Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Something Rotten in the State of Sweden (3)

Yesterday brought new drama in the rot at the top of the governance of Sweden.

At a press conference obviously laden with anger Prime Minister Göran Persson said that he had accepted the resignation of the Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds. It was a very short affair - neither was keen to answer any questions.

The atmosphere was such that one wonders whether the two will ever like to meet again.

The reason for the resignation was little more than trivial. The Foreign Minister claimed that at a press conference in Brussels the day before no one had been interested in her views on Belarus - but instead in her mishandling of the issue of contacts with a web service provider on the infamous Mohammed cartoons.

But the plain fact is that very few people had been interested in her views on subjects like that before either. Sweden did not have much of a foreign policy profile in the last few years.

The core reason for the clash that resulted in the resignation is the almost non-existent relations between the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister and his kitchen cabinet.

The later rules with medieval arrogance and moves around in the world at their leisure and, from the policy point of view, seemingly at random. You can suddenly have State Secretary Danielsson - the man who has been caught lying to Parliament, but is still protected by the Prime Minister - turning up in different parts of the world with his female assistant for foreign affairs.

And the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is mostly left completely in the dark.

Swedish diplomats have got used to getting one foreign policy - or what should go for such - from the Prime Minister and another one from the Foreign Minister. Communication between the two seems to have been very limited indeed.

This was of course the recipe for a series of disasters, and it is the latest of these that has now brought this dramatic crisis.

Laila Frevalds says that it was she who decided to resign, but the evening papers in Stockholm today are saying that it was Göran Persson who decided to fire her.

I wouldn't be surprised if the later stories are based on controlled leaks from the PM's office designed to put him in a somewhat better and her in a somewhat worse light. That’s been happening before. It’s part of the immoral style of leadership that we are seeing.

As said before, there is something rotten in the state of Sweden...