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Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali, Executive Director, Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau, with Anna Hallberg, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Trade, during the tree planting ceremony at the Expo 2020 site Image Credit: Supplied

Sweden is known to be extremely innovative and entrepreneurial, with a functional welfare society and a strong focus on environmental conservation and renewable energy changes.

Taking pride in his country, Henrik Landerholm, Ambassador of Sweden said, “Sweden is a strong country for its size. We are fully in favour of multilateral solutions and free trade which is why we stand with the European Union wherein there is a voluntary shift of power from the nation states to a bigger entity where problems can be solved better together.”

Sweden is a strong country for its size. We are fully in favour of multilateral solutions and free trade which is why we stand with the European Union wherein there is a voluntary shift of power from the nation states to a bigger entity where problems can be solved better together.

- Henrik Landerholm, Ambassador of Sweden

Peaceful solutions

He added, “Swedes are not strong nationalists but we are in love with our country. We are proud and fond of the societal solutions that have developed in our country over the last 200 years. We have been developing our country in a very pragmatic and almost organic way since we had our last war in 1814. Located in the periphery of the peninsular we have strived forward without foreign interference. We try to find peaceful solutions in all conflicts with our neighbours and also in the wider context. This led to the Swedish policy of strongly supporting the League of Nations in the 20s and the United Nations from 1940s. From the early 60’s Sweden has been a strong proponent of development assistance which is an issue that we share with the UAE to support the less fortunate. Sweden is one of the very few countries together with the UAE that has passed the 1 per cent threshold of GDP that we allocate for development assistance.”

For Sweden the most important areas of concern is combating poverty but as climate change is so heavily influencing the opportunities for mankind to actually develop and rise from poverty that is one of the characteristics of their development assistance. The Swedish societal model is also proven to be relatively robust and sustainable, not based on a strong aim to focus on the green issues alone, but also about societal cohesion and the ability to provide a balance of services and taxes. The intention is to cover the whole population with welfare services.

Equal rights

Gender equality is also at the heart of the Swedish mind, with a high number of women active in the work force. The country is extremely family friendly, allowing 480 days of parental leave, and a heavily subsidised kindergarten system reiterates the stand, with full-time day care and low fees for private or public alternatives. Sweden also provides free education via private and public schools for all children up to the age of 18. They also receive free medical and dental care. The university system is also for free to create the best possible opportunities for all inhabitants.

Landerholm points out, “This Swedish model of a relatively well-functioning welfare society that covers everybody combined with a free and open liberal market economy with a lot of freedom for ideas and companies to do their business.

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The Nobel Prize ceremony held at Stockholm in Sweden Image Credit: Shutterstock

“I am proud of Sweden not only as an idea or a nation but also about the development that we have achieved in the last 100 years, based on the basic values of equality, human rights for all, education, healthcare and respect for each other.”

Bilateral relations between Sweden and the UAE are rock solid, dating back to 1983 when Prince Bertil of Sweden visited the UAE and met with the Founder of the UAE, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, while inaugurating the first Swedish Embassy. The UAE is one of 26 priority markets in Sweden’s Export Strategy. To develop economic ties with the UAE is a priority not least within innovation and sustainability. Sectors in focus are ICT (Smart cities, digitalisation, Internet of Things), health (e-health, diabetes, hospital management etc.), civil security, and sustainability/renewable energy.

“The UAE is known for its forward thinking leadership and the welfare system for the population like women empowerment, education, health, etc,” says Landerholm. Though the nation’s history is shorter, it has been one of innovation and openness to the future. The UAE stands proud of its heritage and continues to keep its focus on the future and its possibilities. There is a strong alignment of value systems between both nations, making the bilateral relations progressive and productive and helping yield results.”