Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Sweden’

The Bridge

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 24th August, 2014

The BridgeI have only seen the second series of the TV crime drama The Bridge, but it made me an instant convert to Nordic Noir. The dynamic between the two mismatched detectives, one Danish, one Swedish, is quite special, as is the observation of their dysfunctional private lives. For those who haven’t seen the programme, its plots span the narrow divide separating Copenhagen from Malmo, and the Oresunds Bridge that provides both a rail and road link between the two cities also provides the title of the series, as well as being one of its most striking stars. The bridge didn’t exist the last time I was in Copenhagen for more than just a stopover, so of course I had to make a pilgrimage over it — by tran, in my case, which was remarkably simple, as even on a Sunday there seemed to be trains every ten minutes or so, and the journey takes just over half an hour. I found Malmo this morning packing up from the Malmo Festival, which ended on Friday, but that meant that there were no great crowds. In fact, the city was virtually empty and I easily found a table in the sun at the Gustav Adolf restaurant for lunch. The bridge has really boosted Malmo, which used to belong to Denmark, but then became something of a backwater when absorbed into Sweden. There are some lovely buildings and squares, and a beautiful cemetery garden right in the centre of town. Well worth a day trip from Copenhagen (and, no, I didn’t see any criminal activity of any sort, least of all a kidnapping or murder).

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Why Assange Lost My Support

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 18th August, 2012

The British government, in common with most of its other European and North American counterparts, disapproved of Wikileaks, as they saw the phenomenon as undermining the way the world goes about its diplomatic business. As a journalist, I took a contrary view and thought that this enforced openness taught ordinary people a lot about how states do their business, officially and unofficially. I applauded the Guardian’s publication of Wikileaks material and the way that Editor Alan Rusbridger handled the whole affair. So for a while I was quite positive about Julian Assange, though I never saw him as a knight in shining white armour. But the allegations against him of sexual asault in Sweden concerned me, as did his resistance to extradition to help with investigations there. There is no reason to think Sweden would accede to a further extradition request, this time from the United States, relating to Wikileaks, if the matter concerned could lead to a potential death sentence under US law, though his most strident supporters claim the opposite. Anyway, I thought it was brave and rather noble of a group of wealthy or influential friends and supporters of his to put up bail for him so he could live in relative comfort as a houseguest at a country house rather than in jail while the wheels of the British law ground. But when he jumped bail and fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, thereby dumping his friends and supporters in the shit and leaving them heavily out of pocket, I lost patience with him. Now he and his claque — including Ecuador’s President — are championing him as some sort of martyr for free speech, which he is not; his application for asylum was frankly absurd and he has become a self-publicist, playing to the gallery. There is a martyr in this whole business, however, and that is Bradley Manning, the poor young soldier who leaked a lot of the Wikileaks stuff while he was serving in Iraq. He has been languishing in a US prison, for much of the time in solitary confinement, yet his plight is largely ignored. That is where our sympathies should lie and our campaigning continue — for Manning’s release or at least civilised detention conditions for him.

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Sweden’s EU Presidency

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 6th July, 2009

Sweden EU Presidency 2009The first full working week of the Swedish EU presidency starts today, with an informal meeting of health ministers from the 27 member states and a visit to Stockholm by the leaders of the different political groups in the European Parliament, the outgoing President of the Parliament, Hans-Gert Potttering and 40 other Euro-parliamentary representatives. The Conference of Presidents — as the collective of group leaders is known in rather ponderous Euro-jargon — is having meetings with the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, and the Speaker of the Riksdag (Parliament), Per Westerberg, to discuss the Swedish presidency’s priorities. As the Lisbon Treaty is in limbo, awaiting the rerun of the Irish referendum, the EU is still operating under a six-month rotating presidency — an absurd system which is nonetheless in tried and safe hands with the Swedes.

Interestingly, the Swedish presidency’s priorities mirror exactly the main themes on which the British Liberal Democrats campaigned in last month’s Euro-elections: closer ‘horizontal’ cooeration across the EU to emerge stronger from the economic recession, joint action to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges, and enhancing cooperation to promote security while protecting  human rights and individual freedoms. On the last of these three goals, the Swedish government has declared, ‘The EU must continue to develop towards a more secure and open Europe. The Presidency wants to develop cooperation across borders to protect democratic values and the rights of individuals, and to meet the challenge facing Europe. Joint efforts are necessary to combat international crime. The EU needs to establish a more efficient asylum and migration policy. The Presidency aims to develop cooperati0n in the field of justice and home affairs via the Stockholm Programme which will be adopted in the autumn.’  Watch this space!  


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10 Years of the Euro

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th January, 2009

1-euro     The European Movement held a day conference on 10 Years of the Euro at University College London yesterday, though any sense of celebration was overshadowed by a deep feeling of frustration that Britain has failed to ‘opt in’ to the single currency, and that the mood of such a large proportion of the British public remains Euro-sceptic. The media were mainly blamed for that, though there was a ray of hope on that front offered by one of the keynote speakers, Graham Bishop, when he pointed out that increasingly people get their news and views from the Internet, rather than from newspapers, so the Rupert Murdochs of this world are losing influence.

However, national governments are as much to blame as the media for giving a distorted view of what the EU is all about. As the former Conservative MEP Ben Patterson said — in a paper ‘The Euro: Success or Failure’, tabled at the conference — ‘All EU governments are tempted to blame “Europe” for difficulties of their own making. Electorates generally have little idea how EU decisions are taken, and are only too willing to believe that there is  vast, unelected Eurocracy in Brussels, imposing absurd regulations out of the blue.’ In other words, if in a pickle, blame Brussels.

The second keynote speaker, another former Conservative MEP (and now active Liberal Democrat) John Stevens asserted that that the Eurozone is not going to collapse, nor will any country leave it. On the contrary, it has just acquired its 16th. member, Slovakia, and others are in transition. The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me a few months ago that he was going to do what he could to persuade the Danish public to join the euro, and similar moves are afoot in Sweden. Which just leaves Britain as the last bastion of euro-scepticism. But as John Stevens said yesterday, ‘If Britain were to join the euro, the euro would be made.’  The EU is proving that it is possible to have an international currency, which can be a model for other parts of the world and help ensure that European political values have clout in changing global geopolitics.


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Denmark to Join the Euro?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 30th October, 2008

As a result of the financial crisis, Denmark might decide to join the Eurozone, according to the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Speaking at a press conference at the ELDR Congress in Stockholm this afternoon, Mr Rasmussen said that Danes were now realising both the economic and political cost of staying out. The Danish crown is closely linked to the euro, but not being a member of the single currency area means that the Danish government has no direct say in related policy. Moreover, Danish interest rates are now two per cent higher than in the Eurozone, which is really hitting private and commercial borrowers. The government intends to instigate a new referendum on Eurozone membership during its time in office, and Mr Rasmussen believes this time the ‘yes’ side would win.

The leaders of the two Swedish Liberal Parties — Maud Olofsson of the Centre Party and Jan Bjorklund of Folkpartiet, who are co-hosting the ELDR Congress — said that the situation in Sweden is a little less clear, though recent opinion polls here suggest that the majority against joining the euro is now very small. But Mr Bjorklund replied to a question of mine that three out of the four parties in the current Swedish government would campaign in favour of euro-membership if a refrendum were held hypothetically next month.

And what about the other stay-out, Britain, with its sinking pound, I wonder?

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