Posts Tagged ‘Fredrik Reinfeldt’

Obama arrived 8 minutes early, Swedish Television caught napping

September 4, 2013

It has been a glorious day in Stockholm today. Blue skies, sunshine, 20°C and Obama touched down 8 minutes early. His arrival was being carried live by Swedish TV (Sveriges Television) on one channel and by Independent TV on another.  The Swedish TV channel literally “blacked-out” for about 5 minutes but the Independent channel coped though their audio feed went haywire for a few minutes.

Somebody should have told Obama that the correct form would have been to circle around in a little loop and land precisely on time. While punctuality is almost a religion here, and being late is a qualifier for eternal damnation, being early is not considered very polite either.

I remember the birthday parties for our kids when we were still new to Sweden and I could not quite understand why all the guests – and their parents – were hanging about down the street for a good 5 to 10 minutes before ringing the bell precisely – but precisely – at the appointed time. Mind you I quickly grew to appreciate that punctuality. Especially the custom of always having a  specified start and an end time for birthday parties. The relief after four hours of enduring 30 hyperactive kids when they all disappear at exactly the stipulated time is something close to ecstasy!!

Half the day’s program is over. A joint press conference with the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt has been held. Nothing of any great significance was said. The full transcript is here. The most profound part was when Obama said:

It’s only been a short time, but I already want to thank all the people here for the warm hospitality that’s been extended to me and my delegation. This is truly one of the world’s great cities. It is spectacularly beautiful. The prime minister tells me that the weather is like this year ‘round. 

Only 2 Swedish journalists were permitted to ask questions and behaved themselves very correctly. Of course Syria and Putin and the NSA came up but little was said beyond the level of platitudes. Reinfeldt took the opportunity to mention that Sweden would now give refugees/ asylum seekers from Syria permanent residency and thereby avoided having to support or condemn military action.

But this is the first ever bilateral visit by a serving US President to Sweden and the value is more symbolic and it would be quite wrong to expect this visit to contain much substance on controversial matters. I had lunch today at my circular club and there was some little comment about the “circus” but nobody was really negative to Obama’s visit. Most were quite pleased that the President of the USA was visiting little Sweden.

Apart from the little TV glitch, everything else seems to have gone according to plan.

So far so good.

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Obama (and entourage of 500) to paralyse Stockholm

September 3, 2013

Arlanda airport and Stockholm are places to be avoided for the next 2 days. Fortunately I don’t have to be in the area till next week.

President Barack Obama and his entourage of some 500-700 people will land at Arlanda airport in Stockholm tomorrow. He will spend a little over 24 hours in the Swedish capital and then leave for Saint Petersburg and the G20 summit on Thursday.

Not only will roads be closed to all traffic, even the subway will shut down while his convoy of some 50 vehicles passes overhead. Some Metro stations will shut down. It will “be the largest interference to public transport that Stockholm has ever seen”. In some areas even cyclists and pedestrians will have to find alternate routes.

On arrival on Wednesday he will have discussions with the Prime Minister and the Swedish Government,

The pair will discuss bilateral relations, regional and global political and economic developments, trade relations, climate and energy policies as well as various foreign policy areas, likely to include Syria. A joint press conference will be held after the meeting at the Rosenbad Conference Centre.

After the meeting, the Reinfeldt and Obama are set to head over to the Great Synagogue of Stockholm to honour Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust.

Next, the two leaders will motor over to the Royal Institute of Technology (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan, KTH) for a half hour look at the university’s energy innovation research. The programme will focus on Swedish innovations within the Chemical Science division, with specific attention paid to fuel cells and solar cells.

… Obama and Reinfeldt will then head for dinner, where they will be joined by the prime ministers of Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway.

He will likely spend the night at the Grand Hotel and will have lunch with the Royal family on Thursday before returning to Arlanda airport, Air Force 1 and his hop over to Russia.

Some minor demonstrations are expected but they will have far fewer people attending than the various parties being organised by various Swedish-American groups and societies.

Of course it is just a stop-over on his way to Russia and his mind may be preoccupied by Syria. Certainly the horde of journalists trailing in his wake will have little interest in things Swedish and will concentrate on Syria and what may transpire between Obama and Putin in the next few days.

But there are a number of matters that Obama could take up – or avoid – in a bilateral sense:

  1. He could thank someone (who?) for his Nobel Peace Prize. He can still bask in that glory till next week when strikes on Syria are implemented. In any event the prize cannot be revoked.
  2. He could thank the Swedish Government for not considering asylum for Snowden.
  3. He could thank the Swedish Government and prosecutors for cooperating in “stitching-up” Julian Assange.
  4. He will expect and demand that Fredrik Reinfeldt stand behind the US in confronting Putin about Syria. He will not have much resistance from this Swedish Government in that objective.
  5. Some of the UN samples collected in Syria are being analysed in Sweden and Obama will expect that the analysis results not contradict anything he or Kerry have alleged.
  6. He could discuss some joint PR to accompany the publication of the first part of the IPCC report on global warming at the end of the month.
  7. He is likely to avoid any discussion of the current hiatus in global warming firstly because he himself is a believer and secondly because there are more followers of the “global warming religion” in Sweden than there are members of the Swedish church.
  8. He will not expect that Sweden will even address the matter of the NSA’s indiscriminate spying  (and Carl Bildt has confirmed that this is not on the agenda).
  9. He may discuss the “Swedish model” which has received some attention in the US press though the general impression in the US remains that Sweden’s social welfare and health care system is just one little step removed from full-blown communism.
  10. However he may well ask how the the tax rebates for house-work and for house maintenance and repairs have contributed to real job creation.
  11. He is unlikely to discuss the fact that every “green job” in Sweden has cost at least two elsewhere in the economy and how renewable energy has increased the cost of electricity for the consumer.

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