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Former PM Bildt re-emerges as new foreign minister for Sweden

Former PM Bildt re-emerges as new foreign minister for Sweden

Sweden's new government on Friday called up former premier Carl Bildt as foreign minister, hoping he can lead the center-right Cabinet in efforts to become more involved with EU cooperation and enforcing international peacekeeping efforts.
Bildt, who led a coalition government in Sweden in the early 1990s, was a surprise appointment by new Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt when he unveiled his first Cabinet Friday. Bildt was a U.N. special envoy to the Balkans between 1999 and 2001 and co-chaired the Dayton peace talks, also serving as the international envoy to postwar Bosnia.
"Sweden has a role to play, especially ... in building the European Union as a force of peace, cooperation and freedom in the world," Bildt said.
Bildt's appointment surprised many observers, as he had previously said he thought it was a bad idea for a former prime minister to serve in a new Cabinet.
"That was a real surprise," said opposition Green Party leader Peter Eriksson.
Bildt said he changed his mind after the leaders for all four coalition parties asked him to return to the government.
"It was not easy to say yes, but it would have been impossible to say no," he said.
Swedish media trumpeted the decision, calling his appointment "Bildt's Comeback!" in big, bold type on the front page of their afternoon editions.
Bildt said he will work to improve ties between the EU and the United States, which he said was vital to address global challenges such as climate change and violence in the Middle East.
"It is when Europe stands strong and united and can work together with the USA that we can change the world," he said.
Reinfeldt, whose four-party alliance won Sept. 17 parliamentary elections, ending 12 years of Social Democratic rule, reserved the top Cabinet posts for his Moderate Party, including the finance, defense and justice portfolios.
Reinfeldt also tapped Liberal Party member Nyamko Sabuni as migration minister, making her Sweden's first black Cabinet member.
Reinfeldt, 41, said the government will slash income taxes by 37 billion kronor (euro4 billion; US$5.1 billion) in 2007 and push for further expansion of the European Union.
Sweden will become a driving force in EU cooperation and step up its commitment to international peacemaking efforts, Reinfeldt said in his government declaration to Parliament.
"Sweden shall have a more active foreign policy, and take bigger responsibility for human rights, freedom, security, democracy, welfare and sustainable development in the world," he said.
He said "special measures will be made to promote democracy in dictatorships like Cuba and Belarus," although he did not provide details.
Reinfeldt also called for the EU to implement a long-term strategy for cooperation with Russia, and said Sweden will push for a "strategic energy cooperation" between the EU, China and India in order to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
However, he did not mention Iraq or Afghanistan in his 50-minute speech. Sweden never supported the U.S.-led war against Iraq, but has contributed 350 troops to NATO's International Security Assistance Force even though it is not in the alliance, preferring a neutral stance
Bildt said the number of Swedish troops engaged in international missions should be closer to 2,000 _ a number reached in the 1990s _ instead of the about 800 that are deployed today.
The government, which takes office Friday, will also work toward alleviating world poverty and protect human rights, Reinfeldt said, singling out the Darfur crisis as "one of the biggest humanitarian catastrophes of our time."
Other key Cabinet appointments included Moderate Party members Anders Borg as finance minister, Mikael Odenberg as defense minister and Beatrice Ask as justice minister.
From the other coalition parties, Center Party leader Maud Olofsson was appointed industry minister, while Liberal Party leader Lars Leijonborg was made education minister. Goran Hagglund, leader of the Christian Democrats, will serve as minister of social affairs.


Updated : 2021-07-31 16:41 GMT+08:00