Surprisingly enough, the UAE and Sweden share a fair few qualities. Geographically, topographically and climatically they might be figurative polar opposites — culturally as well. The socioeconomics of the two nations are however more akin. The two populations are roughly the same size, both localities enjoy a high calibre social welfare system, as do they a high GDP per capita and standard of living.
Such characteristics are essential when it comes to the meeting of minds between Emiratis and Swedes. Sweden with its limited population has over the centuries managed to develop a highly technological, innovation-driven, and economically competitive society. The expansion toward diversification, industrialisation and a knowledge-based society in the UAE could well be modelled on the experiences and examples set by Sweden.
The Swedish Trade Council's office in Dubai is the world's second largest, indicating that there are a lot of activities ongoing. Well above 3,000 Swedes live in the UAE and the numbers are growing.
A successful endeavour
The congruence in thinking between thetwo nations is also very obvious in the field of sustainability and renewable energy. The successful Emirati bid to host the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) in Abu Dhabi has put UAE on the global environmental map. Sweden, with the highest national utilisation of renewable energy in Europe, has a long history of developing new environmentally friendly techniques. The Swedish Crown Princess Victoria visited the World Future Energy Summit this year and launched the Swedish SymbioCity Office in Masdar City. Furthermore, in April during the G-20 Clean Energy Ministerial in Abu Dhabi, Sweden and the UAE jointly established a network of sustainable cities. An international conference on Women for Sustainable Growth also took place this spring in Stockholm.
As far as international affairs are concerned, Sweden and the UAE stood side by side on foreign policy with regard to establishing a no-fly zone over Libya. The UAE remains politically active in places such as Afghanistan and Libya, making invaluable contributions to the credibility and effectiveness of international efforts tackling serious issues in this part of the world.
The Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has visited the UAE twice in the last year. Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, is expected to visit Sweden at the end of June. Diplomatic relations between the two countries are sturdier than ever. The Rashid Diabetes Centre in Ajman has developed a close alliance with the world-leading Malmö and Lund University. This relationship will hopefully develop further in the field of joint research and training as a result of the forthcoming visit of Emirati Minister of Health to Sweden in mid-June.
The areas of culture and sports are no stranger to the strong ties between the two countries. The Abu Dhabi Film Festival this autumn will have a Swedish theme and early next year the Volvo Ocean Race comes toAbu Dhabi. I had the chance of sailing withthe Abu Dhabi yacht team. In my opinion,with Ian Walker as skipper, I am confident that Abu Dhabi will win this time.
— The writer is Ambassador of Sweden to the UAE
Ambassador Magnus Schöldtz came to the UAE in 2010 with his wife Milo and two daughters — Andrea, 12 and Alva, 10.
"I had my defining professional experiences in Lebanon and Iraq and I was extremely pleased to be able to return to the Middle East," says the ambassador.
"My wife had the opportunity to continue her work for the World Wildlife Foundation in the UAE.
"The girls enjoy the excellent school and sports facilities in Abu Dhabi. Alva is a keen football player and was drafted to the very dedicated, but rather Scottish-dominated team — Abu Dhabi Thistles. I guess she was accepted because she came from the same region as Henrik "Henke" Larsson, the legendary Swedish footballer who has played for Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United."
— Farhan Hasan/Feature Writer
Land & people
Area: 450,000 sq km
National day: June 6
Languages: Swedish; recognised minority languages: Sami (Lapp), Finnish, Meänkieli (Tornedalen Finnish), Yiddish, Romani Chib; English is widely spoken
Currency: Swedish krona (SEK)
Population: 9.4 million
GDP per capita (PPP): $39,000 (2010 est.)
Embassy of Sweden, Abu Dhabi
Tel: +971 2 417 8800
Swedish Trade Council, Dubai
Tel: +971 4 429 8600
Swedish Business Council, Dubai
Tel: +971 4 429 86000