TIME sweden

Julian Assange’s Appeal is Rejected by Swedish Court

Julian Assange
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London on June 14, 2013. Anthony Devlin—AFP/Getty Images

Assange still faces extradition to Sweden if he leaves London's Ecuadorian embassy

The Swedish Court of Appeal has upheld an arrest warrant against the Australian Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, who is wanted for questioning regarding allegations of sexual assault and rape in Sweden.

Assange, who denies the allegations, has sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than two years in order to avoid extradition. A Swedish prosecutor first issued an arrest warrant for Assange in 2010 but Assange had appealed for this order to be revoked.

The Court explained its reasoning in upholding the detention order in a statement, saying that “Julian Assange is suspected of crimes of a relatively serious nature.”

“There is a great risk that he will flee and thereby evade legal proceedings if the detention order is set aside,” the court argued, but also noted that Sweden’s investigation into Assange remains deadlocked.

[Guardian]

TIME Video Games

Sweden Considers Special Labels for Sexist Video Games

Paris Games Week : Press Preview
Gamers play video games with the PS4 consoles of PlayStation during the International Games Week on Oct. 29, 2014, in Paris Chesnot—Getty Images

A video-game trade group, inspired by the Bechdel Test, will study games' portrayals of women

A government-funded innovation agency in Sweden is considering creating specials label for video games based on whether or not the games’ portrayals of women are sexist.

Inspired by the Bechdel Test, Vinnova is paying the Swedish video-game trade organization Dataspelsbranchen approximately $36,672 to study the industry’s female characters, the Local reports.

“I do not know of any other project in the world asking this question, and of course, we want Sweden to be a beacon in this area,” said project manager Anton Albiin, who notes that it has not been determined whether all Swedish games would be graded on their treatment of women or whether only games with positive portrayals would receive special labels.

Only 16% of people working in Sweden’s growing, $935 million gaming industry are women, according to Dataspelsbranchen. (In 2013, the Boston Globe reported that in the U.S. women made up 3% of video-game programmers and 11% of designers.)

“Of course games can be about fantasy, but they can be so much more than this,” Albiin said. “They can also be a form of cultural expression — reflecting society or the society we are hoping for. Games can help us to create more diverse workplaces and can even change the way we think about thing.”

[The Local]

TIME sweden

Sweden Confirms Foreign Submarine Was in Its Waters

SWEDEN-MILITARY-SUBMARINE-RUSSIA-ESPIONAGE
The Swedish minesweeper HMS Kullen and a guard boat in Namdo Bay on their fifth day of searching for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago on October 21, 2014. FREDRIK SANDBERG—AFP/Getty Images

Says it will defend its territory "with all available means"

The hunt for a rogue submarine in Sweden’s waters last month has now confirmed that a foreign vessel was there, the Swedish government said Friday, but the origin of the ship still remains unclear.

Swedish intelligence agents detected distress signals on Oct. 16, and on Oct. 17 civilians saw an object that appeared to be a submarine in the water east of Stockholm. The following day, Sweden reportedly intercepted transmits from those waters to the Russian town of Kalingrad, leading to suspicions that the vessel may have been Russian. Russia denied this claim during the search.

“The Swedish defense forces can confirm that a mini u-boat violated Swedish territory,” a Swedish military commander told reporters, according to AFP. “This is a serious and unacceptable violation by a foreign power.”

Prime Minister Stefan Loefven warned that such incursions will not be tolerated. “We will defend our territorial integrity with all available means,” he said.

[AFP]

TIME politics

The Swedish Way To Boost Voter Turnout

voters
Getty Images

Whether you’re in high-turnout Sweden or low-turnout L.A., the task of getting people to participate must be a constant, year-round focus of attention, not just an issue of concern at election time

I did not receive the warmest welcome from my colleagues four years ago, at my very first meeting of the Falun Election Commission. In fact, most members of the authority in Falun, the Swedish city of 57,000 where I live, were surprised I had called a meeting at all.

“What is this all about?” a colleague asked me. “The next elections are in four years and we had just an election with a great turnout. The only thing we are elected to do is administer the next elections.”

My colleague had a point. The Swedish law makes clear the election commission’s job is to administer election, full stop. And participation in the 2010 local, regional and national elections here in Sweden—which are held together at the same time—was terrific. Turnout of those eligible to vote was 82 percent.

That may sound like another world entirely to people in the U.S. where I’m visiting this week in part to observe preparations for Tuesday’s elections. I know that many places in the country, including California, where I’m writing this, are experiencing record low turnout.

But I also know this: Whether you’re in high-turnout Sweden or low-turnout L.A., the task of getting people to participate must be a constant, year-round focus of attention, not just an issue of concern at election time. Conventional wisdom is that turnout is beyond the control of election organizers. I’d suggest—after spending the past four years trying to raise turnout for the 2014 elections—that election administrators can make the difference.

I’m highly sensitive to the issues of participation because democracy is such a big part of my life. I’m a professional journalist for Swiss radio who covers a lot of elections around Europe and the world. I’ve been an official observer of elections (my co-observer President Jimmy Carter failed to show up when we were paired recently as observers of Taiwanese elections). And I vote in two different countries because I’m a citizen of Sweden and Switzerland, as well as the European Union.

In all these contexts, I’ve seen that the places with the greatest participation do not necessarily have the most media coverage and campaign materials demanding that people show up at the polls. The places that improve participation tend to be places where regular people connect with politics and make collective decisions all the time, not just in election season.

How to create these connections? You need to strengthen existing institutions—and build new ones—that encourage active citizenship year-round.

In Falun, I wanted to take advantage of new initiative and referendum rights in Sweden and Europe to try to boost participation. After that first uncomfortable meeting, my colleagues decided that the role of our local government was to make sure that people understood these new rights and how to use them.

But it wasn’t enough to just notify people. My colleagues on the commission insisted on a test of our work in what came to be called a “supersized participation challenge.” All of our work between elections would be measured by whether or not voting participation increased.

One of our first ideas was to develop and distribute a “Democracy Passport” to every citizen; We made an extra effort to get it into the hands of first-time voters. The passport is the size and shape of a national passport, and it described all the political powers that Falun citizens have and all the forums where they have the right to weigh in—at the city, state, country and European Union level. The passport explains which levels of government do what, as well as what you can do to influence the government.

We also opened a “Democracy Center” at our public library, offering a free public space for democratic information, education, and dialogue. We hired a full-time “Democracy Navigator,” whose job was to assist individual citizens and groups to make their voices heard. Finally we started to renew the city’s online services, incorporating modern forms of transparency and citizen interaction.

We did all of this with the agreement of each of the nine political parties in the city parliament, which consists of 61 members. Our message was a paradigm shift: We need to move away from the idea that citizens are just consumers of political programs and parties and start seeing them as direct participants in the community. In this, we had a distinct advantage: Sweden’s long history of democracy has generated significant trust in public institutions.

After three years of work (in which I also chaired another public body, the Falun Democracy Council, which did related work), we reached the “months of truth” this year. Elections for the European Union parliament were held in May, and then the joint elections for local, regional and national Swedish parliaments were held in September.

Determined to boost participation, we made use of our very generous voting regulations—we permit early voting, voting by mail, and even second voting. What’s second voting? People who voted early can go to a polling station on Election Day and change their vote in person; When people do this, the vote in the polling station is accepted and the advance vote declared invalid.

We also have automatic voter registration—you don’t have to sign up yourself. And we have been aggressive in making sure that voters who were not born in Sweden but have lived here for three years (non-citizens with residency can vote in local and regional elections) are on the rolls. We organized meetings with Somali-Swedish women, translated the Democracy Passport into Arabic, and invited new voters to participate in walks we organized and staffed with interpreters to the offices of elected officials, political parties and interest groups.

In the end, we met the supersizing challenge. At the European elections in May—elections where turnout has been lowest in Sweden—we boosted turnout from 45 percent to 54 percent, among the highest in Sweden.

And in the mid-September elections, we went from 82 percent to 87 percent. That’s healthy, of course. But it’s not good enough. We’re already planning for the next elections, and thinking about how to invest more in our democratic infrastructure.

Bruno Kaufmann, a journalist and election commissioner in Falun, Sweden, is founder of People2Power, a publication on democracy. He wrote this for Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME sweden

Sweden Becomes the First E.U. Member to Recognize a Palestinian State

The decision, which has drawn the ire of Israel, comes unexpectedly early

The Swedish government became the first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state on Thursday.

Newly elected Prime Minister Stefan Lofven first announced the move at his swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 3, but he was not expected to follow through so soon, Haaretz reports.

“Some will claim that today’s decision comes too early. I’m rather afraid it’s too late,” writes Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. “The past year, we’ve seen how the peace negotiations once again have halted, how decisions on new settlements on occupied Palestinian land have obstructed a two-state solution and how violence has returned to Gaza.”

Wallstrom writes that the recognition aims to support moderate forces among the Palestinians, make future negotiations more equal and give young Palestinians hope of a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Israel has publicly protested the move, which some believe is feeding unrealistic Palestinian expectations of working out a resolution with the international community but without involving Israel, writes the Jerusalem Post.

A total of 134 other countries recognized Palestine before Sweden. Hungary, Poland and Slovakia all did so before joining the E.U.

TIME Malala

Malala Donates $50,000 Toward Reconstruction of Gaza Schools

SWEDEN-CHILDREN-RIGHT-PRIZE
Pakistani activist for female education Malala Yousafzai attends a press conference ahead of the award ceremony for the 2014 World's Children Prize for the Rights of the Child at Gripsholm Castle in Mariefred, Sweden on Oct. 29, 2014. Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images

Donation will aid U.N. agency

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen activist who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, received another honor Wednesday and said she is donating the $50,000 in prize money to a United Nations agency that is rebuilding schools in Gaza following the summer conflict with Israel.

“The needs are overwhelming — more than half of Gaza’s population is under 18 years of age,” Malala said while being honored with the World Children’s Prize in Stockholm, according to a statement released by the U.N. Reliefs and Works Agency. “They want and deserve quality education, hope and real opportunities to build a future.”

Malala, who at age 15 survived being shot by the Taliban, has amassed a global following for work in the fight for girls’ right to education. The 17-year-old is the first person to receive the Children’s Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize in the same year.

TIME sweden

Swedish Hunt for ‘Russian’ Sub Recalls the Cold War

Swedish minesweeper HMS Koster searching for what the military says is a foreign threat in the waters in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden, on Oct. 19 2014.
Swedish minesweeper HMS Koster searching for what the military says is a foreign threat in the waters in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden, on Oct. 19 2014. Marko Saavala—AFP/Getty Images

Russia denies it has a submarine in the area but the search continues

For the last six days, Sweden’s Navy has been in full Hunt for Red October-mode. Ever since a mysterious, unidentified vessel was spotted south of Stockholm, Swedish ships and helicopters have been searching the area for what media reports says is a damaged Russian submarine that has surreptitiously made its way into the Nordic country’s waters. Those reports were only amplified when, on Oct. 18, Sweden reportedly intercepted communications between transmitters in the Stockholm archipelago and the Russian town of Kalingrad. If all that activity sounds like it was lifted from the screenplay of a 1980s Hollywood military thriller, it raises a very real question. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, has the Cold War returned?

According to Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, the first sign that something was amiss came on Oct. 16, when Swedish intelligence detected a distress call from somewhere in the Stockholm archipelago. The next day, two civilians reported spotting a submarine-like object in waters about than 40 kilometers east of Stockholm. Sending out 200 troops on corvettes and minesweepers, the military began scouring the area for what it said was most likely a foreign vessel conducting operations in Swedish waters. The sightings, which have now increased to five, took place in “an area that is of interest to a foreign power,” said Swedish Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad at a press conference on Oct. 19. “This does not belong to us. It is a foreign vessel and we have no indications that there would be any civilians involved in underwater activity.”

Although Swedish military and government officials have not identified the nationality of the craft, nor even confirmed that it is indeed a submarine, Dagbladet was less circumspect, publishing stories about the encrypted Russian transmissions and noting that a Russian tanker supposed to be sailing to Denmark had instead been zigzagging through the Stockholm archipelago for the past week, possibly in an attempt to aid a damaged submarine. The Russian government has denied it has a submarine in the area.

Konstantin Sivkov, a retired navy officer of the former Soviet Union who is now head of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, a think tank with ties to the Russian military, said that surveillance in foreign waters was the normal practice of many navies but that it was very unlikely that a Russian submarine was currently in Swedish waters.

“Judging by the available information, there was no submarine. Had there been a submarine stranded in Swedish waters, and if it had been sighted surfacing and heard giving audio transmissions, it would be found in 3-4 hours maximum,” he told TIME.

Magnus Nordenman, deputy director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security in Washington, D.C., suggests that the presence of a clandestine vessel in the Nordic region would certainly fit within recent Russian practices. “It’s one more data point in a larger pattern,” Nordenman says. “Over the past three years, and especially in the last year, the Russians have made more and more incursions into Swedish airspace. There have been close calls between their ships too.”

And it’s not just the Swedes who are the target. In March, Russia staged a large-scale military drill close to the Finnish border, and its fighter jets have violated Finnish airspace five times already this year. In 2013, Russian jets challenged Danish airspace more than 40 times—double the number of the previous year—and are on track to surpass that number this year. “I keep arguing that the Baltic Sea area is the next friction point between an assertive Russia and NATO,” says Nordenman. “It looks like a peaceful, prosperous area, but when it comes to security, it’s quite soft.”

Ironically, part of that softness comes precisely from the distance that the Nordic countries have tried to put between themselves and the Cold War era. With threats to their territorial integrity greatly diminished, Sweden and Denmark have, in recent years, made the strategic decision to dedicate the better part of their military budgets toward establishing a global presence (in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places). As a result, Sweden has reduced its number of submarines to just five; Denmark has gotten rid of them altogether. “In part, it was symbolic,” says Johannes Nordby, a commander in the Danish navy and security expert at the Royal Danish Defence College. “Submarines represented a Cold War weapon, and the Cold War was over.”

Or so the Nordics thought. With the conflict in Ukraine, Putin has made clear his desire to both re-establish a broader sphere of Russian influence and to stand up to NATO and the European Union. “The Cold War was a political and ideological war as much as it was a military one, and we don’t have those [elements] now,” says Nordby. “But it was also about influence. I would argue that what’s happening now is a sign of Russia wanting a new and more significant role in the Baltic region, and internationally.”

Russia’s increased assertiveness is already influencing political debate in the Nordic region. Neither Finland nor Sweden are members of NATO, and with public opinion running strongly against, neither shows any immediate inclination to join. But both signed a pact in August that would increase their cooperation with the alliance, and would allow NATO troops to assist in the two countries in case of emergencies, and there may be more concessions to come. “If the submarine proves to be Russian,” says Harri Mikkola, a global security researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, “it will further increase security policy discussions in Finland. Nato discussion will intensify, but even more so the discussion concerning the need to deepen military cooperation with Sweden.” And this week, while debates broke out in the Danish press about Denmark’s military preparedness, the Swedish Prime Minister announced he would increase defense spending.

But if history is any example, none of that will likely help capture the unidentified vessel currently hiding in Swedish waters. During the Cold War, Soviet submarines reportedly made numerous incursions into the country’s territory, but with the exception of one that ran aground in 1981, none were ever caught. Which is why Admiral Grenstad probably had the past in mind when he announced to the press on Tuesday that his navy would continue the search. “It’s like Jesus,” he said. “Everyone knows who he is but no one has seen him.”

With additional reporting from Simon Shuster/Moscow

Read next: Canadian Soldier Killed Outside Parliament in Ottawa

TIME sweden

Sweden’s Military Scours for Possible Russian Submarine in Its Waters

Swedish corvette HMS Visby patrols the Stockholm Archipelago October 19 2014, searching for what the military says is a foreign threat in the waters. Marko Savala—TT News Agency/Reuters

A man-made object has been spotted deep inside the Stockholm archipelago, and encrypted communication with Kaliningrad intercepted

A large military operation is under way in waters off Stockholm to sweep for a “foreign underwater activity” widely speculated to be a damaged Russian submarine, in what could be the gravest violation of Sweden’s maritime sovereignty since the Cold War.

The intelligence operation, involving helicopters, minesweepers, corvettes, fast-attack crafts, a submarine and 200 service personnel, started on Friday, after a “man-made device” was sighted deep inside the Stockholm archipelago and encrypted radio communication was intercepted between that position and Kaliningrad — the base of Russia’s Baltic Sea fleet.

Sweden’s military said Sunday it had made a total of three credible sightings within two days and released an image taken by a passerby showing a partially submerged object, but has yet to comment on whether it is a Russian submarine. A suspicious black-clad man was also photographed wading in the waters outside the island of Sandön. On Oct. 2, a navy ship collided with an object in the vicinity, which some believe could have been a submersible that has since fallen into distress.

Intelligence expert Joakim von Braun told the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter that the spotted object could be an advanced mini submarine of the model Triton-NN, and that the stranded crew could have hidden themselves on one of the many nearby islands while waiting to be picked up.

“It could very well be the case that a Swedish sleeper agent is activated since the embassy personnel is too monitored to carry out such a mission,” he said.

Russia has recently been increasingly bullish against its Baltic and Nordic neighbors, prompting some to speculate that they are trying to discourage these countries from deeper cooperation with NATO. In September, Russian fighter jets reportedly violated Swedish airspace, and Finland claims that the Russian navy harassed one of its environmental research ships in international waters last week.

However, maritime incursions have not been apparent since the 1980s, when Sweden’s military was frequently scrambled to investigate, and sometimes hunt, suspected Russian submarines in its waters. International law allows warships to cross maritime borders, while submarines may only do so while surfaced unless previous notification has been given.

Tomas Ries, a researcher at the Swedish National Defense College, says it would be a serious violation if a Russian submarine were located this far into Swedish waters.

“When the Russians violate airspace it’s a political signal, when they practice strategic bomb attacks it’s a political signal,” he told the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

“But if they are going on like this in Swedish waters it suggests that they are preparing something,” he adds, suggesting perhaps mines or reconnaissance equipment. Alternatively, says Ries, they may have “left something there during the Cold War that they want to update,” describing all explanations as “severe.”

An unnamed Kremlin military source apparently denied that the mystery craft was Russian when speaking to state-backed news agency RT. “No extraordinary, let alone emergency situations have happened to Russian military vessels,” said the source.

TIME Books

French Novelist Patrick Modiano Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

French novelist Patrick Modiano poses for a photograph. Patrick Modiano of France has won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature.
French novelist Patrick Modiano poses for a photograph. Patrick Modiano of France has won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature. AP—AP/Gallimard

Modiano is well known in his home country of France

Patrick Modiano, a French author whose work deals with memory, identity and the impact of the Nazi occupation on his home country, won the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday.

The Swedish prize worth roughly $1.1 million was awarded to Modiano “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”

Modiano’s father was of Italian Jewish origin, and his work often focuses on the effect of the Nazi occupation of France, according to the Associated Press. Some of his works, including “Villa Triste,” “A Trace of Malice,” and “Honeymoon” have been translated into English.

Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said that Modiano, 69, has written some 30 books, primarily novels, the Guardian reports. “Those are his important themes: memory, identity, and time,” Englund said. “He is a well known name in France but pretty well not anywhere else.”

He beat out several presumed front-runners for the prize, including Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami and the Kenyan poet Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Canadian short story author Alice Munro won the prize last year.

TIME sweden

Sweden Will Be Among First European Countries to Recognize Palestinian State

From left: Stefan Löfven and Per Westerberg in Stockholm on Sept. 18, 2014.
From left: Stefan Löfven and Per Westerberg in Stockholm on Sept. 18, 2014. Lindahl Bjorn—Aftonbladet/Zuma Press

Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Lofven announced Friday that his new center-left government will recognize the state of Palestine, making his country among the first in Europe to do so.

“The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law,” said Löfven during his inaugural address in parliament. “A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine.”

No European Union country has recognized Palestine as a member; EU countries Hungary, Poland and Slovakia only did so before they joined the bloc, according to Reuters. In 2012, the United Nations overwhelmingly voted in favor of Palestinian statehood despite opposition from Israel and the United States.

The negotiations between Israel and Palestine for a two-state solution—creating a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and using established borders in the West Bank and Gaza—have sputtered despite efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

[Reuters]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser