Current debate

Week 21: Hijacking, poison scandal and divided opinions about Israel-Palestine

Last week, Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko's actions led to widespread criticism from the outside world. Swedish debaters are now calling for sanctions and a new policy towards Belarus and its Russian allies. At the same time, the Israel-Palestine conflict continues to provoke debate. The Swedish metal company Boliden's dark past in Chile is also highlighted by UN rapporteur Marcos Orellana.

Gunnar Hökmark, chairman of the think tank Frivärld, writes in Göteborgsposten that Alexander Lukashenko's hijacking of a commercial aircraft on its way to Lithuania requires a new defensive thinking. The hijacking, which took place over Belarusian airspace, was about arresting a journalist critical of the regime. The actions of the Lukashenko regime violate international law and Belarus should therefore be excluded from international organizations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Hökmark emphasizes that in addition to sanctions against Belarus, the role of Russia and Putin in the action should be reviewed. Lukashenko's actions are unlikely to have been carried out without Russian support, which means that Sweden's and the EU's Russia policy should be reviewed, according to Hökmark. Sweden and Stefan Löfven should consider whether the continued single path without NATO membership is really the right way to go, says Hökmark.

Hökmark is supported by Anders Lindberg, editorial writer at Aftonbladet, regarding the criticism of Russia's role in the hijacking and traces to previous events such as the assassination attempt on, and the arrest of, the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Like Hökmark, Lindberg believes that the EU must impose strong sanctions on Belarus and that Europe should work for a change of power in Minsk.

Israel-Palestine - a watershed in Swedish debate

The ceasefire continues between Israel and Palestine, but the debate over the conflict continues. The Social Democratic MPs Annika Strandhäll, Jamal El Haj, Elin Gustafsson, and Johan Büser writes in Göteborgsposten that the Swedish government together with the EU and the UN must do its utmost for continued peace negotiations. The debaters also believe that Israel must be pressured to stop new settlements.

Israel's Ambassador to Sweden, Ilan Ben-Dov, criticizes the members of parliament and claims that their "rhetoric is Palestinian propaganda and that they ignore the fact that the Gaza Strip is ruled by a jihadist and fundamentalist terrorist organization". Martin Blecher, Secretary General of the Swedish-Israeli Friendship Association, also responds to the MPs' posts, and believes that the problem is more complicated than what Annika Strandhäll and colleagues describe and that the article indicates populism. 

UN investigation into Boliden's poison scandal in Chile 

On the environmental and health front writes UN Rapporteur Marcos Orellana that Sweden, and the Swedish metal company Boliden, must be held responsible for the metal dumping in Chile that mainly took place in the mid-80s.

- How could then almost 20 tonnes of toxic waste with high levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury be sent from Sweden to be dumped in Chile?

Boliden Mineral AB's transport of the waste from the smelter at Rönnskär in Skellefteå to Chilean Arica, meant that the Chilean population has been exposed to toxic waste for over 30 years. Orellana writes that the Chilean government's investigations show that more than 12 people have been exposed and that many have died as a result of cancer and similar diseases. Many newborns have also suffered nerve and brain damage. 

No concrete measures have yet been taken to remedy the damage caused to the population in Chilean Arica, Orellana claims. But despite this, several of the inhabitants of Arica have tried to have their case tried in Swedish court, but not without resistance.

- Skellefteå District Court admittedly stated that Boliden had acted negligently, but the company's hired consultants nevertheless succeeded in casting doubt on the causal link between the elevated arsenic levels in the victims' urine and Boliden's toxic wetland sludge.

Orellana believes that Boliden, the Chilean government and especially Sweden, should act urgently to help the population with, among other things, health care and rehabilitation.

- I am still convinced that Sweden's commitments to global environmental protection will result in an effective and urgent solution to the ongoing disaster for human rights and the environment in Arica.

A selection of the last week's editorial and debate articles on global development and Sweden's role in the world: 


Lukashenko's hijacking requires new defense thinking | GP
Gunnar Hökmark, Göteborgs-Posten

The EU's goal should be a change of power in Belarus
Anders Lindberg, Aftonbladet

Israel and Palestine

A peaceful future in Israel and Palestine requires political courage
Annika Strandhäll (S), Member of Parliament
Jamal El Haj (S), Member of Parliament
Elin Gustafsson (S), Member of Parliament
Johan Büser (S), Member of Parliament

Peace in the Middle East is not IKEA furniture
Martin Blecher, Secretary General of the Swedish-Israeli Friendship Association

The rhetoric of the Social Democrats is pure Palestinian propaganda GP
Ilan Ben-Dov, Israeli Ambassador to Sweden, Göteborgs-Posten

Boliden's toxic emissions in Chile

Sweden must take responsibility for the poison scandal in Chile | SvD
Marcos Orellana, Svenska Dagbladet

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