The Swedish Social Democratic Congress
The Congress for Jobs
Urban Ahlin speech, October 29
Delegates, comrades, and colleagues from Skaraborg! In a few days, it will be 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell,.20 years since freedom yearning East Berlin had had enough of being closed in by this perverse wall. They knocked it down. We on the other side of the wall greeted them with open arms, welcoming them and saw to it that we developed a partnership with those formerly trapped people in the East. It was not an easy fight. It was no easy struggle. The workers' rebellion in Poland in Poznan in 1956, Hungary in 1956, Dubcek Prague Spring 1968 - all of them were put down with short sharp violence. Social democracy was the archenemy of Communism.
Anneli Hulthén and I had the honor to being on a social democratic trip to Tallinn in January 1991. When we woke up in the morning and watched television at the hotel we saw the Soviet Omon forces occupy the television tower in Vilnius. We saw 14 people killed when they formed a human wall around the television tower in Vilnius and were crushed under the tracks of tanks.
Anneli and I went up to Toompea, where the Estonian Parliament Riigikogu is situated. People gathered in huge crowds, barricaded themselves and built large stone defenses. I remember the night and how I went back there with cheese and sausage that I had bought in the shops nearby. There was an atmosphere of fatefulness. On TV you could see how Omon forces were approaching Riga. A further seven people were killed in Riga in January 1991. They never came to Tallinn. But the memory that I carry with me from the time I stood at Toompea and helped to barricade the Estonian parliament is the look in people’s eyes, eyes that showed a political determination that I had seen never before and have never seen since. Their eyes shone from their eyes: It's now or never!
We made a tremendous effort in Sweden to make sure that we could reach out to these new Baltic countries. I, who was born in the 60s, began to browse through my school atlas and try to learn the structure of these countries. Be the first Estonia or Latvia, and what it was called where a third country? And what was that capital was the Riga or Vilnius, which of them was it? You should know that this area was merely grey.
For us, it meant that we got new neighbors, new people to work with. And what did we do? Well, we did what Magnus and Mats in Blekinge did and saw to it that that they traveled across the Baltic Sea in order to meet these people. We did a fantastic job in our popular movements, and made sure that we could meet people across the Baltic Sea. That was how we built democracy and helped the Baltic states reform and transform - a gigantic effort. There isn’t a church choir in this country who have not been over to the Baltic States. There isn’t a football club that has not been there. That is excellent.
The enlargement European Union and the work we have done to ensure that these countries have joined the European Union is a historic achievement that we should be proud of.
But the transformation and reform has not finished yet. With us here today, we have international guests who struggle daily against oppression. I would like my dear friends from Belarus Kaliyakin, Liaukovich, Bukhvostau, Yaskova and Statkevic to stand up.
I have met these men and women many times in Belarus. Statkevic has spent time in prison. Kaliyakin has been beaten up several times. Bokhvostau in his free trade unions has fought for his life several times. We who sit here should think about whether we would have been active in the political struggle if we had met the same opposition as these heroes up in the public gallery have met. Give them an extra round of applause!
Unfortunately, the European Union has not been equally successful in all geographical directions. To the South - what do people on the other side of the Mediterranean face? Over 10 000 people lost their lives when they travelled across the Mediterranean in rickety boats that sank. There are patrol boats that meet them and send them back to Libya. It's rickety politics to attempt to build walls and fences to prevent this.
We social democrats know that the European Union will never be sustainable unless the huge welfare gap across the Mediterranean Sea disappears. What is needed is classic social democratic politics and a policy of solidarity. It’s not more walls and fences. That is no way to bridge the gap in prosperity.
We social democrats and Sweden have to do exactly the same as we did in the East. We need to have contacts with our friends in North Africa. We need to have cooperation projects with Arab organizations. We need to continue the good work that Lena Hjelm-Wallen and Anna Lindh initiated in relations between Europe and the Arab countries in our region. That is the gigantic challenge for us in the future. Unfortunately, there are few who are involved in this. And one who absolutely does not engage in this is our Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. We Socialists initiated the Euro - Islam project and the Alexandria Institute, and we tried to establish a relationship across the Mediterranean. All this effort lies neglected under Carl Bildt.
What is it that poisons our relationships in this area? Yes, it is of course the Middle East conflict, the unresolved conflict that plagues us all. The Gaza War - 1 400 dead including 400 children. What did Israel achieve? What was this war for? Did Israel win greater security? What was the whole point of it? 400 children dead! I cannot see a single logical argument for bombing people who are trapped in an isolated Gaza.
Goldstone has written a report on the war crimes committed in Gaza. Thank God we live in a time when people who commit war crimes know that sooner or later justice will catch up with them. Karadzic is an example. And I want to be very clear about how we social democrats view this. War crimes will be punished, full stop!
In the Middle East, we also see that the risk that nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction will spread. The issue is Iran, Israeli nuclear weapons, the risk of weapons spreading to Egypt, to Saudi Arabia, to Jordan and so on. We Social Democrats introduced a year and a half years ago, a twelve point program to fight for disarmament. Carl Bildt snorted and felt that this was childish and totally unnecessary. He was out of luck because the next president of the United States was Obama, and he decided that the most important issue on the international agenda was just disarmament. Sweden, with a long tradition of being a leader in disarmament work, is silent. Although we have a Blix commission appointed by Anna Lindh, that has made lots of suggestions on what can be done, Carl Bildt remains silent. And not only that, but when the Norwegian Social Democratic government-initiated efforts to ban cluster bombs, Carl Bildt scoffed at that suggestion and thought sure, sure, amusing if East Timor and the Vatican agree to not have mines. But he fell on that too, Jonas Gahr Störe succeeded in getting an international ban. He gathered more than 30 foreign ministers in Oslo to sign an agreement. What did Carl Bildtdo? Well, according to his blog, he spent time at a conference in Copenhagen.
Sweden will once again take the lead in disarmament efforts.
Finally, I want to say something about the new weapon of mass destruction, those mass rapes going on in Africa, in Congo, in Guinea and in many other places, not just in Africa, that sow huge divisions in communities, tear up cultures, traditions, families. These are the new weapons of mass destruction. And we Socialists will not talk about women's rights in conflict and women's role in reaching peaceful solutions in one blog in every hundred, but social democratic foreign policy will put the rights of women to be at the center.
Sweden needs a Social Democratic foreign policy. You know why? Because that makes the world of a difference.