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

Sweden Calls Off Search for Submarine

The Swedish minesweeper HMS Kullen under way in Namdo Bay, Sweden, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014 on their fifth day of searching for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago. The navy has demanded a 1000-meter, (yard) no-go radius around naval vessels taking part in the current operation. (AP Photo/Fredrik Sandberg) SWEDEN OUT
The Swedish minesweeper HMS Kullen under way in Namdo Bay, Sweden, Oct. 21, 2014 on their fifth day of searching for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago. Fredrik Sandberg—AP

Sweden's military launched its biggest anti-submarine operation since the height of the Cold War on Friday

(STOCKHOLM) — Swedish authorities say they have called off their weeklong search for a suspected submarine in the Stockholm archipelago.

Military authorities said Friday that they have ordered naval and amphibious forces to end their hunt for the submarine, though some ground forces will remain involved.

Sweden’s military launched its biggest anti-submarine operation since the twilight of the Soviet Union last Friday after receiving credible reports of foreign underwater activity in the archipelago that extends from the capital, Stockholm, into the Baltic Sea.

Military officials haven’t blamed any country for the suspected intrusion, though most Swedish defense analysts say Russia would be a likely culprit.

Sweden built up an anti-submarine force after a Soviet sub with nuclear weapons ran aground off its southern shores in 1981 but started dismantling it as part of deep cuts in defense spending after the Cold War ended. Anti-submarine helicopters were phased out in 2008 and replacements are not expected until 2018.

Apart from cutting defense spending, Sweden has shifted its focus from territorial defense to international peacekeeping operations and abolished conscription. In 2012 Sweden had 20,000 troops on active duty and 200,000 reserves, down from 50,000 active-duty personnel and almost 600,000 reserves in 1999, according to statistics from the Britain-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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]

TIME European Union

Feminism Comes to the Forefront of Swedish Politics

A look inside one of the world's first feminist parties to be elected to power

Sweden is already known for its progressive policies, but on Sept. 14, this Scandinavian country could be among the first in the world to elect a feminist party to its Parliament.

Feministiskt Initiativ a left-leaning and antiracist political party that was founded in 2005 — has gained popularity in recent months: polls show the party close to or passing the 4% bar needed to obtain seats in Stockholm’s Parliament. If the left-leaning parties with the Swedish Social Democratic Party in the lead secure enough votes and the feminists get 4%, they will likely help form the next government.

With its slogan “Out with the racists, in with the feminists,” the party has broadened traditional feminist values to also fight discrimination on the basis of race, sexual identity and physical disabilities. The party has grown from about 1,500 members in January to more than 17,000 members in July, said Gudrun Schyman, party leader and one of the founders of Feministiskt Initiativ.

“We haven’t reached the goals when it comes to gender equality,” Schyman said. “There has been a myth that we are so advanced, that we have come so far in Sweden that we don’t have to talk about it, we don’t have to do anything.”

While Sweden ranks No. 4 in the 2013 Global Gender Gap Index, which measures equality in the areas of economics, politics, education and health, 95% of Swedish top leaders in listed companies are men. Recent studies also show that Swedish women have 85% of men’s wages and 66% of their pensions.

Sweden is also known for its groundbreaking laws on maternity and paternity leave. But the feminist say that more reforms are needed to make parental leave equal and they propose it should be individualized to fit all kinds of families, including transgender and same-sex ones. While parents are entitled to 480 days of paid leave and the days can be split between parents, a 2012 study shows that dads took only 24% of the total leave.

Schyman, 66, says that the feminist party’s success is due to a carefully crafted door-to-door campaign: during the pas 12 months, Schyman visited every Swedish home where the host pledged to gather a crowd of at least 25 people. During the two-hour-long meetings, Schyman would talk about the growing racism in Swedish society, the need for better pensions and equal pay. The party also plans to set up an Equality Ministry as a permanent government organ. These talking points resonated strongly with a group of Swedish society — where 16% of the population is foreign-born, a higher percentage than in the U.S. — that feels alienated by more established parties.

Feminist Initiativ also gained attention by riding a wave of antiracist feelings that have emerged after increasingly anti-immigration parties, like Sverigedemokraterna, began to gain seats in the national parliament in the 2010 election.

Feministiskt Initiativ has also had success in European politics. In May, the feminists got 5.3% of the Swedes’ votes and a Roma woman, Soraya Post, was welcomed as the first member of a feminist party to sit in the European Parliament.

Schyman believes her party can spur a movement throughout Scandinavia and Europe: she hopes that by 2019, the year of the next European Parliament elections, there will be enough feminist voters in other European countries to form a European feminist-party group. Poland, Germany, France and Italy are among countries that already have organized feminist parties in their individual states.

Yasmine Ergas, director of the gender and public-policy specialization at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York City, says it makes sense that a feminist party has so much support in Sweden.

“The most important thing is to have the ability to mobilize consent,” Ergas said. “There must be a degree of consent in the society about the idea that women rights needs further approach and I think Sweden has that.”

But Feministiskt Initiativ has been criticized for being a populist party or for attracting voters with easy slogans that aren’t backed by financially sounded policy plans. Ebba Busch Thor and Mikael Oscarsson, members of the conservative party Kristdemokraterna, wrote in an opinion piece in the Swedish newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning that the feminist party has “totalitarian features” and that the party “proposes expenses of hundreds of millions Swedish krona without any kind of financial strategy.”

Among the propositions in the feminist party’s economic plan is a reduction of the workday from eight to six hours. Such reform would cost the Swedish government up to $1.6 billion during a 10-year-long transition period, according to data published by the feminist party. In addition, the feminists propose free public transport, extensive efforts to stop domestic violence and an equality fund of $2 billion to speed up the equal-pay process. These reforms will largely be funded by increased taxes but also by measures such as reduction of funding to the Swedish military.

“When the welfare system is not working, it affects women very much,” Schyman said, ”and we think it’s quite normal that you take responsibility for this all of you no matter if you are rich or not and if you have a lot of money you can pay some more tax.”

Recent polls seem to side with Feminist Initiativ, pointing to a likely change in government from the current right-wing coalition Alliansen toward a government led by the Social Democrats and the Green Party. To get a majority in the parliament, the next administration is likely to cooperate with the feminists, and last week Schyman went public with her intent to back the Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven as Prime Minister if they pass the 4% bar in the elections on Sunday.

This summer, during the political rally in Almedalen park in the city of Visby, the feminists rallied the crowds at St. Karin’s ruin, a desolated church from the 14th century. Their “antiracist celebration” was held the same day as Jimmie Akesson, party leader of anti-immigrant party Sverigedemokraterna spoke in front of the crowds a couple of hundreds of meters away.

Hundreds of supporters — donning pink balloons and clothing, the color of the party — came to rally in favor of Feministiskt Initiativ. The renowned Swedish rapper Behrang Miri also performed to a crowd of hundreds.

“We have the possibility to show that it is possible to get these ideas going in the Parliament and in people’s minds,” said Bengt Ortegren, 68, member and volunteer at Feministiskt Initiativ. “I think that is the most important really that there will be new processes going in people’s minds. “

For him, violence against women was one of the main reasons to join the party. “In all the world there is a lot of violence and oppression against women and that is a big issue,” he said. “Perhaps the biggest.”

TIME animals

Adorable Baby Hippo Looks Exactly Like the Michelin Man

Courtesy of Parken Zoo

Her name is Olivia and she's one month old

Who’s this divine little creature? Oh, just a rare pygmy hippopotamus who was born a month ago at the Parken Zoo in Eskilstuna, Sweden, according to the BBC. She’s already made a name for herself thanks to her striking similarity to the Michelin Man.

“She is the cutest little fatty you can imagine,” zoologist Jennie Westander told Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper. Which, yes. Definitely true.

Olivia was born as part of an international breeding program (as pygmy hippos are an endangered species.) She’ll spend two years with her mother until she’s relocated to another zoo in Europe.

Courtesy of Parken Zoo
Courtesy of Parken Zoo

 

TIME United Kingdom

Julian Assange Says He Will Leave London’s Ecuadorian Embassy ‘Soon’

Assange has spent more than two years in Ecuadorian embassy in London

In a news conference from the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Monday, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange stated that he’s preparing to “leave soon,” after more than two years of sheltering inside.

The WikiLeaks founder, who is wanted for questioning over rape allegations in Sweden and faces extradition, didn’t elaborate as to when precisely he would be leaving the embassy where he has been seeking political asylum since June 2012. He did say that he wouldn’t be leaving for the reasons being reported in the British press, suggesting that recent reports about a heart condition are not accurate. Yet Assange did also mention in the conference that his health had suffered while living in the embassy.

The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricarod Patin, who was also present at the conference, said, “The situation must come to an end. Two years is too long. It is time to free Assange. It is time for his human rights to be respected.” He also reiterated that Ecuador would, “continue to offer him our protection.”

In an interview with the Daily Mail published over the weekend, Assange said, “Maybe it’s time to think that WikiLeaks is not the main problem here for the West, maybe me and my publishing house are a lesser threat than say the Islamic State in Iraq or, closer to home, paedophiles in Westminster.”

[BBC]

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