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THE BEST OF THE LOCAL 2011

ECONOMY

Sweden’s five biggest news stories of 2011

As 2011 draws to a close, The Local looks back at some of the stories that dominated headlines in Sweden in the past year.

Sweden's five biggest news stories of 2011
Maja Suslin; Björn Larsson Rosvall/Scanpix (File)

Last week, we published a list of The Local’s most shared stories on Facebook from the past year.

This week, we highlight (in no particular order) a few of the stories that, in one way or another, helped define Sweden’s news agenda in 2011:

Social Democrats in chaos

After what was termed a “disastrous” result in the September 2010 elections, Sweden’s Social Democrats, the long dominant force in Swedish politics, struggled with how to deal with an unprecedented second parliamentary term in opposition.

Related articles

–Understanding the Social Democrats’ leadership crisis

–‘Wild card’ Juholt faces challenge of mending a party in crisis

–How did the Social Democrats end up in such chaos?

The party spend the early months of the year hunkered down in internal “crisis meetings” in a desperate bid to find a leader to replace Mona Sahlin, settling on dark horse moustachioed MP Håkan Juholt whose folksy charm was supposed to give the party a new start.

But just a few months into his tenure as party leader, Juholt found himself embroiled in an housing reimbursement scandal that nearly toppled him.

While he survived, Juholt and the Social Democrats head into 2012 mired in a swamp of low poll numbers, sagging confidence, and a dearth of credible answers on exactly how they plan to beat the now mighty Moderate Party in the next election.

Victoria pregnant

After an initial whirlwind of excitement and positive publicity, the much-anticipated pregnancy of Crown Princess Victoria, announced in mid-August, hasn’t dominated the headlines, per se.

Related articles

–Victoria pregnant

–‘Let’s hope everything goes well’: Victoria

–Royals rejoice over pregnant princess

But the fact that a new heir to the throne – and Sweden’s future head of state – is on the way, is certainly a major event for Sweden and the monarchy

While members of the republican movement in Sweden may have moaned at the news, the country’s media outlets are aflutter with excitement about the additional demand a royal birth is expected to create.

And after a tumultuous year for the Swedish royal family, news of Victoria’s pregnancy will no doubt be considered the highlight of 2011.

An economy as “strong as Pippi Longstocking”

While much of Europe and the rest of the world limped along in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the ever-expanding European debt crisis, Sweden came into 2011 with record-high economic growth.

Related articles

–Sweden ‘strong like Pippi Longstocking’: OECD

–Ministers tout ‘Swedish model’ to solve European debt crisis

–Borg grabs top spot in Financial Times’ ranking

The success of the ‘Swedish model’ prompted the head of the OECD to proclaim that Sweden’s economy was as “strong as Pippi Longstocking” and contributed to finance minister Anders Borg being named the best finance minister in Europe by the Financial Times.

There has even been talk of the Swedish krona replacing the Swiss franc as a safe haven currency in a debt-riddled Europe.

While growth has slowed somewhat recently, and forecasts for 2012 have been adjusted downward, Sweden can look back at 2011 as a year when its economy more or less withstood the storm of uncertainty and worry that kept the rest of Europe fretting.

One long, sad Saab story

Hardly a week has passed this year without at least one news story about Saab’s ongoing struggles. Thus, Saab’s December 19th bankruptcy filing was hardly a surprise for anyone who had tried to follow troubled Swedish automaker’s numerous ups and downs in 2011.

Related articles

–Saab production halted ‘until further notice’

–Sweden’s Saab – back to the future?

–Saab hits bankruptcy 60 years after a flying start

Ever since the Saab factory in Trollhättan first halted production last spring, it seemed more like a question of when, rather than if, the loss-making Saab would be forced into bankruptcy.

While Saab’s wheeling and dealing CEO, Victor Muller, traveled the globe in search of new investors courting dodgy Russian businessman before settling on eager Chinese carmakers, his frantic efforts were, in the end, not enough to save Saab from falling deeper into the financial abyss.

Ever the optimist, Muller still holds out hope that Saab will rise again. Who knows? Guess we’ll have to wait and see what the new year brings.

Royal scandal

Despite the excitement about Victoria’s pregnancy, 2011 has been, in the words of the Crown Princess, “very rough” for the Swedish Royal Family.

Related articles

–Scandal-hit King denies all allegations

–From wedding bliss to royal crisis: the state of Sweden’s monarchy

–‘Queen Silvia shouldn’t be blamed for her father’s Nazi past’

Her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, has been haunted by scandal stemming from a tell-all book published in late 2010.

Despite his attempts to put a lid on the scandal, the book’s sordid details about the King’s alleged marital infidelity and visits to strip clubs, as well as reports about his friend’s attempts to buy the silence of mobster Marko Markovic, have caused the King’s approval ratings to plummet and prompted many to question to monarchy altogether.

Meanwhile, Queen Silvia has struggled to deal with the fallout from reports that her late father, Walter Sommerlath, was a Nazi sympathizer.

And while any given year can bring bad publicity for any royal family, the degree to which the Swedish Royal Family has been on the defensive in 2011 is certainly out of the ordinary – at least for Sweden.

No doubt the King and the entire Royal Court is looking forward to March 2012, when the expected royal birth could help turn the family’s publicity fortunes around.

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ROYAL FAMILY

What is Sweden doing to celebrate the King’s 50th year on the throne?

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf marks his 50-year jubilee next year, while the nation will mark the 500th anniversary of the year Gustav Vasa ascended to the throne after liberating Sweden from Danish rule. So, how is Sweden celebrating?

What is Sweden doing to celebrate the King's 50th year on the throne?

Carl XVI Gustaf was only 27 when he became king following the death of his grandfather, Gustaf VI Adolf in 1973, and he had been Crown Prince since his father, Prince Gustaf Adolf, died in a plane crash when he was just four years old. 

In 2018, he became Sweden’s longest reigning monarch ever, and he’s currently showing few signs of slowing down. 

Here are the main events planned for 2023 to celebrate his rule. 

January 27th: the Sweden Dinner

Jubilee celebrations will begin shortly after the New Year’s celebration, with a Sverigemiddag, or “Sweden Dinner”, planned in Stockholm at the Kungliga slottet, or Royal Palace, for January 27.

Leaders from each of Sweden’s 21 counties are invited, and those leaders will also select significant people from their counties to “set the tone” (tongivande människor) for the event.

February-September: Tour of Swedish counties

Throughout the year, the King and Queen will travel to all of Sweden’s counties, riding in a horse-drawn carriage wherever possible. These visits will take place between February and September.

June 6th: National Day celebrations

As mentioned above, on June 6, the royal couple will be in Strängnäs to mark the anniversary of the founding of modern Sweden under Gustav Vasa.

After visiting Strängnäs, the King will give a National Day speech at the Nordic Museum in Stockholm, which has its own statue of Gustav Vasa, and which will itself be celebrating its 150-year anniversary next year. A National Day reception will also be held at the museum.

September 15th and September 16th: Main jubilee celebrations

September 15, 2023, officially marks 50 years from the day when Carl XVI Gustaf became Sweden’s king. 

A Jubilee dinner with international heads of state and royals will be held that evening in the Rikssalen at the Royal Palace.

The next day, on September 16th, the King and Queen will travel through Stockholm in a Jubilee Cortege. This will be followed by a Jubilee Concert, which will be open to the public and may also be broadcast live on TV and radio.

While not all these events will be open to the public, there are plenty of opportunities for regular civilians to get caught up in Jubilee celebrations. In March, an exhibition titled “Vasa to Bernadotte – Culture in the service of the kingdom 1523 – 1973 – 2023”, tracking the history of the Swedish monarchy, will open at the Royal Palace. And in June, an outdoor photography retrospective on Carl XVI Gustaf’s time as King will open at Slottsbacken, by the Royal Palace. 

Gustaf Vasa led a rebellion against the Danish King Kristian II, led Sweden’s reformation, and established Sweden as a unitary kingdom. Photo: National Museum of Sweden

So what’s planned to celebrate the the Vasa anniversary? 

Next year isn’t all about contemporary royalty, there’s also a historical king to celebrate. 

Gustav Vasa, or Gustav 1st, is seen by many Swedes as the country’s greatest ever ruler. During his rule, Vasa did away with the tradition of elected monarchs, replacing the system with a hereditary monarchy, then ruled by the House of Vasa.

The day he was elected king, June 6th, 1523, is now celebrated as Sweden’s national day.

So on June 6th, a full day of festivities is planned in Strängnäs, the city where Vasa’s election was held, with King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia presiding over the day’s events.

The Royal Castles will mark Gustav Vasa’s election with a variety of events, including lectures, concerts, and park walks planned throughout the year at Vasaborgen Gripsholm, or Gripsholm Castle, in Mariefred. The castle itself is an important historical site, dating back to the era of Sweden’s Vasa rulers

You can apply for tickets here from March for the events at Gripsholm Castle. 

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