5th Jul 2020

Sweden 'embarrassed' by EU behaviour at UN meeting

  • Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt during his country's helm of the EU presidency (Photo: Council of European Union)

The recent Swedish EU presidency was deeply embarrassed by the EU's un-co-ordinated actions at last year's UN general assembly meeting in New York where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a controversial speech, a leaked US diplomatic cable has revealed.

Speaking to a US official a day after US and EU delegates stormed out of the UN meeting in September 2009, Swedish desk officer Iran Ulf Samuelsson confirmed that the Swedish presidency did not leave the room as the red lines agreed upon by the EU-27 had not been crossed, the cable released by whistleblower site WikiLeaks on Wednesday (15 December) indicates.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Red lines included the denial of the Holocaust or of the right for Israel to exist, but US and most EU delegates walked out after Mr Ahmadinejad suggested that the US government was behind the 9/11 attacks on its crucial landmarks.

The choice was an "individual decision" by those EU states, Mr Samuelsson reportedly told the US official, adding that were Sweden to use the tool "equally," it would have walked out on a number of leaders' speeches at the generally assembly that year.

A second Swedish official Andres Jato said the lack of EU co-ordination was "embarrassing," reports the cable.

The official was listening outside the room with headphones on, ready to give the "pre-arranged signal" for all EU representatives to walk out. Instead he was "surprised" when he saw first the Germans and then other EU delegations stream past him without the agreed-upon red lines having been crossed.

"We look like we can't co-ordinate anything," Mr Jato reportedly lamented.

The fresh revelations come on top of an earlier WikiLeaks release last month which showed EU plans to walk out of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's inauguration ceremony in the Iranian parliament on 5 August 2009 were complicated by doubts over whether the EU representatives would be able to find the door of the unfamiliar building.

Carl Bildt

The driving force behind many of Sweden's foreign policy initiatives during the country's time at the EU helm in the second half of 2009 was foreign minister Carl Bildt.

"A product of the Cold War, Bildt has no time for governments that limit civil liberties or fail to respect territorial integrity; since his days as a young politician, Russia has been a favorite target of his sharp tongue, something that does not always endear him to his EU colleagues," reports a separate US cable, intended as a background briefing on the Swede ahead of a his visit to New York and Washington in September 2009.

Tackling Iran's nuclear ambitions, Middle East peace talks, Afghanistan and Turkish EU accession were among the tricky dossiers the Swedes attempted to push forward, with Mr Bildt generally highly regarded for his vast experience in the foreign policy field.

Other remarks in the leaked cable note the foreign minister as having "little time for small talk" and "a fascination for technology," adding that he can "easily dominate a conversation, lacing his comments with dry humor."

Facial-recognition moratorium back on EU agenda

Members of the committee on civil liberties widely supported a moratorium on facial recognition for law enforcement purposes, just after the EU data watchdog backed earlier this week the ban on this technology in public spaces.

EU parliament chairs explain missing lobbyist meetings

MEPs in January 2019 agreed to a rule change in a bid for greater transparency. The rules included requiring committee chairs to publish their meetings with registered lobbyists. EUobserver spoke to six chairs, who haven't done so yet.


Why so few women in EU missions?

Angela Merkel is only the seventh woman to chair the Council of the European Union's meetings. And in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current 11 European civilian missions (let alone the six military operations).

Eminent women appeal for EU help on Palestine

West Bank annexation "was conceived almost entirely by men" and will crush the "dignity and rights" of Palestinian women still further, a group of 40 women leaders have said.


EU silent on US buying up world's remdesivir supplies

The European Commission says it is in talks with the US biopharmaceutical company Gilead to secure supplies of remdesivir but won't provide any details. The comments follow the purchase of the world's supply by the United States.

News in Brief

  1. EU grants Remdesivir conditional authorisation
  2. French prime minister and government resign
  3. France lied on Nato naval clash, Turkey claims
  4. EU highlights abuses in recent Russia vote
  5. Belgium bids to host EU mask stockpile
  6. France shamed on refugees by European court
  7. French and Dutch police take down criminal phone network
  8. EU launches infringement case on Covid-19 cancelled trips


On toppling statues

The internationally-acclaimed author of King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild, writes on Belgium's problems with statues, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.


The 150 random French citizens advising Macron

Some 150 randomly-picked men and women make up Emmanuel Macron's Citizens' Climate Convention. This week Macron invited them to the Élysée Palace and promised - nearly - all of their wishes would come true .

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us