Litet träd


My most characteristic trait is probably curiosity. I am curious about the world, about people, about ideas. I write, lecture and converse on subjects where I think I have something to say, wherever interested readers/listeners/conversation partners can be found.

In December 2013, I lef the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs after 30 years as a Swedish diplomat. I simply no longer had the time. I wanted to be free to explore the world, with ”five hundred pounds a year and a room of my own”, as the British writer Virginia Woolf put it. That is what I am doing now.

As a diplomat, I have spent most of my career on reporting and analysis concerning Asian, European and Euro-Atlantic foreign and security policy. But the two most intellectually challenging jobs have, without doubt, been as Director of the Ministry’s Policy Analysis Office and as Ambassador of Sweden to the Holy See.

My first overseas posting, 1984-1987, was Bangkok, Our embassy watched Cambodia, where the Red Khmers were still fighting a guerilla war South-East Asia was one of many theatres in the global Cold War confrontation, a confrontation which at this time – a fact of which no one was aware – approached its end. I remember the disbelieving Thai comments following a 1986 speech in Vladivostok by the Soviet Union's then Foreign Minister, Shevardnadze. Could there really be something new in the offing?

Then Brussels, in what was then called Sweden's Delegation to the European Communities. On the notice board in my office I found a caricature of Sweden's then Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson: ”If the EC Member States increase taxes, introduce an alcohol monopoly and adopt a policy of neutrality, then we may, in time, possibly consider EC membership” Four years later, in 1991, Sweden presented its membership application. But much had happened in Europe in the meantime. It started even before the fall of the Berlin wall The late 1980's were dynamic years for the European Community. It's president, the Socialist and Catholic Jacques Delors, in alliance with the ex-Tory politician, now Commissioner for the Internal Market, lord Cockfield, managed to present the elimination of barriers in Europe as both a liberal and a social project. This was an important reason for it success.

Home again, in 1990, I became desk officer in the MFA's Political Department for North East Asia (China, Japan, North and South Korea, Mongolia). In 1993 I returned to European issues, as national expert in the European Commission. I wrote Delors' background papers for G8 meetings. Politically, the EU felt as a St. Bernard puppy – an actor with potential strength but still unaware of it. In 1994 I became Sweden's first European Correspondent (a coordination function for foreign and security policy which exists in each EU capital). 1995-1999 I served a Deputy Chief of Mission in the Swedish Embassy in Brussels, with responsibility for NATO. NATO's role in the stabilization of the post-Cold War Europe and in the Balkan peace process made it an important partner for Sweden.

The urge to write has always been there and the MFA has provided good training for that. But the real take-off came during two years of leave from the Ministry 2001-2003. I lived in my country house, with computer, internet and dry toilet. I read, wrote, walked my dog, baked muffins, made fires, wrote again. Watching the hares leap across my yard while listening to Colin Powell in the UN Security Council in real time made me feel a winner in the globalization game.

But I discovered too that I wanted to write about other things besides foreign policy – literature, history, philosophy.

In 2003 I returned to the MFA and spent four years building up its Policy Analysis Office. There I learnt, among other things, what a fruitful analytical tool structured, border-transcending conversation is.

2008-2013 I was Ambassador of Sweden to the Holy See (the Vatican) and Malta. This assignment gave me ample opportunity to reflect on the religious dimension of the human experience, and on religion as a powerful societal and political force, as well as on the relationship between religious institutions and the secular state, and between religion and secular concepts such as power, democracy, freedom and justice.