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Welcome to Sweden's power players week

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Welcome to Sweden's power players week
Centre Party leader Annie Lööf, speaking on Sunday. Photo: TT
06:16 CEST+02:00
You're going to hear the word Almedalen a lot this week. Whether you love or loathe politics, this is annual gathering of Sweden's power players on the island of Gotland is an event you need to know about.
Let's start with the name. What exactly does Almedalen even mean?
 
Almedalen translates as 'elm valley' in English. It is the name of the park in Visby on the island of Gotland, where Sweden's party leaders hold their most important speeches of the year during Almedalen Week.
 
Okay, so what is Almedalen Week then?
 
Almedalen Week (usually shortened to just Almedalen) crams Sweden's political conference season into just eight days.
 
It's been going for more than 40 years and started after former Swedish Social Democrat Prime Minister Olof Palme spoke from the back of a lorry in Visby back in 1968. Since then it has mushroomed in size with more than 20,000 people attending each summer, from politicians to lobbyists, journalists and campaigners.
 
Why should I care if I'm not Swedish?
 
Almedalen is one of the biggest political gatherings on the planet that most people outside of Sweden have never heard of. But the debates this week will dig into Swedish themes and topics that are already of global interest, from paternity leave to free schools, laws that make buying sex illegal to the nation's defence strategy in the face of rising Russian aggression.
 
How do I get an invite then?
 
You don't need one. Most events are free and the idea is that anyone who wants to discuss a current social issue should be able to participate. In practice, good luck getting to Gotland. Hotels, apartments and even camp sites usually get booked up months in advance, while ferries and flights to the island quickly sell out.
 
So if I'm going to be following Almedalen from my sofa, how do I know when interesting stuff is happening?
 
That's where The Local comes in. We're relocating our office from Stockholm to Visby for the first time and we'll be reporting on the hottest events and speeches throughout the week. Since most - but not all - speeches and events will be held in Swedish, we'll be the only news site offering live coverage in English, focussing on the most innovative proposals and political ideas to emerge from the gathering.
 
You'll find information on our home page, in our special Almedalen 2015 section and by following our updates on Twitter.
 
Each parliamentary party gets one day at their disposal, following a rotating pattern designed to make sure that smaller groups aren't confined to the fringes of the festival. Most parties start their days taking part in early morning radio and television interviews before holding events and seminars, with leaders holding key speeches at 7pm.
 
 

All of Sweden's major political leaders will be present at Almedalen. Photo: TT
 
Here's the timetable for 2015
 
Sunday June 28th - Centerpartiet (Centre Party)
 
Monday June 29th - Socialdemokraterna (Social Democrats)
 
Tuesday June 30th - Kristdemokraterna (Christian Democrats)
 
Wednesday July 1st - Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats)
 
Thursday July 2nd - Miljöpartiet (Green Party)
 
Friday July 3rd - Moderaterna (Moderate Party)
 
Saturday July 4th - Vänsterpartiet (Left Party)
 
Sunday July 5th - Folkpartiet (Liberal Party)
 
What else is going on this year?
 
There are around 3000 events on the official programme this year, from speeches by global international guests including writer Naomi Klein, to Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis (who's currently playing a major role in Greece crisis talks) and leading business figures such as Tina Fordham, Chief Global Political Analyst at Citibank. Elsewhere you can party with feminist campaign groups, mingle with Swedish start-ups or even let your hair down at lunchtime disco sessions designed to encourage visitors to take a break and mingle.
 
We can't wait.
 
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