homepage_name! > Editions > Number 132 > Ambassador - Sweden

H.E. G. Jan Lundin, Ambassador of Sweden to Serbia

Sweden

Sweden is a nordic country in Scandinavia, located in Northern Europe. It borders Norway in the west and Finland in the northeast. In the southwest, the Öresund Bridge connects Sweden and Denmark. The Skagerrak Strait is located in the southwest, the Baltic Sea and the Bothnian Bay in the east. Sweden has relatively few inhabitants, and it is known for its big peaceful forests and mountain wilderness. Sweden is the fifth largest country in Europe by area.

The capital is Stockholm, which is the largest city in Sweden with around 1.5 million inhabitants. Other larger cities include Gothenburg, Malmö, Uppsala, Linköping, Westeros, Örebro, Norrköping, Helsingborg and Jönköping.

The Baltic Sea and the Bothnian Bay in the east of Sweden form a long coastline, which affects the climate. In the west, at the border with Norway, are the Scandinavian Mountains. The southern parts of Sweden are mostly constituted of agricultural areas, where population density is the highest. The rest of the territory is mainly occupied by forests. Sweden is the most populated and the third-largest country in Northern Europe. It is located in the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The surface area of Sweden amounts to 449,964 sq. km and it is home to about 8.9 million people. The population density is 20 inhabitants per square kilometer.

1.Your Excellency, how do you feel about being in Belgrade? Can you tell us about your impressions of Serbia?

I feel great in Belgrade, where I have spent more than ten years of my career in total. It is a city not too big, nor too small, and with pleasant people and a pleasant climate. My wife grew up in one of the “soliteri” at Banovo Brdo described by Dusko Radovic, whose radio broadcasts I listened to while commuting to work here in the mid-eighties. Serbia is, in terms of people, climate and culture, one of the more pleasant corners of Europe, but it can be a tough place, since so many peoples historically wanted to stay here. In that sense, it is perhaps easier in the North of Europe, but then again, we have the climate to fight, and have had our fair share of conflicts in history too.

2.How long have you held the position of Ambassador in Serbia, and what was the course of your career in diplomacy before you came to Serbia?

I have been Ambassador for four years. My Slavic language skills have determined my career and I have spent most of it here, and in the former Soviet Union, in particular Moscow during the nineties. I have also served in Berlin, and of course Stockholm. Once I was a diplomat in my own country, and head of the Secretariat of an international organization named the Council of the Baltic Sea States.

3.What is the current diplomatic and economic cooperation of our two countries like, and what was it like in the past? What should be changed in order to improve that cooperation?

Diplomatic relations between Sweden and Serbia are more than 100 years old and have been mostly good throughout history. The only exception was the Milosevic era. More than 100.000 Serbs live in Sweden. It testifies to the Swedish engagement to support the Serbian ambition to join the European Union that the Embassy in Belgrade is the largest Swedish Embassy in Europe. Cooperation is good and is expanding. We support the Serbian EU accession by e.g. assisting the Ministries of the Environment and Interior in their ambition to reform and align with EU standards. We also support investigative journalism and are working to improve transparency and Rule of Law. Rule of Law is a key requirement for EU integration, and in this field Sweden is rather strict, and shall want to see not only necessary changes in legislation, but also a track record showing that the Rule of Law (police, courts etc.) system works also in practice.

4.What is the current situation concerning the pandemic in Sweden?

The Swedish government chose not to introduce a formal lock-down when other countries, including Serbia, did so in the middle of March. The upside of this is that the economic crisis has been slightly less pronounced in Sweden than many other countries so far. The downside is a higher number of dead relative to other Nordic countries with stricter measures, but comparable to, or better than, the UK and Belgium. It is impossible to say which method or policy is the optimal one, of course. Right now, the situation seems to be stabilizing and within a few months, Sweden should be a safe country to visit again. Currently, travel restrictions apply.

5.How does the pandemic impact the European Union considering its earlier problems?

The pandemic is certainly testing for the EU, and all Member States have been hit more or less severely. Despite closed borders at times between our countries, I believe this might in the future strengthen EU cohesion and cooperation. Historically, this has been how the EU develops; we learn from crises, and realize that the answer is more cooperation, not less.

6.What will the „day after“ the pandemic look like?

In some sense, the „day after“ is already here, since restrictions are being eased all over Europe in the wake of decreasing numbers of infections and deaths. Re-openings shall be gradual, however, and some things may change permanently. Testing for the virus before international air travel will probably become a permanent requirement until a vaccine or a medicine against Covid-19 exists, for instance. In some situations, so shall carrying face masks. And who knows whether we shall greet each other by shaking hands again in Europe, but rather adapt some other international form of greeting?

7.When it comes to investments, how do investors from Sweden regard the Serbian market? How many Swedish companies are operating in Serbia at the moment, and which are the most important companies investing in us?

Serbia is a growing economy, interesting in its own right for Swedish consumer goods companies such as IKEA, Hennes&Mauritz and Volvo, or our Telecoms Giant, Ericsson and Security Service Company, Securitas, but also a good place for „near-shoring“ production aimed at other parts of Europe. An example of this is the Tetra Pak factory at Gornji Milanovac producing large quantities of packaging materials for liquids. There are several Swedish-owned IT companies established and working from Belgrade.We do not know exactly but there are probably more than 200 companies active here, employing several thousand people.

8.How would you describe your cooperation with the Serbian Government and business associations for the purpose of entrepreneurship development?

Cooperation is good, although I would not say we are defining it as entrepreneurship development. We are rather focusing on sectors where we feel there is a potential to develop business. One example is mining, where Serbia has great value in terms of, for example, jadarit deposits, and Swedish companies such as Sandvik, Atlas Copco/Epiroc and Volvo are amongst the strongest in the world in mining equipment.

9.What is the nature of the foreign trade cooperation between our countries and which industries in Serbia have the most potential? What does Serbia export to, and what does import from Sweden?

I already mentioned mining, but there is of course much more. Serbia needs to expand and upgrade its infrastructure in many areas, and Swedish companies can provide solutions. In the ICT business, there is a need to invest in 5G mobile telecoms, and Ericsson is the largest supplier of such technology in the world. The Swedish company, ABB Robotics exports industrial robots to Serbian companies, and thereby hugely increasing productivity in „old“ industries.In the health sector, Getinge is a world leader in producing equipment necessary for fighting Covid-19 such as ventilators. The Elekta company is a world leader in radiation based tumor surgery, and Klinicki Centar in Belgrade has developed into a regional hub for treating brain tumors using Electa equipment. In another direction, the Serbian food industry is of interest, and already a big supplier of berries to Sweden. Once the Jadarit mine in Western Serbia is up and running in a few years’ time, there is definite potential to supply the gigantic Northvolt battery factory currently being built in North Sweden. Serbia may of course choose to build a battery factory of its own. This is a sector where demand shall be huge.

10.Can you tell us about the relationship between Serbia and Sweden in the fields of science, culture, and education?

There are many enterprising and active individuals involved in the cultural cooperation between our countries, and enabling, for example, film festivals, sometimes with the support of the Swedish Embassy, or the Serbian Ministry of Culture. Last year we celebrated the Swedish film icon, Ingmar Bergman, with a Bergman film festival here in Belgrade. This year we shall celebrate 75 years from the creation of the Swedish „Pipi duga carapa“ – Pippi Longstocking. Every year, Ms. Jelena Mila organizes Balkan film festival in Stockholm featuring not least Serbian films. [K1]Two years ago, the Swedish Cannes film festival winner „The Square“ participated in the Kustendorf film festival at Mokra Gora. As for education, possibilities for studies in Sweden have increased thanks to Serbia joining the EU funded Erasmus + programme, and tens if not hundreds of Serbian students spend at least one semester at a Swedish university every year. There are currentlyfewer students going in the other direction, but one example is my daughter who currently studies at the Academy of Arts in Belgrade. Science cooperation is currently limited, I am afraid, but we are trying to organize a resumption of traditional conferences between SANU and the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities. And I am sure there is cooperation between Swedish and Serbian researchers which we are simply not aware of.

11.How would you present your country as a tourist attraction? Which characteristics and sights would you highlight?

Skiing and winter tourism is good in spring, but the Swedish summer at its best can be fantastic, with nearly no dark nights and just about the ideal temperature (around +25 degrees). I try to go hiking in the enormous untouched mountain areas in North Sweden, and I still enjoy Swedish forests, since I grew up with one next to my house in Sweden.

A weekend in Stockholm is (once Covid-19 is gone) easy to organize, and worth a visit. Until the recent lock-down there were many inexpensive flights from Belgrade and Nis to Stockholm, and I am sure they will reappear. Downtown Stockholm is one of the most beautiful capitals in the world, with a mixture of modern and baroque architecture, as well as interesting museums such as the Royal Castle and the Wasa ship – a Swedish 17th century Man of War which sunk immediately after its launch into the water and remained intact until found again in the 1960s. There are lots of great restaurants offering Swedish specialties, and also world class shopping. If you want an immediate taste of Sweden and cannot wait until travel restrictions are lifted, I recommend visiting the Ikea supermarket restaurant just south of Belgrade. Ikea sells real Swedish food such as meatballs, herrings, salmon etc. You can even buy a real Swedish hotdog for some 70 dinars...


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