Swedish flag dayFriday, June 6, 2014
Three pillars in blue and yellow
If Sweden’s coat-of-arms features three crowns, Swedish Ambassador Gufran Al-Nadaf identifies three main pillars of her mission — commercial promotion, cultural promotion and human rights.
Starting with commerce, there are some 70 Swedish firms here, of which 20 have direct Argentine subsidiaries and 14 local production plants. In total, they employ some 25,000 people and had an annual invoicing of almost 1.8 billion dollars last year. Some of them have been here for a century or more (following the shipping whose flag gave Boca Juniors soccer club its colours) — if there are not so many newcomers today (although interest is high, she points out), Al-Nadaf would like to stress firmly that absolutely nobody has left during all the recent years either. She agreed with the Herald that these companies are usually very good at looking after themselves but there was still plenty the Embassy could do in terms of opening doors — the Swedish-Argentine Chamber of Commerce and Business Sweden also gave invaluable support.
But Swedish technology does not just service business and production — environmental technique is a big strength with Sweden offering Argentina working solutions, especially for industrial and household waste management (see article on page 13). On that subject, she would like to highlight that the week of Swedish Flag Day finds Argentine Science and Technology Minister Lino Barañao in Stockholm signing a Memorandum of Understanding.
As for cultural promotion, the Embassy works to promote Swedish culture, mainly through Swedish artists and art productions. The jazz musician Gunhild Carling visited the country last month (there are high hopes of a return) while this week saw a film festival — focusing on gender issues — with invited Swedish actresses/producers and three films by Swedish female film directors: Love During Wartime by Gabriella Bier, a kind of Israeli-Palestinian Romeo & Juliet, Eat, Sleep, Die by Gabriela Pichler about Bosnian immigrants in a small Swedish village in the south of Sweden and She Monkeys by Lisa Aschan, which is a film on bullying among young girls in schools. Susanna Levonen, a Swedish-Finnish soprano singer, is invited to Argentina next year. The Nordic Film Festival in October, an annual event, is yet another opportunity to show Swedish films, alongside the European Film Festival, Bafici and other film festivals like Mujeres en Foco (Women in Focus), which will be held in September.
Al-Nadaf stresses that the value of cultural ties cannot be overestimated in bringing people together, because people-to-people relations are of immense importance — that is why she will be going in September to the immigrant festival in Oberá, Misiones (where there are many Swedish descendants). And this year will also see her at the other end of the country as Sweden opens a consulate in Ushuaia.
If the Argentine human rights experience of the last few decades has been intense, Sweden has its own credentials to be a partner thanks to a couple of heroes — the former ambassador to Chile Harald Edelstam, who saved not only Chilean but also Argentine and Uruguayan lives during the time of the military dictatorship in those countries, and Raoul Wallenberg who saved Jews from the Nazis in Hungary. Their descendants now living in Argentina seek to keep his memory alive via the Wallenberg Foundation. To add to that, not long ago the Embassy organized a seminar on LGBT issues, a topic of mutual Swedish-Argentine interest.