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Ambassador of Sweden Addresses Canadian Nordic Society

His Excellency Per Sjögren, Ambassador of Sweden, right, with CNS President Tim Mark

His Excellency Per Sjögren, Ambassador of Sweden, addressed the Canadian Nordic Society on October 7, 2015 at the Officers’ Mess at 149 Somerset Street West. The audience listened attentively to his remarks on “Swedish Foreign Policy: Priorities and Challenges”.

His Excellency started his remarks by explaining the current political landscape in Sweden, which is governed by a coalition made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party, with the support of the Left Party. This arrangement has been very stable over the past year since the election, in step with a long tradition of Swedish compromise. The Ambassador noted that Sweden is situated in one of the most free, secure, and prosperous regions in the world but is facing unstable times. He referred specifically to the situation in the Ukraine, ongoing terrorism threats, and the refugee crisis. Sweden’s humanitarian system is overburdened by the 40 ongoing conflicts in the world today, and the resulting refugee crisis. He noted that there are 8 million displaced persons within Syria, and 4 million in its neighbouring countries, with no end to the war in Syria in sight.

Sweden is a strong member of the European Union (EU) and a loyal supporter of its goals. With respect to the situation in the Ukraine, he stressed that international law principles and the Minsk Protocol must be applied to maintain the Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Sweden is making a considerable contribution to the coalition against ISIS through humanitarian action and by receiving refugees. Between 80,000 to 90,000 refugees have been received since the beginning of the war in Syria. 2,000 refugees a week were being received by Sweden during some periods. Sweden is the largest receiver of asylum seekers in Europe. It has an orderly reception system in place and is working on a plan for more effective refugee integration into society involving the municipalities, trade unions, sports organizations, and many other groups.

Sweden has demonstrated its willingness to do its part on the world stage by submitting its candidacy for the United Nations Security Council in 2017-18. Among other international summits, it will be participating in the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference this Fall, and the World Humanitarian Assistance Summit 2016 in Turkey, which aims to reform structures for global humanitarian assistance.

The Ambassador talked about Sweden’s national climate policy and its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to keep increases as far below 2% as possible. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven recently announced to the UN General Assembly that Sweden intends to become the first fossil fuel-free nation in the world, with zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.

The Ambassador explained Sweden’s view that equality between men and women is a key human rights issue. He noted that studies show the effectiveness of increased participation of women in peace efforts.

The audience had many questions for the Ambassador on issues including fossil fuel reduction, how new immigrants are received by Swedish society, Sweden’s foreign policy with regard to Israel, and its feminist foreign policy. He answered all of them thoughtfully and in detail.

Tim Mark, President of the Canadian Nordic Society, thanked the Ambassador for his broad horizon overview of Swedish foreign policy. He remarked on the prominence of Sweden, a relatively small country, on the world stage and wished them good luck in their candidacy for the UN Security Council. He pre sented the Ambassador with the coveted “Canadian Nordic Society coffee mug” as a token of the Society’s appreciation.

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