Lundi 25 Mars 2019  
 

N°123 - Troisième trimestre 2018

La lettre diplometque
  Éditorial
Côte d'Ivoire
Suède
  Un partenariat entre la Suède et la France fondé sur des valeurs communes
 
  Un rapprochement porté par des intérêts stratégiques communs
 
  La Suède, un partenaire pionnier dans la lutte contre le changement climatique
 
  L’innovation au cœur des relations entre la France et la Suède
 
  400 ans de coopération militaire entre la Suède et la France
 
  « Nos entreprises pourraient mieux faire en Suède »
 
  Une économie européenne en pointe de la R&D
 
  Un partenariat engagé dans l’approfondissement de la coopération économique
 
  La CCSF : un pont entre les milieux d’affaires franco-suédois
 
  Energie : des proximités plaidant pour une coopération active
 
  L’âge d’or des relations culturelles franco-suédoises
 
  Une culture française très prisée en Suède
 
  Des relations d’amitié marquées par le sceau de l’Histoire
 
  Un soutien engagé à l’UNESCO et au système onusien
 
Coopération Internationale
Politique Étrangère
Europe
Défense & Sécurité
Société
Enjeux Économiques
 
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Innovation, Europe and defence: the priorities in French-Swedish dialogue

Interview with H.E. Veronika WAND-DANIELSSON,
Ambassador of Sweden

French-Swedish relations are as close as ever 200 years after Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte’s accession to Sweden’s throne. Amid the bicentennial celebrations, the Swedish Ambassador to France, H.E. Ms Veronika Wand-Danielsson, tells us about the new wave of bilateral cooperation revolving around a strategic partnership for innovation and green solutions. As the Swedish political landscape is changing shape in the wake of the 9 September 2018 general election, she also shares her views on the impact of migration on the European Union’s cohesion and the defence-related challenges that Swedish diplomacy is taking on.

The Diplomatic Letter: Madam Ambassador, this year’s celebrations for the bicentennial of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte’s accession to Sweden’s throne have put the singular ties between Sweden and France in the spotlight. Where can you see this longstanding legacy in French-Swedish relations today, in terms of cultural affinities and in other areas?

H.E. Veronika Wand-Danielsson: First of all, I would like to say that it is wonderful to have a had French family reigning over Sweden for 200 years. Everyone in Sweden knows about the Bernadotte family’s French origins, so there are obviously affinities there. 
One of the highlights during the celebrations commemorating the bicentennial of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte’s accession to Sweden’s thrown was H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf’s visit to Pau, where he inaugurated the new Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte museum, on 8 October 2018. It became clear a few years back that the museum was getting old. The support and the generosity of the City of Pau and especially of its Mayor, Mr François Bayrou, along with the involvement of Swedish patrons and of the association of Amis de Bernadotte helped to refurbish it. 
Other members of the royal family, along with other high-profile Swedish and French guests, attended the event. H.M. Carl XVI Gustaf and Crown Princess Victoria also planted an oak tree in Parc Beaumont, in the precise spot where their ancestor King Oscar II, had planted a magnolia tree in 1899. The fact that a small branch from this tree will be taken back to Sweden and given to Crown Princess Estelle, the eldest daughter of Princess Victoria, is also a powerful symbol.
There have been many concerts, exhibitions and seminars throughout the year, revolving around the history of the Bernadotte family, and of the rest of the royal family, which has been very popular in Sweden since Oscar I’s days.

T.D.L.: Beyond the symbolic dimension, how can H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf’s official visit help to deepen the bonds of friendship between Sweden and France?

H.E.V.W-D.: The King represents Sweden’s image abroad. He embodies the country and its grandeur. One of my first assignments when I took up my post in France was to prepare the Royal couple’s State visit, which took place from 2 to 4 December 2014. He came along with a large delegation of 40 or so business leaders and ministers. The programme for the visit was packed and included a top-level conference on the environment and energy, organised at the initiative of both countries. On behalf of H.M. Queen Silvia the French-Swedish prize for young researchers in France was awarded to the Necker hospital in Paris. Research and high technology were two other key issues during that visit (which for example included a tour of the Toulouse Space Centre).
That was the Swedish King’s first State visit to France since Mr Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s presidency, in June 1980. So we had every reason to hope it would give our bilateral relations a fresh boost. But, one months later, the terrible terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, on 7 January 2015, deflated that momentum. Security and the fight against terror understandably rose to the top of the list of priorities on the French and European political agendas. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who had been appointed head of the Swedish government in September 2014, paid his first official visit to France on the occasion of the 11 January 2015 march in memory of the victims of the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

T.D.L.: On 17 November 2017, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and French President Emmanuel Macron kicked off a French-Swedish strategic partnership for innovation and green solutions. Could you tell us more about how that partnership came about and its objectives?

H.E.V.W-D.: The partnership for innovation and green solutions between Sweden and France is the result of a Swedish initiative intended to enhance economic and scientific cooperation between our countries. A similar initiative was also started with Germany, but I have to say that things have moved very quickly with France. 
Our goal was to build new momentum in French-Swedish relations. Besides the slump in enthusiasm following the January 2015 attacks, I had also realised that Swedish businesses were not particularly interested in the French market, when I was appointed Ambassador of Sweden to France in 2014. They were more interested in the British or German markets at the time. The Wallenberg group, for example, was investing 50% more in Germany than in France. As Ambassador of Sweden to France, I tried to promote and to better explain the benefits of the French market. Then, the Swedish-inspired proposals developed in several speeches of Mr Emmanuel Macron when he was running for president – and now as French President – prompted us to step up our dialogue.
We have identified the main areas of cooperation on innovation: transport, clean energy and smart cities, green finance, digital transformation of the economy, smart industries and start-up, as well as health care and the life sciences. 
The French government promptly took an interest in this partnership project, and the agreement was signed by French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in Gothenburg on 17 November 2017. 
A year after, we have already delivered results on several fronts – in particular transport. Our ministers, Ms Élisabeth Borne and Mr Tomas Eneroth, have been personally very involved in this project’s implementation. Sweden has been the guest of honour of the Solutrans trade show in Lyon in November 2017. In the sidelines of Solutrans, a joint workshop at ministerial level was held bringing together the main French and Swedish industrial players. On 19 June 2018, Ms Élisabeth Borne made a visit to Gothenburg at the invitation of Mr Tomas Eneroth in order to chair the third high-level talks on autonomous and connected vehicles. Ms Borne also toured the production plant of Volvo group which is headquartered in Gothenburg. I would like to add that this partnership is also open to other types European cooperation. France could become involved in the German-Swedish partnership on Electric Road Systems, for example.

T.D.L.: In spite of the country’s economic resilience, Sweden’s far right once again made inroads in the 9 September 2018 general election. What does this outcome mean to you?

H.E.V.W-D.: The outcome was not all that surprising. The two main blocs in Sweden’s political landscape were neck-and-neck. On the one hand, there was the centre-left alliance between the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) and the Green Party (MP). On the other, the centre-right alliance, combining four parties including the Moderate Party (M) and the Centre Party (C), which want to tender an alternative to the government now in place. 
What foreign observers and journalists were worried about, mostly, was a 20% or 25% score for the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD). Finally, they got a more modest 17.5% of the vote – but that is still a 5-point increase in four years, and a substantial score in itself. 
Several developments came up and influenced the public debate during this election campaign (even though Swedish election campaigns are usually shorter than French ones). For example, the migrations from war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa, the response in countries such as Italy and, more generally, the rise of populisms in Europe. But, at the end of the day, security got less traction than we might have thought, and education, health care and pensions, which are more enduring concerns, rose back to the top of Swedish people’s minds. 
I would like to add that the far right was not the only party that made progress. I am thinking of the Christian Democrats (KD). Under the leadership of a young woman, this party has made significant progress towards the end of the campaign thanks to a meaningful support among women voters. 
Looking at the bigger picture, I don’t think this election will fundamentally reshape Sweden’s political landscape. There is consensus among the centre-right and centre-left that far-right and far-left parties should not gain much influence. The Left Party (V), for example, was not in the centre-left SAP-MP coalition government but they kept their dialogue channels open and V voted in favour of the budget at the end of 2014. At this stage, no assumption can be made concerning the results of the negotiations on the formation of a new government but with 60 seats on the Riksdag (out of a total of 349) SD’s political weight cannot be ignored.

T.D.L.: Sweden tightened its policy on asylum at the end of 2015. Why did immigration become such a decisive issue in this election?

H.E.V.W-D.: It is true that the migration crisis had a bearing on the September 2018 general election and will continue to influence the European debate. 
The migrant influx in Sweden in 2015 was massive and intense. We were faced with a humanitarian emergency and decided to take in a substantial number of these refugees and 163,000 of them were granted asylum. 
Fairly soon, however, we realised that this was causing a number of difficulties. Our good intentions were not enough to absorb such a large number of refugees, which I would say was out of proportion with our population (10 million people). Our refugee system’s physical capabilities were overstretched, especially as almost 30% of the refugees were unaccompanied children, who don’t have the same needs as adults. Our reception centers, including our schools, were overcrowded especially in the south of the country. 
Sweden is very attached to its values. We want to be a generous and charitable country, but we also want the people we take in to respect our values. These issues may not have been all that important a few years ago, but I think the parties on the left and right agree on them today. 
In this situation, the Swedish government had to close its frontier with Denmark in December 2015. This decision also had to do with our deep disappointment at the lack of solidarity in Europe. Germany and Sweden were two of the countries that did the most about this issue. Of course, critics said we had moved too fast and had not taken the time to consult the other EU countries. Early on, our government had called for a system of balanced sharing between the members of the European Union and urged the European Commission to play a coordinating role regarding a common asylum policy. Certain Member States, however, didn’t comply with or fully apply those mechanisms. All Sweden did was abide by European values and apply international conventions by taking in these populations fleeing wars in their countries. 
I am seeing that awareness is growing within the EU today, especially in the discussions about Europe’s future budget. The Swedish government has not hesitate to make a connection between the country’s contribution to the European Cohesion Fund and the sharing of responsibilities in matters involving migration. Other mechanisms have also been discussed, for example to compensate the countries, regions and communities that have taken in migrants.

T.D.L.: Do you think it is more difficult for a country such as Sweden, which doesn’t have a colonial past, to handle the cultural side of migration? What do you think of the more long-term solutions that the EU is discussing to deal with this challenge?

H.E.V.W-D.: I don’t think the integration difficulties have to do with ethnic or religious questions. We have a longstanding tradition for taking in migrants, which no doubt comes from the fact that we were once a migrant people too. In the late 19th century, when Sweden was very poor, 20% of men and 15% of women emigrated to the United States. 
We have been taking in people throughout our recent history, for example from Chile during Pinochet’s rule, the Balkans and, most recently, Iraq, in 2003. Many of these Iraqis are Sunnite or Shiite and have integrated well in Swedish society. 
But you cannot compare those waves to the migrant influx we had to deal with in 2015. It was mostly the magnitude of the inflow, and the fact that it happened so suddenly, that started shifting Swedish people’s perceptions of migration and sparked fears, founded or otherwise, that it might call our traditions and our values into question. 
We need to continue to show solidarity, within the EU, to be able to deal with this kind of large-scale migration crisis. We also need to work on longer-term solutions because migration is a challenge that Europe will be facing for the next 10, 20 or 30 years. The answers could involve stepping up cooperation with North African transit countries, without overstepping their sovereignty or disregarding the issues that they are already dealing with. 
Looking further down the road, we need to deepen our cooperation with developing countries in general. I have no doubt in my mind that the real solution involves helping solid economies to emerge. Some countries have already embarked on that path like, for instance, Nigeria where I lived for five years. The solutions also have to come from within Africa. That makes more sense than persisting in assisting these waves of uprooted populations, who are all too often at the mercy of traffickers and, to make matters worse, are unable to find jobs and find a way into societies far away from their countries of origin.

T.D.L.: Immigration will be one of the big issues in the European elections on 24 to 26 May 2019 – along with political, economic and financial governance, the rule of law, foreign policy and defence. What is your view on this election’s bearing on the EU’s future and construction on a political level?

H.E.V.W-D.: It is true this election is a major milestone on the European agenda. In light of the outcomes, the priority will need to be to solidify cohesion in the EU. We need to keep Brexit, and the upheaval it has kick-started in the EU, in mind too. 
I have spent a lot of my career working on European issues. What I have learnt from this experience is that each country has its own criteria to decide on the issues that will shape the EU’s future. Identity-related questions vary from one country to another. On security and defence, countries like Sweden and France do not necessarily share the same challenges or priorities: Sweden worries when looking to the East, while France mostly worries about the South. 
The EU’s strength, precisely, is that it tries to deal with everyone’s concerns while embracing all the visions and cultures it encompasses, to the north, south, east and west. But we also need to be careful we don’t rush European construction.
I worry when I see the risks of dynamics suggesting that Europe is moving at different speeds. This may be considered as a good solution in the short term, but it could represent a risk on the long term for the EU’s cohesion and unity. Some Member States might feel they are no longer full members of the European family and can therefore behave accordingly. I can understand that some overruns can cause discontent. But it makes a lot of sense to give those countries more time to adapt and thus avoid widening gaps between Member States, in economic, political or development terms. Europe can not be reduced to the interests and points of view of two or three major countries. My Government fully supports the work of the EU Council and Commission, as well as the priorities outlined by the EU Commission President, Mr Juncker, and the efforts to build an even more unified Europe. The European Union can also have an impact at the global level if it remains united, strong and effective.

T.D.L.: Brexit was a turning point in EU history. What consequences will it entail, in your view?

H.E.V.W-D.: Great Britain’s exit is an unfortunate tragedy. We are especially disappointed because we see it as a friend and neighbour, and have so much in common with it. It is also a big market for Sweden because about 100,000 Swedish nationals live in the country.  
The goal now is to reach an amicable divorce that both parties find acceptable, so that we can start thinking about the future and reaching an ambitious new cooperation agreement. And, most importantly, we must never close the door to the possibility of the British people returning to the EU. 
That said, we need to be very clear. There is no room for “cherry-picking”. We can’t call the domestic market into question. We fully agree with the French government on that. 
We also need to be pragmatic and try to complete the future relations between EU Member States and Great Britain, also on a bilateral level. I think France was quite deft at reaching an agreement on cooperation in defence and security, which are two priority issues for both countries. Our country will do the same: we will identify the most important issues for the next phase in our bilateral partnership with Great Britain. 
As I said earlier, Brexit has shaken up the balance in the European Union and its institutions, if nothing else on account of Great Britain’s weight within the EU. Now, we need to find a way for European construction to continue. We realise that France and Germany are two of the drivers, but it is important to safeguard consensus in the Union. More specifically, Sweden welcomes France’s proposals to revitalise European cooperation. But we also need to be careful not to rush, make sure we take every State’s strategic interests into account, and accommodate the cultural differences and the ways in which their institutions work.

T.D.L.: Sweden voted to join the EU in a referendum 24 years ago. What has EU membership changed, in your view? As your country has not adopted the euro, to what extent are you considering deepening your commitment to European construction?

H.E.V.W-D.: Sweden is deeply attached to the EU. When we joined, as a result of the 1994 referendum, the EU opened a door, so to speak, to step beyond our borders and into a forum for consultation, cooperation and joint initiatives. EU membership has been extremely positive for our countries. All the surveys confirm that, even today. 
I would like to point out that, while the Treaty of Lisbon was being prepared, we did not even ask for an option to withdraw. However the introduction of the Euro was harder to accept for the Swedish people and a referendum failed on this issue on 2003. We have seen Member States accommodate the convergence criteria without always fulfilling them, while other countries were under a great deal of pressure to comply with those same criteria. When we are not sure we will be treated equally, we would rather not try – but that doesn’t mean we don’t qualify to adopt the single currency. 
Lastly, I would like to add that Sweden’s EU membership is no longer in question in political circles. Even the far right seems to have dropped the idea of exiting the EU.

T.D.L.: Sweden’s GDP has been growing over 3% per annum for several years, its debt ratio is at 38%, its public finances are in surplus and its unemployment rate is at 6.1%, ranking its economy as one of the EU’s most solid and buoyant. How is that translating into competitiveness and appeal among foreign companies, for example?

H.E.V.W-D.: One of Sweden’s greatest strengths it that it has always looked outward. At least as far back as the Vikings, who were fantastic seafarers, we have always tried to adapt to our particular geographies and demographies, in a vast land that is relatively scarcely populated. 
That is why migration is not new to us, as I said earlier. We have emigrated and welcomed so many different economic and cultural influences throughout our history. In the 15th century, many people spoke German in Stockholm because it was the language in the public administration following the Vasa era (1523-1611). During Gustav III’s reign, French culture had more influence in Sweden. 
Today, our country has 10 million inhabitants. Unlike France, we cannot rely on a large domestic market. So we depend a lot on exports, meaning we have to innovate non-stop to stay competitive. 
All these conditions have provided fertile ground for initiative and adaptation. Our ability to challenge ourselves and reform is one of our country’s distinctive features. All you have to do is look at how fast fashions come and go and how swiftly the big names in Sweden’s fashion industry have responded. That is one of the drivers behind our success in foreign markets. In an entirely different area, a company such as Scania, which specialises in manufacturing buses and trucks, has paradoxically turned environmental protection into its spearhead. 
Our companies are not just pioneering new production methods: they are also blazing new trails in management methods. We invest a lot in professional training. The way Swedes see it, protecting workers is tantamount to protecting the company. Management and unions try to anticipate phases during which they will need to adjust to demand on the market with “funds” for these adjustments. As a result of this consultation, combined with the social welfare system and training and redeployment mechanisms, as many as 80% of employees find work again. That’s what we call “flexicurity.”
Likewise, when they need to renegotiate wages, unions base themselves on a reference salary, which is calculated using the data from the country’s most competitive industry abroad. So the entire ecosystem in Sweden’s economy is rooted in solidarity. 
Lastly, this culture of consensus also stems from the fact that we follow the rules that have been adopted. That is no doubt part of our Protestant cultural heritage, but it’s also a social-democratic value we believe in: we respect authority and the consensus surrounding decisions.

T.D.L.: The French Head of State’s visit to Sweden in November 2017 overlapped with the European Social Summit in Gothenburg. What did you think of his comments on the Swedish social model?

H.E.V.W-D.: We appreciate the interest that the French Head of State and, more generally, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe’s government, have shown in the Swedish system. President Emmanuel Macron’s recent State visit to Denmark is another sign that the system in Nordic countries is a source of inspiration.

T.D.L.: Sweden and France have engaged side by side in several military campaigns in Africa, for example in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). What is your view on defence cooperation between both countries?

H.E.V.W-D.: It is true that we have started deepening military cooperation between our two countries. Sweden was one of the first to respond after the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris and Saint Denis, when France invoked Article 42.7 of the Treaty of Lisbon on European solidarity in the event of an “armed aggression” on a Member State’s territory. After that, we supplied air transport capabilities to the French forces in Mali and stepped up our involvement in MINUSMA as well as the EU Training Mission in Mali. Besides, it is a Swedish General, Dennis Gyllensporre, who had taken command of the MINUSMA. 
Our two countries also have close ties in intelligence, and are working ever closer on armament, within the framework of the Bonus (BVRAAM) and Meteor air-to-air missile programmes.

T.D.L.: As a member of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which was activated by the EU Council on 11 December 2017, Sweden has attracted criticism for choosing an American air defence system. What is your response to that? Beyond its longstanding non-alignment policy, how is your country planning to step up its support for a Europe of Defence? 

H.E.V.W-D.: We understand the disappointment over our decision to choose the Patriot air defence system. But we stand by our decision. Sweden needed to acquire this system within a very short time limit and French manufacturers could not deliver it on time. So that is entirely unrelated to our support for a Europe of Defence. 
As I said earlier, Sweden is involved in several European armament programmes. It is a member of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), set up in November 2017. Our involvement, however, is based on consensus that took time to build. Sweden has an independent defence policy, in fact, which has grown into what it is based on the country’s intention to steer clear of all-out involvement in any form of alliance. 
We are also very attached to our transatlantic ties, like France – which holds top positions in the NATO Command Structure. Paradoxically, however, the prospect of NATO membership has not attracted enough consensus in Swedish society. But we are trying to use all the possibilities to cooperate in this framework. 
As we see it, European defence capabilities, even considering the weight of countries such as France or Germany, are still sorely inadequate in the face of the threats we are seeing today and the military capabilities in countries such as Russia. So we are very keen on maintaining close strategic and military ties with the Atlantic Alliance and the United States, irrespective of any disagreements we might have with the current administration on certain issues. The Europe of Defence cannot come together yet without transatlantic support.

T.D.L.: The latest NATO summit, on 11 and 12 July in Brussels, was tense. How do you feel about pressure from certain States, such as France, to speed up efforts to make European defence more autonomous?

H.E.V.W-D.: It is true that some EU Member States have a duty to set up this Europe of Defence, which will emerge sooner or later – perhaps 30 or 40 years from now. But, as I said, our defence is not autonomous at this point in time. As Sweden’s Ambassador, Permanent Representative to NATO for seven years, I think I can say that European conventional capabilities are clearly lacking in a large number of areas. Thus, transatlantic ties remain essential for the European security and the idea of a “European strategic autonomy” appears to us more theoretical than real.
Europe has, however, made great strides in recent years with new instruments and tools to strengthen defense cooperation between Member States. A key step was the decision of EU leaders in June 2017 to launch a permanent structured cooperation to cement European defense capabilities. But our leaders have also decided to deepen cooperation between the EU and NATO, especially in the fight against terrorism, hybrid threats and cybercriminality. The importance of the transatlantic ties has also been recognized and reconfirmed by the EU.
To those who consider that the next wars will be hybrid, I remind them of what happened in Ukraine. The conflict in Georgia in 2008 was a warning. The Ukrainian crisis in 2014 was a big turning point: the risk of a conflict became real. That was when Sweden shifted the focus of all its military efforts to defending again its territory, which is something that was neglected for too long. We reinstated compulsory military service which was discarded only a few years ago. This strategy is also part of a policy involving close cooperation with our regional partners such as Finland, but also, for example, Germany, Great Britain or of course, the United States. 
After the Berlin Wall fell and peace returned to Europe, our country became involved in missions abroad. We were part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, were involved in the Balkans and were one of the few non-NATO countries active in the military intervention in Libya. We were able to take part in these operations in crisis-stricken countries because we had the defence of our territory covered. Today we must again focus on our territorial defense.

T.D.L.: The defence of the values of democracy became NATO’s rallying call at the end of the Cold War. In your view, how are the drifts towards authoritarian regimes, which certain observers are seeing in Turkey, for example, affecting the Atlantic Alliance’s cohesion?

H.E.V.W-D.: Defending the values of democracy is not only the unifying element of NATO but also of the EU. We have in the EU already a number of challenges to overcome in terms of defending our European values. As Sweden is not a member of the Alliance, I cannot, as a Swedish Ambassador, judge a discussion on the cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance. Nor do I think thaht there is a direct link between rising populism and cohesion within NATO. With regard to the case of Sweden, it is rather the insecurity in our neighborhood which has had the effect to strengthen the arguments of the supporters of a membership. In my opinion, NATO is working very well and the reinforcement of NATO’s presence in Northern Europe is enhancing security in our neighborhood and we welcome that.

T.D.L.: Sweden will be serving as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council until December 2018. What can you say about its term there?

H.E.V.W-D.: It has been very positive. We chaired the Security Council for a month, on two occasions, during these past two years. 
It was an opportunity for Swedish diplomacy to become more involved in the big international issues. What also helped our diplomatic endeavours was the fact that we have no hidden agenda: Sweden is not a former colonial power and has no strategic, geographic or military interests. We are seen as a European country that tries to find down-to-earth answers to security and humanitarian needs. Our country also contributes substantially to humanitarian funds. Our peers on the Security Council also sensed that we were playing a positive role, and saw us as an impartial liaison among the Security Council’s permanent members. Sweden’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, Olof Skoog, did an excellent job facilitating more constructive dialogue, for example when he organised the annual informal seminar in the presence of the UN Secretary General, in Backåkra, in southern Sweden, on a farm that belonged to former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld. That was actually the first time that seminar was held outside the United States. 
Besides, as Ambassador of Sweden in France, I can say that this term also helped to deepen our relationship with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a matter of fact, our relations are excellent.

T.D.L.: At the initiative of the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Margot Wallström, the Swedish government published a handbook on foreign policy revolving around women’s rights on 23 August 2018. What brought that initiative about?

H.E.V.W-D.: This handbook was written to report on the feminist diplomacy initiative that the Swedish government set in motion in September 2014 and to share the lessons learnt with NGOs and chancelleries around the world. It stems straight from the parity-based government that social democratic Prime Minister Stefan Löfven introduced at the time. 
The Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Margot Wallström, is indeed the one who took the initiative that led to this policy to support women in diplomacy. This initiative ties in with her longstanding feminist stand. Before being appointed minister, she served as UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. This experience showed her the horrific things that women endure in war-torn countries and still stirs her today. Her efforts to improve the situation of women also earned her a UN Agent for Change award in 2017.
At first, this measure was often derided. But I think it has become a source of inspiration. I saw that in France, for example, at two meetings of the Assemblée Nationale’s delegation for Women’s Rights I attended.
One key notion in this handbook is that no decision concerning women should be taken without involving a woman. Sweden has made quite a lot of progress on this front but has not achieved parity at all levels in society – in particular in the private sector. There are many more women on boards of directors in France than in Sweden, and we still have work to do on salaries. Those are the imbalances we need to deal with today, especially in diplomatic circles: Sweden has today about 40% women ambassadors accredited. But looking at the UN we note that for instance only 7% of all international UN mediators are women. Although women have provenly played an important role in finding common ground in many international peace negotiations time and again.
Our Minister of Foreign Affairs has now identified a dozen of Swedish women diplomats, with strong mediating skills, to support the UN in dispute settlements.

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