'Asylum-friendly Sweden a soft-power superpower'

Ann Törnkvist
Ann Törnkvist - [email protected]
'Asylum-friendly Sweden a soft-power superpower'

Sweden is once again in the top ten in a soft-power rating by Monocle magazine, which credits the "boring stuff" like gender equality, but also applauds the Swedish asylum stance that "shames its European neighbours".


The annual soft-power index put Sweden in sixth place, making it the only Nordic country in the top ten.

"We were extra proud of being ranked higher than Switzerland," joked Mats Samuelsson, a spokesman at Sweden's Foreign Ministry (Switzerland was ranked eighth). 

"We interpret this as a sign that we are heading in the right direction when it comes to the foreign ministry telling the story about Sweden. We all invest a lot in social media, the ministry itself, the embassies, and the foreign minister," Samuelsson added. 

Sweden ranked just ahead of Australia, while Japan claimed fifth position. Germany topped the Monocle ranking, ahead of the UK in second place and the US in third place.

"It may not lead the medal tables at the Olympics or make blockbuster films but it scores highly on the boring stuff - good governance, education, gender equality," the Monocle summary stated.

Samulesson at the foreign ministry said Sweden's cultural exports also help the country's standing abroad.

"We often like to highlight our music exports and the crime lit wonder, cooler cultural expressions, but they chose what they called the 'boring stuff'," Samuelsson said. "It is funny that they call it it the boring stuff, of course, but these are incredibly important factors in building a good society, so it's exciting that that is still the image of Sweden abroad."

Monocle Sweden correspondent Elna Nykanen Andersson agreed that being "boring" may be something of an advantage for Sweden.

"Sweden can be quite boring, but we have managed to organize things in a good way," she told The Local. 

She added, however, that the May riots in the Stockholm suburb of Husby illustrated a key component of modern Sweden's image abroad - that it is changing. The international successes of Nordic Noir - crime literature spanning Henning Mankell to Camilla Läckberg - also testified to that fascination. 

"People are interested in changes in Sweden's social climate," Nykanen Andersson said. "They want to know if the Swedish Model doesn't exist anymore, or if it didn't work after all?"

The Monocle report also highlighted the country's liberal attitude toward immigration, stating that Sweden "shames its European neighbours when it comes to asylum".

The report also mentioned the unrest in May, however. The riots certainly piqued international curiosity, with Nykanen Andersson interviewing Integration Minister Eric Ullenhag on air to clear up some question marks. 

"People are interested in whether there is something under the surface that has now revealed itself," Andersson commented. "I don't think people knew we had a problem with segregation." 
But what exactly is soft power? At the foreign ministry, spokesman Mats Samuelsson said Sweden had done successful "nation branding", which means that despite being a nation of only nine million, Sweden has a relatively loud voice on the global arena.
"It's unique for such a small country to be on this kind of list."


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