Combating xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination

Broadening of our cooperation – that was the headline of my latest blog six days ago. It started to become a reality already this week during the just concluded visit to Poland by Erik Ullenhag, Minister of Integration.

Erik Ullenhag landed in Kraków Monday evening and the whole delegation got the opportunity to take a walk around Wawel and Rynek główny in a weather and an atmosphere that was very similar to summer. Just amazing.

We continued to Auschwitz Tuesday morning – my own fourth visit but the first to the Roma exhibition at the Museum which clearly added a lot to my knowledge and understanding including the horrible tragedy of the night between August 2nd and 3rd 1944 when the remaining thousands of roma people in Auschwitz were killed by the Nazis.

The same questions return to my mind as before during previous visits to this hell on earth, the same emotions – and the same conviction that nothing can be more important than combatting the ideologies, the dehumanising of human beings, the evil that made the Holocaust possible.

I plan to be back January 27th as previous years, the day when Auschwitz was liberated – and August 2nd as well.

The programme in Warsaw focused on a broad number of issues being common challenges for Europe as a whole: xenophobia, racism, anti-semitism, intolerance, discrimination of minorities. But also on a positive note good ideas about how to  address them.

I was happy to note the extremely concrete character of the meeting with Minister Michał Boni Wednesday morning. Not only did the Ministers have very similar views, they also identified several areas of potential cooperation i.a. related to exchange of experiences. And the programme continued in the same spirit. Issues like the rights of roma pe0ple, hate crime and racism were discussed from a huge number of angles.

There are seldom any simple answers and quick fixes. Minister Ullenhag could share positive results like the fact that the attitudes towards immigrants in Sweden have become more positive during the last years, and our society has become more open. In parallell there is a lot to be done – and is already done – to make integration work better. In an interview in Gazeta Wyborcza today he is elaborating more along these lines.

Sometimes we can see tendencies in Europe that xenophobic attitudes are moving into mainstream politics. Minister Ullenhag saw this as a significant challenge, not least when looking ahead to next year when Europe is going to the polls.

Sweden and Poland share values. No surprise – still it was inspiring to see it confirmed over and over again during the visit.

And it was almost symbolic that our Foreign Ministers Radosław Sikorski and Carl Bildt made their tour in the Eastern Partnership countries those same days.

Carl Bildt and Erik Ullenhag even managed to meet in Warsaw for a joint journey back to Sweden. Not every day that we host two of our Ministers at the same time. But the visits are getting increasingly numerous – for very good reasons.


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