The world joins the Polish nation in mourning those 100 people, including the Polish President and the military command, deceased in the flight accident in Russia. 

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt issued a statement:

“I have been dismayed to learn that the President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, and his wife, together with a large delegation of representatives of Polish society, have died in an air crash today. What has happened is a great disaster for our neighbour country, and our thoughts today go to the families and friends of those who have died and to the whole Polish nation.” (more…)

In late February, a civilian Turkish prosecutor ordered the arrest of some ten senior officers, still active in the Turkish armed forces. The officers were accused of planning a coup d’états against the present AK party government. This is the first time representatives of the Turkish civilian judicial system have arrested such a large number of still active officers for planning a coup.

In late February, a civilian Turkish prosecutor ordered the arrest of some ten senior officers, still active within the Turkish armed forces. The officers were accused of preparing a coup against the then AK-party government led by Prime Minister Abdullah Gül, today the Turkish president.

The arrest came after plans of the coup had been published in a Turkish newspaper, Taraf. According to the paper, around 150 officers, including some twenty generals had been making plans at a seminar, officially focusing on planning a war role game.  Whether this was indeed a war role game or a coup masked as a game, and, if the latter turns out to be the case, the roles of the individual officers will now be examined in a juridical process. (more…)

The political situation in Argentina has been turbulent in the last year. In the legislative elections of June 2009, the opposition won majority in the House of Representatives and has over the last year been characterized by president Cristina Kirchner’s attempt to remain in power. When visiting Sweden in March, Carolina Poli Palazzo, Advisor to an Argentinian local politician described an Argentina which has been subject to political misgovernment but which is finally on its way back – if the opposition manages to build a stable coalition.

The presidential form of government in Argentina not only results in a different role and impact of the legislative branch but also in few coalitions formed between parties compared to the Swedish form of government. As legislative elections are mid term elections, when majorities are changed in both chambers it doesn’t change the government whatsoever.

The two-party structure that has been predominant in the last sixty years came to an end in the 2001 political and economic crisis. Today, the system is largely based on four main parties (which have subdivisions and, in some cases, fragile alliances). This system has a direct impact on the National Congress and is likely to have an impact on the 2011 presidential elections. (more…)

A common criticism of an increased result orientation in development aid is that it embraces values that may be difficult to measure. In an open letter to the Minister for Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson, who has been a strong advocate of measurement reforms, several SIDA officials recently raised such concerns.

However, there are no reasons why aid should not be measurable, or at least be designed to allow for measuring. At a seminar, hosted by the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv), Professor Abhijit Benerjee, development economist at the MIT Department of Economics, discussed how scientific methods such as statistics and control groups, could be used to raise aid quality and cost efficiency. (more…)

The Swedish government has decided to strengthen the Swedish presence in the Caucasus and in the Balkans. Today it was decided that the current offices in Pristina (Kosovo), Tbilisi (Georgia), Chisinau (Moldova) and Tirana (Albania), that up until this point have been administered from neighboring embassies, will be upgraded to embassies.

In Western Africa, offices will also be turned into embassies in Bamako (Mali), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and in Monrovia (Liberia). The same goes for the office in Kigali (Rwanda), La Paz (Bolivia), and in Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Along with this decision the Swedish government has decided that the embassies in Bratislava, Dakar, Dublin, Ljubljana, Luxemburg and in Sofia will be closed.

– Within the framework of close cooperation between the EU member states, there are great possibilities to develop new ways of bilateral contacts in the future, says the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt in a comment published by the Foreign Ministry. 

– To turn the Secretariats’ into embassies is a step towards, supporting the Swedish development efforts within certain countries. It is also a step on the road to further strengthening our long-term cooperation with these countries. A stronger presence is crucial for an effective collaboration with superior results, according to Gunilla Carlsson, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation.

On December 13 last year, 8.2 million people voted in the Presidential election in Chile. None of the candidates managed to receive a majority of the votes. The Candidates who received the most votes; Sebastian Piñera (44 percent) and Eduardo Frei (29 percent), were up for a second election on January 17, 2010. Piñera won with 51.6 percent against Freis, who received 48.4 percent.

On December 13 last year, 8.2 million voted in the Presidential election in Chile. None of the candidates managed to receive a majority of the votes. The Candidates who received the most votes; Sebastian Piñera (44 percent) and Eduardo Frei (29 percent), were up for a second election on January 17, 2010. Piñera won with 51.6 percent against Freis, who received 48.4 percent.

The newly elected president will not take office until March 11, due to the current holiday season in Chile. But the preparations for the government’s upcoming work have already started. An important part of the president’s power in Chile is the ability to propose legislation, which is one of the reasons why the new administration wants to prepare as much as possible before coming into power. (more…)

The Russian economist and reform politician Yegor Gaidar suddenly passed away on December 16, at the age of 53. The son of an admiral entered Russian history and world politics in the early nineties, as the brief prime minister of the Yeltsin government that was about to get the post Soviet economy back on its feet after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 This granted him the admiration of the world but hardly the love of the people. The so called shock therapy, associated with the visiting economist and colleagues Anders Åslund and Jeffrey Sachs, implied a necessary but brutal transition from the waste of the planned economy to market economic principles. However, contrary to the common belief among senior Soviet officials and the aims of Mikhail Gorbachev, it soon turned out that the Soviet economy was so dysfunctional that reform was beyond reach. 

The break from the old was crucial to the rescue team. However, the immediate positive effects were scarce. In addition, the liberalization was further restrained by the still communistically dominated political establishment around Yeltsin. Due to the long dictatorship there was an imminent lack of entrepreneurs who could have been able to shoulder a renewal. Instead, Oligarchs and corruption flourished. (more…)

Two reports have been issued by the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation in regards to the Swedish chairmanship in the EU, starting July 1, 2009. One report concerns enlargement and is written by Member of Parliament, Walburga Habsburg Douglas. The title is “Searching for more EU members”. The second is written by Christian Holm, Member of the Swedish Parliament. Focusing on development aid policy, it discusses how the payment policy of today could be turned into a tool for real development.


”20 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, it is time to once again discuss the basic principle of the European Union: to promote peace and stability” Walburga Habsburg argues in her report on enlargement, while emphasizing that Sweden within the EU family is considered to be the most enlargement-friendly country. “During the Swedish chairmanship, several challenges in this area are expected”. To facilitate the entrance into the European cooperation, Walburga Habsburg proposes the introduction of a support system, to some extent inspired by the Scandinavian support to the Baltic countries when they entered the Union.  During the membership negotiations, Estonia primarily was supported by Finland while Sweden worked as a mentor to Latvia and Denmark to Lithuania.

“They got hands-on advice but were also granted access to huge networks and lots of knowledge. This support system worked splendidly and should be offered to every country applying for membership. Today, the most suitable support countries would be those who joined the Union in 2004. They still have vivid memories of problems and bureaucratic obstacles and are thus capable of offering plausible directions”, Walburga Habsburg claims.

She notes that there are many within the Union who want to slow down enlargement until the Lisbon treaty is fully implemented and thereby increases the “absorption capacity”.

“This kind of argument can not be accepted. All European countries which fulfil the Copenhagen criteria have the right to apply for membership. The role of the EU is to negotiate so that the prospect of membership can be realized.”

Having given a brief historic background, starting from the end of WW1, Walburga Habsburg moves on to put forward the geographic areas which today are subject to the enlargement prospect. In her view, Sweden should focus on the following areas during the chairmanship: Balkans, The Black Sea Region, Caucasus, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Iceland. 

Members in the Balkan Region

As stated in the report, there is an interest in all of the Balkan countries to belong to Europe and to the European Union.

“Having almost completed its negotiations on EU membership, Croatia is next in line to join. The EU commission itself has said it is possible that the negotiations will be completed during the Swedish chairmanship, which means that the ratification process could begin during Swedish chairmanship. This is, to say the least, a thrilling prospect”.  Currently, only one problem remains. The country has a border dispute with Slovenia, its northern neighbour.  However, Walburga Habsburg stated, “EU has taken a major decision that bilateral conflicts are not to block membership negotiations, a decision which also has impact on other bilateral conflicts between current members and candidates”. With this in mind, she finds it “certain that Sweden, during its chairmanship, should strive to close the negotiations between EU and Croatia”.

Turkey as an EU Member

Turkey’s membership in the European Union has been discussed for several years. The Swedish parliament is unanimously in favour of a Turkish membership. All the parties that are represented in the parliament support this decision. “Turkey is the bridge between Europe and the Middle East, and they need to get our support in their effort to democratize the country”, Walburga Habsburg states, while adding that the war in Gaza “clearly proved that we need to tie closer the moderate forces in the region to avoid further conflict. In this quest, Turkey plays an important role”.

Using the Baltic Sea Region as a role model, as peaceful waters where most of the countries belong to the European Cooperation, the Black Sea region is a priority during the Swedish chairmanship. It may be too soon to discuss EU membership for the Caucasus countries, Walburga Habsburg admits. “However, it should be kept in mind that 21 years ago it seemed equally amazing to discuss Poland or Hungary as members. These countries are today well established members in the EU community”.

The Last Dictatorship in Europe

Belarus is often called the last dictatorship in Europe. In her report, Walburga Habsburg, emphasises the important role of the Belarusian opposition. She hopes that the recently founded Eastern Partnership could constitute the beginning for cooperation between the opposition and the EU.

“Giving the opposition an opportunity to make their voices heard and to contribute to the development of the EU co-operation may cause change, also in the torn Belarus.” 

Read the report


The EU development aid is unknown to most people. Thus, Christian Holm, starts out with a few striking facts in his report, EU aid – from payment to development.

“56 percent of all official development aid is distributed by EU and its member countries. The net value in 2006 was 47 billion Euros, corresponding to 100 Euro per capita. In comparison, the American aid makes approximately 53 Euro per capita while the Japanese is 69 Euro. He furthermore argues that “in spite of EU being the world’s largest aid contributor, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and Denmark are the only countries, apart from Sweden, that have managed to reach the UN’s recommended target of 0,7 percent of GNI.” The overall goals of the EU development aid policy are mostly articulated adequately, according to Holm, who would like to see Sweden as a driving force for giving the EU a sharper edge in the aid area.

Holm writes “As a result of the Swedish experience we ought to recommend the EU to focus on chosen, prioritised, areas. At the same time, it should be clearly stated that the development of democracy and democratic institutions as well as a well functioning judicial system is a necessity for being able to reach most of the millennium goals”. With the Swedish experience at hand, the government should, in Holm’s view, be able to suggest how to tie up some of the loose ends that are still imminent in the EU aid and development aid policy. “First and foremost, there is a lot that needs to be done in order to streamline the EU aid and make it more result oriented.”

Sweden Pushed Forward

Sweden has pushed for a streamlining of the EU aid, a strife that Holm believes should be intensified during the Swedish chairmanship. The size of the EU and the amount of involved actors and institutions make the need for evaluation imminent. Christian Holm welcomes a more substantial role of enterprise in the development aid. In the report, he stresses that “The possibility to base projects in enterprise has several advantages. As financers the actors in the market have an interest in following up and evaluating projects. In general they stand for a strong result oriented culture.”

Aid canalized though micro credits and financial help could assist in building a base for entrepreneurship and an economic base, as well as widening the country’s production curve, writes Holm and states that an “improvement of the developing countries terms of trade as well as trying to establish a well functioning inner and outer market also implies the power to shape their own future.”

The report claims EU has the power to use its strength and size to ”strive for a real free trade”, thereby moving towards a more just and democratic trade policy. The author emphasizes the need to counter-act “subsidies, import quotas and other trade barrier”.

Sweden and Four More

Except for Sweden, there are only four countries that have been able to reach the aid target on 0,7 percent of GNI, set by the UN. EU has set a common goals for its member states in a 0,7 percent of GNI, at latest by 2015 (in 2006, the EU countries reached 0,42 percent of GDI). Christian Holm said it is “reasonable to speed up this process and push on the member countries to live up to their aid commitment, thereby making the EU aid more powerful”. Calling for a reform of the DAC policy towards a greater flexibility, he says such change would make possible a better adaption to each individual situation. “Aid to democracy development, for example by strengthening political, democratic, and freedom striving organizations, should be improved and developed through such a shift of direction. The possibilities for party affiliated organizations to help democratic sister parties in countries in for example Eastern Europe, would thus increase.

Read the report

Text: Elisabeth Precht