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Designing a diverse society
16 Jun 2014 Beata Balogová Foreigners in Slovakia
GENDER equality is a win-win situation, with much of the male population feeling better with more time with the family, suggests Nils Daag, who represents Sweden, one of the most gender equal societies in the world. He stresses that “this is the future from every perspective”. The Slovak Spectator discussed with the Swedish ambassador to Slovakia the issue of military cooperation between the two countries, economic links, Swedish design, the challenge presented by far right-wing parties across Europe and the role of the European Union in this context.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Sweden has been ranked as one of the most gender egalitarian societies in the world. How has Swedish society achieved such a standing? (For example reports on your country suggest that gender equality guides all levels of the education system. How does this work in practice?)
TSS: The Swedish Embassy has been active in promoting the idea of gender equality in the region, most recently through an exhibition called Life Puzzle, followed by a panel discussion in Bratislava. Could you tell us more about the gender equality initiative, especially regarding Slovakia’s involvement?
Gender equality is a topic of great importance in Swedish politics. Our aim is to increase the awareness of this issue also in other parts of the world. Therefore, the embassy put the exhibition Life Puzzle on display at the Avion Shopping Park in Bratislava and arranged a panel discussion with Oľga Pietruchová, director of the Department of Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities of the Slovak Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, and with Zora Bútorová, a senior research fellow of the Institute for Public Affairs. The embassy is planning to conduct a similar project also in Austria and Slovenia. We are convinced that discussing the topic of gender equality, sharing the knowledge and experiences, both good and bad, can contribute to the transformation of societies into more equal ones.
TSS: Earlier this year the Slovak government agreed to cooperate with Sweden in the area of military and defence, which should involve military-technical cooperation, research and development. Can you share more information on this possible agreement and what benefits it would bring to both countries?
TSS: Has the potential for Swedish-Slovak economic cooperation been fully tapped? Where do you see room for further business ties? What are some examples of successful Slovak-Swedish business links, if you could name a few?
TSS: The Swedish architectural team Mandaworks AB and Hosper Sweden AB from Stockholm won the international urban design competition ‘Trenčín – City on the River’, with their Tracing Trenčín proposal. Swedish architecture and design is popular in Slovakia. What is, in your opinion, behind the appeal of Swedish architecture and design around the world?
In general, creating sustainable cities for the future is of great importance in Sweden. Swedish architects, construction firms, energy companies, city planners, enterprises and politicians work intensively with constructing districts that unite modern architecture with ecological sustainability. Probably the most famous example is the project of Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm. The ‘Hammarby model’ has become a tool for environmentally friendly city development around the world. I think Sweden has much to offer when it comes to sustainable cities of the future.
Sweden also has a very strong tradition in design and fashion and many famous designers in furniture and textiles as well as industry design, graphics and crafts are Swedish. The Swedish (and Scandinavian) style, often referred to as minimalist, means clean, simple lines and a strong emphasis on functionality. Pioneers in the Swedish design field included industrial designers and began adopting an engineering-driven design approach. A distinguishing feature of Swedish design over the years has been a socially-oriented style reflecting people’s situation in life. Swedish furniture design has been extremely successful, with everything from stick-back, Windsor-style chairs, which remain extremely popular, to more sophisticated but still practical pieces.
TSS: Right-wing parties are on the rise across Europe, and Sweden is no exception. The far-right and populist Sverigedemokraterna now has representatives in both the Swedish and European parliaments. What fuels extremists in your homeland?
The EU as a whole has been taking the blame for many of the economic problems of the member states in the last years, and this has also contributed to the view among some that globalisation is evil. I firmly believe that globalisation within a sustainable framework, both from environmental, economic and security perspectives, is the way to future, stable growth.
We have an important role to play to fight xenophobia and to work on issues bringing the EU member states and its inhabitants even closer to each other. At the same time we must not shy away from the fact that the EU cannot and should not do everything. Some things work better if handled nationally. Saying this is not being EU-negative, it is a question of using EU means effectively. We need a strong and efficient commission, ready to focus on policies and actions where EU action provides added value, such as growth, employment and the fight against climate change.
TSS: You serve as the Swedish ambassador to Austria, Slovakia and Slovenia. Have you had a chance to explore all these countries? What do you recall as surprising about Slovakia?
Luckily I have been able to travel in Slovakia. I have seen beautiful nature and tasted good wines. I am also impressed by promising young Slovak opera artists. They are very good ambassadors of Slovak culture in the world.
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