Wilhelmsson: Aliens Take Over the Presidency
September 11, 2009, 10:45 am
A Greek friend of mine claims that we Swedes are descendants of aliens, and that's why things work in Sweden that do not work elsewhere. Maybe she is right. If so it also means that the way the Swedes do things hardly works anywhere else. That makes for a bad prognosis for the Swedish Presidency of the EU.
Since the presidency began on July 1st, there has been a lot of description and analysis of the Swedish presidency in various media. The expectations are high after the Czechs. Certainly too high: Just getting Barroso reelected will be time consuming, and soon afterward we will start talking up the Spanish presidency. Lobbyists have already moved on trying to influence their priorities at an early stage. Nevertheless, for those of you who here now and need to get things done with the Swedes this might be helpful:
1 Ask regular Swedes what they remember from the presidency in 2001 and they will have no answer at all – or maybe they remember the Gothenburg riots and the endless legal cases and governmental investigations that followed. Politicians and politics in general are not very highly regarded in Sweden; the EU even less so. Whether Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and his team do a good job or not will hardly have any impact on the general election in September 2010, so take a guess what will at all times be their priority No. 1...
2 Hierarchy is no big issue in Sweden. Ministers and the PM himself still use bikes, and not all of them have hired household help. Folksy is king. So what do the politicians do during their annual pilgrimage to the holy Almedalen on the Swedish island of Gotland for a week of "Woodstock for politicians, lobbyists and journalists" that run on beer, cheap rosé, mingling and political discussions? They sing karaoke. For all the gossip, pictures of who was the best-looking, a YouTube with the Swedish Conservatives secretary general and the prime minister's wife and first lady of healthcare of Stockholm as DJs (and more), go to: www.politikerbloggen.se
4 Even if finance minister Anders Borg nowadays is more centre right than libertarian – and Reinfeldt never was very radical – they are still, by European standards, quite hardcore conservatives. Their focus is on tax cuts and on pulling the plug on misuse of the social benefits system. Still they are not very industry-friendly and refuse to liberalize labour market laws. To really understand the Swedish presidency one has to be aware of and understand this quote, in which the PM claimed that a party where "Staten och kapitalet by Imperiet
" is not played is not a real party. To find the lyrics, go to Google Translate
. From the radical left, it is a song about how the government and the industry go hand in hand, limiting our freedom and possibilities. It is spot on regarding how the Social Democrats have for decades interacted and intertwined with industry to ensure an effective financing of Social Welfare Sweden Ltd. That time is now over. The current leaders want limited government but view industry with highly suspicious eyes as well. They do not run the errands of industry just because they are conservatives or just because the industry might be Swedish. They have no problem with the Swedish crown jewels being sold to the Chinese or Russians, or with going bankrupt.
5 11.6 minutes is the maximum length you can keep the average Swede waiting before he/she gets pissed off. This is the shortest fuse in northern Europe.
In short, Sweden is a small, cold, densely populated country where the geographical conditions have formed a solid work ethic, where we have never bothered with feudalism, where there is no honor in trying to be better then the next guy. Consequently, politicians and bureaucrats are servants of the people and are held responsible by the voters. Not quite from another planet but well off the epicenter. What works for us might be useless in a European context. But maybe I'm wrong and instead there is no limit to what aliens can do. The truth is out there...