Today, after a weekend spent learning about Swedish history and walking around Stockholm, including a visit to the Vasa Museum, we visited the Swedish Foreign Ministry and the Swedish Parliament. I will talk about the visit to the Swedish Foreign Ministry and my colleague will talk about the visit to the Parliament tomorrow.
At the Swedish Foreign Ministry, we were briefed by an Ambassador who now heads up the European section of the ministry. He last served as Ambassador for Sweden to the Netherlands so his view points were unique and interesting.
He started off his presentation by talking about the complicated relationship that Sweden has with the European Union and about the history of Sweden. He made a point on the wars with Russia in the 18th century which changed Sweden and led to the policy of neutrality that it successfully upheld during both World Wars. After the Cold War, and during the economic crisis in the 1990s, Sweden saw the benefits of the European Union and joined in 1995 (with Austria and Finland) after a positive referendum in 1994. However, Sweden is not part of the Eurozone and in the last referendum on whether Sweden should join the Eurozone, the public voted not to. As with other site visits, the Brexit issue emerged and the official stated that the UK is an important ally for Sweden within the European Union and that a Brexit would force Sweden to seek other similar minded allies. Interestingly, he also mentioned that about 65% of Swedes are for TTIP and that public backlash has been minimal. This is certainly interesting since in other countries the same percentage is opposed to TTIP.
Sweden is one of the EU member states that is not part of NATO, but Sweden allows NATO to conduct exercises on Swedish territory and with Swedish troops. Sweden also contributes to NATO missions as well as to EU missions. I think that the most important point that the official made was that the EU allows small countries like Sweden to influence global politics.
Tomorrow we had back to Brussels!