The Swedish ambassador, Teppo Tauriainen, came to Malaga recently to open an exhibition about Raoul Wallenberg at the Caja Blanca. Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from the holocaust. While here, the ambassador spoke to SUR about the different issues that link the Swedish community with Malaga province.
–Talking about Sweden in Malaga makes me think of tourists who had a freedom that didn't exist here.
–What was seen then was a simple expression of Swedish reality. I believe it also served to open some people's eyes. The world is not how you see it in your own small way.
–What is your first memory of Malaga?
–In 1981 I spent three months studying Spanish in Pedregalejo. That was my first experience of Spain, and my view of the country is therefore always very Malaga-oriented.
–What do you think of the Malaga of today?
–It's another city. When I came the first time, there were hardly any tourists. The historic centre wasn't pedestrianised, it was a much darker place. I think Malaga has improved a great deal, it's a very nice place to stay now.
–There are communities of British, Germans and Finns. Do you think there will be a Swedish one in the future as well?
–There are already a lot of Swedish people on the Costa del Sol. In Fuengirola, in Marbella and in Mijas. We don't have exact figures because people don't register, but we do know that there are about 25,000 people from Sweden on the population registers in Spain. We estimate that about 30 or 40 per cent are on the Costa del Sol. It's the most important place within Spain.
–Can working from home and digitalisation make it easier for Swedish people to come to Malaga?
–Absolutely. The pandemic has shown that it is possible to work remotely. We know there are people who have moved to the Costa del Sol. Historically, what we used to have were sun and sand holidays and residential tourism. Now, we see families with children coming, and entrepreneurs. They want the quality of life that the climate offers here.
–In Sweden, is there much interest in doing business in Malaga and the Costa del Sol?
–Malaga is a place where there are a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of new companies. I believe it is very possible that there are some Swedish investors who are interested in investing in Malaga.
–What is the main product exported from Sweden to Spain?
–I don't know exactly which product is most exported, but I'm sure it will be an industrial one. The most important Swedish companies in Spain are Ericsson, Volvo and Scania.
–Does Sweden have a problem with drug trafficking? The police say more than 100 Swedish people have been arrested on the Costa del Sol since 2018.
–I believe this is a global problem. Unfortunately, the Costa del Sol is somewhere these criminals have chosen. And some are Swedish, of course. We know these criminal gangs are active. We are looking at a major challenge for society, and there are no easy solutions.
–Do the police authorities in your country keep one eye on Malaga province?
–Absolutely. And there is close cooperation with the police here.
–Most of these criminals have a migrant background. Do you think integration is failing in Sweden?
–It's something that concerns us daily in Sweden. We have received many immigrants and exiles in recent years. About 165,000 arrived in 2015 alone. People who come from other cultures, who don't speak the language and don't speak English either. Integrating them into our society is a big challenge and the one that worries us most.
–Does it all come down to education, do you think?
–Absolutely. But in our case the problem is that the numbers of immigrants have been so high that the system has not been able to absorb them. So many people came in such a short time that it was overwhelming.
–What do you see as the defining elements of the welfare state?
–Elements like housing and education. The welfare state means having basic needs covered. That doesn't mean that we don't have to work and act responsibly. But if there is a time of crisis, someone who loses their job has the security of knowing they are not going to die in the street, that there is a safety net.
–To what extent should the State intervene in the market?
–The State should be present, but we believe very much in the market. In fact, the market defines much of what happens in Sweden. Each of us has to work and live within this system. But if there are shortcomings in the functioning of the market, the State has to be there to help.
–In the coronavirus crisis, Sweden has introduced hardly any restrictions.
–Sweden has introduced recommendations rather than restrictions. It seems that every country has had its own strategy. We are going to have to wait until the pandemic is over to see which strategy has really been the most effective.
–What do you think about face masks? In your country nobody wears them.
–I'm not an expert. Here in Spain they are worn, and in Sweden they aren't. The Swedish experts even warned of risks in making masks obligatory, because they can give a false sense of security.
–Europe wants to lead the fight against climate change. Many traditional jobs are under threat. How can that be done without harming the poorest?
–We have to start on the basis that there is no option other than environmental policies. Climate change is frightening and we have to act. I believe Sweden is a good example of being able to maintain economic growth and lower emissions at the same time. Obviously there is an initial cost, but if we don't do this we are going to die because of the consequences of climate change.
–How do you find Spanish working hours? Is it more effective to have a concentrated working day?
–In Sweden, nobody is in the office after 5pm. It is very important for people to be able to balance their lives. I believe you can use the day more efficiently so there is time for work and time to spend with your family.