interest in moving to Sweden. I've visited and like the Swedes but have no reason to ever live there.

I'm actually very surprised the Czech Roma "refugees" are applying to Canada and not Sweden or some other EU country.
00:39 July 16, 2009 by sebseb
I am Canadian, and I pray so EU REQUIRES visit visas for all Canadians.
02:54 July 16, 2009 by Gwrhyr
This debate is interesting considering that Americans are pretty muched laughed out of any country where they claim refugee status, even if they have a good reason, due to the fact that America is considered a 'safe' country for anyone. Since the Czech Republic is a developed EU country, shouldn't it be considered a 'safe' country as well, for the Roma? I doubt the Czech Republic really is a safe place for all Roma, just as the United States is not a safe place for all of its citizens... so on the one hand I think the Canadian visa ruling is annoying... if they really think the refugee claims from the Czech Republic are baseless then they can simply deny the refugee claims and deny the appeals as a matter of policy and not adopt a ruling affecting ALL Czech travelers.

On the other hand I find it ridiculous that Sweden would advocate an EU-wide tit-for-tat diplomatic spat when the real issue should be how to safeguard the rights of all EU citizens so that nobody in the EU feels the need to claim refugee status in another country.

Once again politicians adopt elementary-school playground tactics in international relations rather than sitting down, thinking, and coming up with innovative and practical solutions that address the actual issues at hand.
03:11 July 16, 2009 by Greg in Canada
"Since the Czech Republic is a developed EU country, shouldn't it be considered a 'safe' country as well, for the Roma? "

This is an excellent point. If Swedish or Canadian minority group citizens were seeking refugee status in another country everybody in the entire world would be asking human rights questions about Sweden/Canada but it seems that nobody is bothering asking such questions about the Czechs despite being a EU country. Are all EU countries not held to the same human rights standard?

It seems that Tobias Billstrom is avoiding the real issue and is much more concerned about Canada putting a visa restriction on a EU country than he is about a EU country not living up to a EU human rights standard.

Canada is not the bad guy here. The Czechs and their treatment of their own minority citizens as well as the EU's hypocritical double standard on this issue is what should be examined.
07:36 July 16, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
and I suppose you believe all of the conspiracies Trow writes as well?

it is totally correct for the EU to be 100% behind the Czechs in this matter.

The only idiots here are clearly the Canadian government if they are incapable of passing laws that will allow them to swiftly deal with bogus refuge cases without interference from the courts.
09:23 July 16, 2009 by dave.smith
I'm not sure why Roma refugees would choose Canada in the first place - there aren't enough jobs there for actual Canadians, let alone immigrants or even worse, refugees... http://www.notcanada.com
09:48 July 16, 2009 by Den

as a Czech its interesting to read what other people think of the situation. Why and how would Czech government encourage gypsys to go to Canada and apply for refugee visa? We have been judged many times on how we treat this ethnic group but is any other country treating them differently?
10:26 July 16, 2009 by CarlBlack
For Greg: "it seems that nobody is bothering asking such questions about the Czechs despite being a EU country" ... You can be pretty sure that these questions were raised many times, and Canada made its own investigations into this, and its final report is available: http://www2.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/research/publications/index_e.htm?docid=386&cid=64

Following this, Jason Kenney said that ... the Czech Republic - hardly an island of persecution in Europe -- ... (can be googled). For me it seems that the detailed investigation did not confirm any claims about racism.

For Greg: Now it's your turn to show a proof of your statement about the government support.
14:03 July 16, 2009 by Kaethar
Aha. This is great! The Canadians still don't seem to get what the EU is - you can't just request visas of some EU members and not others. In Sweden we've also had many requests for asylum by ethnic Roma in Hungary - but they were of course denied and have been deported. We'll always have economic migrants claiming to be refugees. These things happen and it's up to the Canadian justice system to do their job and not blatantly discriminate against certain EU countries and/or ethnic groups.
14:46 July 16, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
I agree fully with Billström on this one. If one EU country is treated separately, the rest of the EU should stand up for it.

For Canada this is an easy choice: fix your asylum process, or be denied free access to the EU.
15:54 July 16, 2009 by Greg in Canada
"they must investigate, allow appeal and so on."

Well Carl, that's exactly what the CDN government has been doing. You may wish to also google that the average refugee investigation, legitimate or bogus costs the Canadian taxpayer $29,000 per case. Last year there were 9400 refugee claimants from Mexico alone, the majority being bogus and cost the Canadian tax payer a whooping 272 million dollars just on investigating those cases by themselves. So how much more resources do you expect Canada to put into this? Canada took in about 10,800 legitimate refugees last year.

I agree that the entire Canadian refugee process has to be revamped as it's obviously being seriously abused. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and the government was quite right by reintroducing visa requirements on Mexico and the Czech Republic. The EU may not like it, but the reality is Canadian refugee policies are decided by the Canadian voters and not dictated by the EU.
16:41 July 16, 2009 by toman.ivo
I AM A CZECH and I strongly disagree with Greg in many words he said.

It is true that there was ONE politican who publicly proposed that Czech gov. should by one-way tickets to Canada, but it was 10 YEARS AGO, and since then, he disappeared from the politics (the vast majority of politicans and czechs disagreed with any action like that!!!!). This one guy is a shame, but he doesn't speak for the vast majority.

Furthermore the human right standards in the Czech Republic are just fine. All criminal deeds are being investigated. But since most Romas (we don't call them gypses as it is racist) don't have want to work, don't want to study and live on socia benefits, they are tempted to go to Canada seeking higher benefits... but they really do have the same opportunities as anyone else!

but I oppose to introducing visa to Canadian tourists... but I strongly support all-EU visa for all diplomats. Since we are one EU, we have to act as one...
16:46 July 16, 2009 by Kieruk
So its racist to call them anything but Romas, but it is fine to say that 'most of them don't have want to work, don't want to study and live on social benefits'...?

Hmmm...I think that is called 'hypocrisy'
17:05 July 16, 2009 by conboy
How does one get through life without a little hypocrisy? The money lenders were driven out of the synagogue with violence by Jesus were they not? The Roma live on the edge of European society and have done so for centuries many of them are happy to break the law. Some are rich most are poor, all of them are discriminated against some time, some are short and some are tall, some are well educated and most are not except in skills of course that they themselves value. They have a clan solidarity which I sometimes admire what I do find funny is how little people reflect on how much of what they do replicates organised society. The Bernie Madoff, Goldman Sachs bonus culture etc...
17:08 July 16, 2009 by Mack
Once in the refugee process, guided by people familiar with the system, they can draw government benefits. I don't think the plan is about working.

BTW, Canada requires visas from both Bulgaria and Romania as well (because of Roma). So the situation with CZ is not unique.

With regards to the general comment about jobs in Canada, it is no worse then most developed western countries.
17:12 July 16, 2009 by CarlBlack
Greg, you probably don't see that there is also a different much simpler solution, which is already adopted by many countries: just don't allow refugees from safe countries, don't allow appeal against such decision in that case. And Canada could have adopted that years ago.
17:22 July 16, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
Of course, and the EU equally has the same right to impose the same visa conditions on Canadians.
17:56 July 16, 2009 by Mack
The issue is that the highest court in Canada has ruled against this approach based on the human rights provisions in the Canadian Constitution. They will need to trash the whole refugee system and even then there will likely be Supreme Court challenges to whatever they replace it with. What upsets me is that successive governments have known the system is broken and none have had the fortitude fix it.
18:07 July 16, 2009 by Greg in Canada
"What upsets me is that successive governments have known the system is broken and none have had the fortitude fix it."

Agreed. Unfortunately it's a political hot potato. No doubt the Liberals and NDP would play up to the immigrant vote by screaming discrimination. The Conservatives are currently a minority government. They are the most likely to attempt to fix the system but would only likely do anything if they were to win a majority, which I personally don't think is likely to happen any time soon. If the Liberals get back in don't expect any great revelations from them, even with a majority.
18:11 July 16, 2009 by Random Guy
I am Canadian, and I 100% support a retaliatory VISA requirement for Canadians. I did not vote for this government that we have, and I would personally like to apologize to the rest of the world for its behaviour. Not all Canadians are as racist as Stephen Harper.
18:44 July 16, 2009 by toman.ivo
to Random Guy:

I don't really think that Canadians might be racists, your politicians just solved a pain in a wrong fasion ;-)
19:36 July 16, 2009 by Mack
A Harperite... I hate to break this to you but Harper doesn't care about anything other then power and he will sell his soul to get it. He wants the immigrant vote as well. I have a rather Andrew Coyne view of Harper's true conservative convictions. The last PM Canada had with any backbone to tackle difficult issues was Mulroney and he ended his career one of the most unpopular PMs ever. Go figure.
21:51 July 16, 2009 by jmiskiewicz
Canadians seem to let in whoever....have you been to Toronto recently?
22:13 July 16, 2009 by CTIDinÅrsta
Shouldn't politicians have moved beyond tit-for-tat retaliation policies by now? Would you let your kids behave like this in public?

How will imposing visas om Canadians help he situation?

I think Canada can legitimately refuse asylum seekers from the EU, en masse, because they are free to move within the EU to escape persecution. The EU is rich enough to deal with it's own issues.

(Notice how I got a bit of French in there for the Québécios!)
23:06 July 16, 2009 by enough!
Why would the EU take a position AGAINST Canada on this issue? Are all EU countries lining up to give these people safe haven from persecution in the Czech Republic? Why is a country that persecutes its citizens allowed membership in the EU, afterall that's the basis of the refugee claim to Canada? And if the EU reciprocates, is it because there are long lines of Canadians claiming refugee status in UE countries? No, it's because they don't want the Romas/gypsies either under any circumstances let allow as "refugees". Come on Sweden, step up to the plate and take all these Roma refugees. Put your money where your mouth is!!
00:38 July 17, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
Clearly you have not understood what it is all about. The gypsies do not need to seek asylum in another EU country; they can just simply move there anyway since it is the EU.

They have just found a way to trick Canada to give them benefits and Canada's response is to close the border for all Czecs, so of course EU responds.
03:06 July 17, 2009 by Greg in Canada
"Not all Canadians are as racist as Stephen Harper. "

You're one totally clueless Canuk if you really are one. What does racism have to do with this. The Roma and Mexicans are bogus refugees and if their skin colour was white or even purple with orange poka dots they'd still be bogus refugees. It's about people making false refugee claims and nothing else.

Now do you get the memo?
08:24 July 17, 2009 by Den
I must be reading this part wrong? How can you say that we persecute Romes in the Czech Republic???? That is a horrible accusation without facts you made here and I totaly disagree with it.
10:19 July 17, 2009 by Spir0
Turn off the oil taps and natural resources for a month to the EU. See how they feel about Canada then.

/me goes back to clubbing baby seals
10:59 July 17, 2009 by Nuname
How hard is it for the pikeys to wander across the border to Germany?

If I were Canada any "refugee" arriving from the EU would be sent back instantly.
16:16 July 17, 2009 by Mack
Some background on the issue...

Blame the refugee system - G&M
16:25 July 17, 2009 by Mack
A view on Sweden's role in this...

EU Retaliation
19:38 July 17, 2009 by Greg in Canada
"How can you say that we persecute Romes in the Czech Republic???? "

Ask the Roma themselves. They are the ones claiming it. That's why they are making refugee claims for Canada. Quite obviously even if they are discriminated against by some people in the Czech Republic, they are not persecuted in the sense that would qualify them as legitimate refugees under the U.N. definition. That's why Canada has been rejecting their refugee status applications.
19:51 July 17, 2009 by Mack
Actually Greg nearly 40% of the Roma applications have been accepted as refugees. I can't remember where I read it but it seems incredibly high to me. The Mexican success rate was something like 13% and you would think that with all the drug violence they would have a better chance of success. Likely the ringleader in Toronto has a few people on the payroll would be my guess.
20:36 July 17, 2009 by Greg in Canada
I believe that 40% applies prior to the end of 2007 when a visa from the Czech Republic was still required. Since then in 2008 until now the Roma application rate has increased by over 900% so I'd suspect that the 40% success rate no longer applies. At least I would hope so or that once again demonstrates how inept our government is regarding the immigration department.

As for your thoughts about EU visa retaliation, I'll wager that it just ain't gonna happen. It was a photo op for Billstrom to talk tough for awhile, but the issue will quietly fade away. It's not like the EU has ever been one big happy family. LOL!! In fact they're usually divided about many issues and this should be one of them. I also can't imagine countries like the UK , Holland, etc wanting to enforce a visa requirement against Canada just because we want the Czechs to clean up their act at their end over these bogus applications.
20:49 July 17, 2009 by CTIDinÅrsta
When the new EU states joined recently a lot of existing member states put restrictions on immigration because they feared the huge influx of unwelcome migrants. How things have changed!

Canada should charge the EU for the cost of all false claims, they'll stop soon enough once the bills start arriving.

The long term solution is for the EU to clean up it's act and enforce equality laws right across the board.

Also, abusing the asylum system is despicable, how many genuine cases don't get the lifeline they desperately need because of charlatans?
13:40 July 18, 2009 by doralexploratrice
I'm a fellow Canadian, a travelling one and from the French side of things. Obviously I didn't vote for that governement and have to say that I am embarrassed by such measures being taken, specially on such short notice, leaving thousands of people stranded and hurried into paperwork to process their demands.

Canada is a free and open country, only natural that many refugees seek asylum. It's OUR job to process the visas, no matter how many demands. We just need to say no, that many more times if we're that popular. We should be flattered. Being greedy and quick to close the doors over night to CR and Mexico makes up look like clowns, once again. République de bananes!

EU has all the rights to slam theirs in our face, though as a traveller, I have already encounter number of problems with staying in Europe as a Canadian citizen, I can only imagine the nightmare in the next few months. Geeze, thanks a bundle Harper!
22:48 July 18, 2009 by Omidn
If this is the case so be it WE apply for visa to go to Europe no big deal. I am 100% in support of Canadian Government.
22:58 July 18, 2009 by kaze
I'm with the EU government on this.

They've nothing big against Canada, they don't want to ban Canadians but the Canadians have started it in banning some Europeans.
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