Saying Goodbye to Sweden!


This photo is my favorite photo from my time in Sweden.  I had gone fishing in Sweden’s beautiful Archipelago, to unwind just after the incredible, historic visit to Sweden by President Barack Obama in September 2013.  The picture reflects how happy and content I have been in Sweden, while pursuing a really proactive agenda to advance the US-Sweden relationship.

It is bittersweet to say the least to find myself at this moment. Returning back to the US, and saying goodbye to our friends in Sweden. This an been an extraordinary, and extraordinarily beautiful, experience. I have loved every single moment serving President Obama and the United States in the Kingdom of Sweden.

The Swedes are fantastic partners of America. The Swedes, old Swedes and new Swedes, are just wonderful and Natalia and I and Aurora have made so many absolutely wonderful friends here. I can tell you: we are grateful for every single act of friendship, every single act of generosity and we leave with love in our hearts for the thousands we have had the honor to meet here.

I have been privileged to travel literally all over Sweden, to its four corners and so, so many places, little towns and larger cities, in between. Serving as Ambassador in your country is the privilege of my life, and I will be eternally grateful for the live and warmth we have experienced here.

Tack så väldigt mycket!!!!!

God Bless America and God Bless the American-Swedish relationship!

Mark Brzezinski, US Ambassador to Sweden

Departing Sweden: Top Ten Accomplishments I Am Most Proud Of












This past week I had my departure ceremony with the Swedish King Carl Gustaf, signaling that I and my family will leave Sweden shortly.  We have had three and a half very full years in Sweden.  As my assignment comes to a close, I am so proud of our performance and accomplishments.  When I undertook this Post, I did not want to just “be” an Ambassador.  I wanted to DO SOMETHING as an Ambassador.  I wanted to demonstrate what an ambassador can do by using this platform.

The amazingly close, shared values between US and Sweden, emphasizing human dignity and equality, sustainability and the environment, gender equality and innovation, is such a natural context in which to do this.  For me, it has been as “natural as the sunrise” to interpret and convey these shared values, because they overlay so perfectly with the values of President Barack Obama, whose personal representative I have been in Sweden and whose campaign for US President I joined in the very beginning in 2007.

Modern diplomacy is about reaching out, not remaining shut in behind Embassy walls.  Natalia and I have tried to execute a form of modern diplomacy by connecting with as many people never before touched by the US Embassy here in Sweden, in as many new ways and with as many new partnerships.  We have striven to bring in to the Embassy people who have never been to an Embassy, or who have never been part of a US Embassy program.  We wanted to touch people’s lives while here.  Our networking and outreach has been the overall theme that is the red thread of all of our engagements.

As I look back over the last three and a half years, here are the top ten things I am most proud of:

1)   The Historic Visit of President Barack Obama to Sweden.  I was astonished when I was preparing to come to Sweden that no sitting American President had been to Sweden’s capital of Stockholm – ever!  It was an unspeakable honor for Natalia and I to welcome President Barack Obama to Sweden in September 2013.  In the course of his two day visit, the President met with the five Nordic leaders to discuss sensitive foreign policy issues, he celebrated the legacy of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, and he bore witness to Swedish innovation and creativity at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology.  As the joint statement issued during President Obama’s historic visit notes: “Sweden and the United States are very special friends.”

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2)    A Preclearance Facility at Stockholm’s Arlanda International Airport!  The planned preclearance facility at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, where US immigration and customs inspectors will do the inspection in Sweden rather than upon arrival in America, will be transformational.  It improve the overall travel experience for customers and boost security. It’s a win-win situation for the US and Sweden, it will facilitate travel and business. See the interview here.










3) Bicycling Across Sweden, from the water’s edge of the West Coast to the water’s edge of the East Coast.  It is so important for diplomats to get out from behind Embassy walls and out of the capital to see the heartland of the country.  In July 2013, I bicycled literally across Sweden, more than 600 miles (800 kilometers) from the water’s edge in Gothenberg to the water’s edge in Stockholm.  I visited small towns like Kumla, Alingsos, Falkoping, Chovde, among others, and did more than thirty public speeches and engagements promoting TTIP, the proposed US-EU free trade agreement.  Other than by walking across Sweden, I could not have given Sweden a warmer embrace than by seeing every centimeter from coast to coast by bike.










4) Hosting Not One, But Two, US Secretaries of State and amplifying the fight against climate change.  In June 2012, I was thrilled to welcome to Sweden Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who came to Sweden to advance the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), a global initiative to focus international efforts to reduce black carbon and methane.  In May 2013, I took Secretary of State John Kerry to Sweden’s Arctic area, to the city of Kiruna to participate in the Arctic Council Ministerial, which Sweden hosted.  The Secretary was able to participate in the brokering of a Search and Rescue agreement, and an Oil Spill Preparedness agreement, historic firsts for the Arctic Council.

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5) With Swedish Comedian Felix Herngren, Filming Videos on the Future of the Arctic.  I was honored that the great Swedish actor Felix Herngren agreed to film in Sweden’s High North several short videos with me, available on the YouTube platform at #OursharedArctic.  We travelled together to Sweden’s Arctic area, to Rabot’s Glacier, and to the Abisko Scientific Research Station, to bear witness to the devastation being caused by climate change, to meet the Sami people, and to use these films to communicate how the Arctic, while remote, is directly connected to the quality of our lives and the future of our planet









6) Celebrating the Legacy of Raoul Wallenberg.  Soon after I began as Ambassador in Sweden in late 2011, the 100th anniversary was celebrated of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who chose not to be indifferent and saved hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives from the Holocaust.  Because Wallenberg operated in part with American support, I wanted to make this a central narrative to the American-Swedish relationship.  I was delighted to work with then-Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a joint article they published in the New York Times on the legacy and lessons of Raoul Wallenberg’s heroism.  Here is the article. In April 2012, President Barack Obama did a YouTube video message to the people of Sweden on how Wallenberg is one of his personal heroes and a source of lessons for his life.  The video is available here. In May 2012, I planted just outside the US Ambassador’s residence a Horse Chestnut Tree, a type of tree famous from the Diary of Anne Frank (she looked out over the square in Amsterdam at a Horse Chestnut Tree).  Here are videos from this high visibility ceremony that involved Raoul Wallenberg’s still living sister Nina Lagergren, and our Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns.  In September 2012, the largest US Senate delegation to visit Sweden in modern memory came to Stockholm bearing legislation signed by President Obama conveying the US Congressional Gold Medal in honor of Wallenberg.  At a high visibility ceremony at the Swedish Parliament, US Senator Johnny Isakson conveyed the legislation to Raoul Wallenberg’s still living sister, Nina Lagergren.  In September 2013, President Barack Obama came to Stockholm, and on the eve of Rosh Hoshana, celebrated the life and legacy of Raoul Wallenberg at Stockholm’s Great Synagogue, along with members of Wallenberg’s family and those whom Wallenberg rescued.

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7) Hosting a Major Regional Conference on TTIP, and Advancing Business to Business Relations.  In December 2014, U.S. Embassy Sweden was proud to join the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) to host a workshop on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).  We welcomed participants from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  The event captured the potential of collaboration between these countries of Northern Europe when it comes to advancing T-TIP.  The goal of the workshop was to bring together stakeholders to identify positive and negative narratives about T-TIP, and to develop plans on how to communicate the advantages of T-TIP in each country.  More generally, the commercial relationship between Sweden and the US is really strong.  Sweden is the 11th largest investor in the US, and with a population of nine million people, that makes Sweden the number one per capita investor in the US of all the countries in the world.  With that in mind, I set up a “Businessperson Statesperson lunch series.” The formulation “Businessperson Statesperson” refers to businesspeople who advance the public interest by constructively engaging in the market place of ideas and operating as a good corporate leader.  This Embassy series has featured as speakers Jeff Immelt, the CEO of GE, who spoke on TTIP; Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca Cola, who spoke on the Millenial Generation; Steve Rattner, the former US Auto Czar, who spoke on the American economy, and Inge Thulin, CEO of 3M, who spoke about innovation, among other top level US CEO’s.

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8) Advancing the Relationship Between USAID and SIDA.  A value that America and Sweden share is a deep care for that part of humanity that lives in abject poverty.  Sweden’s overseas development agency, SIDA, has become the top partner of the US government’s development agency, USAID, both in terms of pooling resources and developing strategies.  The numbers speak for themselves and reflect a relationship that is at an unprecedented level:  Sweden has agreed to catalyze $1 billion for President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative; Sweden has committed $1.2 billion for Afghanistan Development Assistance 2015-2024; Sweden has committed a $100 million dollar loan to support Ukraine.  The challenges we face in Afghanistan, Africa and Ukraine are not just American challenges.  These are international challenges and it is terrific the Swedes have joined us.  In addition, we have been able to advance unique public private partnerships with Sweden.  USAID has joined Sweden and Volvo Trucks, a Swedish company, to advance jobs training in ten countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a wonderful example of how private sector innovation and resources can be brought in to these common causes.

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9) Supporting LGBT Rights and Youth and Diversity Engagement I was the first US Ambassador in Sweden to hoist a rainbow flag on the Embassy flag pole.  I also proposed to US Attorney General Eric Holder that he do a Major Speech on LGBT Rights at the Swedish Parliament during his important visit to Sweden.  Speaking before the Swedish parliament February 4, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke eloquently as he hailed Sweden as a “champion of human rights” and called on the country to continue working with the United States for such freedoms around the world.  I was also honored to host the parents of Matthew Shepard, the young man murdered in Wyoming because he was gay, who spoke touchingly and beautifully about their unspeakable loss and what their son’s legacy should mean in the fight for LGBT rights. Holder’s speech is available here.

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As an Embassy, we have especially worked hard to engage the next generation on issues of our day, and to create a forum to discuss issues of diversity in Sweden.  The Embassy created a series called “Diversity Dialogues”, to put stakeholders around one table to discuss questions of diversity.  For example, when Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton came to Sweden on a trade mission, I asked him to meet with Sweden’s Somali community.  Minnesota is the US state with the highest number of Somali Americans, and I asked the Governor to share “lessons learned” from Minnesota pertaining to Somali integration and success and which may be relevant to Swedish conditions.  The Embassy also originated the idea of a special Fulbright Scholarship devoted to the future of the Arctic.  The Scholarship has been funded and is now being implemented, bringing in scholars from the eight Arctic Council states.  The Embassy signed an MOU with the University of Chicago Institute of Politics to create a summer internship program to bring young Americans to work at the US Embassy.  And the Embassy created a Youth Council, to advance dialogue between the Embassy and the next generation on the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow.








10)  Using Media and “Digital Tools,” especially Social Media, for Outreach, Messaging, Connecting.  An Ambassador’s job is to connect.  It is to meet people and interpret what the US and the US President stand for.  I was so proud to do the extremely popular reality TV cooking show “Halv Åtta Hos Mig” which brought all of Sweden in to the US Ambassador’s residence for a night of cooking, but also for a conversation about what America stands for.  It was incredibly fun engaging on that with wonderful Swedish co-contestants.  Here is a link to the show. And I am extremely proud of what we have done with social media.  US Embassy Stockholm’s Facebook friends totaled about 3000 people when I started.  We now have over 43,000 Facebook friends (please friend us!  Here is the link to our Facebook site.   My wife and I have done a joint blog together on the US Embassy website, called the “Brzezinski blog” to share our experiences and reflections on our lives in Sweden.  We have fully exploited the Youtube platform to share messages far and wide about TTIP, the Arctic and many other shared challenges.  We have striven to utilize all forms of communication to reach multiple audiences.





Brzezinski Blog:

US Embassy Sweden website:

I am profoundly grateful for the honor to have served as US Ambassador in Sweden.  My wife and I have made many friends, and we look forward to building on those relationships well into the future.  It has been a fantastic experience, for which my wife and daughter and I will be eternally grateful for the warmth of the embrace Sweden has given us over the last three and a half years.

Virginia Comes to Sweden: Welcome Gov. Terry McAuliffe!









In the course of my three and a half years in Sweden, we have been extremely lucky to welcome to Sweden some high profile American leaders, including President Obama, two Secretaries of State (Clinton and Kerry), the Attorney General Eric Holder, a number of US Senators and members of Congress, among others.  And we have been so fortunate to welcome a few state Governors, including Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, and previously Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.  This past Friday through Sunday, we were thrilled to welcome Virginia Governor Terry McAulliffe, his wonderful wife Dorothy, the Virginia Secretary of Commerce Maurice Jones, the Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore, among other state officials, for several days of commercial and trade engagement.









State Governors are like the CEO of a state, and to bring that high level of American interest to Sweden, to talk directly with Swedish businesses about what Virginia has to offer, how we can combine American and Swedish business interests for a better tomorrow, is such an incredible opportunity.  More and more, US state Governors are going around the world to promote the business opportunities in their state.  Sweden was one of six European countries Governor McAulliffe is visiting on his visit to Europe, and I was very proud he chose to come to Stockholm.










The goal of the visit was to attract Swedish investment and jobs to the United States, specifically to Virginia.  The Governor and his team and the US Embassy partnered to proactively engage a number of major Swedish companies, including in the home furnishings sector, in the defense and aeronautics and security sector, in the Life Sciences sector and in telecom.  We held meetings both at the US Embassy, and also on site at specific Swedish companies that are considering expansion in the US.  We were extremely grateful that the senior executives of these companies would meet with us on a Saturday (on a Royal wedding weekend here in Sweden no less!), and spend hours talking about how Virginia’s fantastic work force, its great infrastructure, its remarkable educational system, can combine to provide the perfect place for a Swedish company to invest.  More generally, the message from the US Embassy is that America is just a great place to invest, with a legal certainty and competitive workforce unmatched anywhere.











I was proud with how professional and strategic the Virginia Governor and his team and our US Embassy and our team were in the course of a series of very thoughtful meetings that were just filled with business potential.  The engagements we had this past weekend will result in jobs and investment in America.   I just love this because as Ambassador to Sweden, I just want to see more engagement between Sweden and America, not only government-to-government, but people to people and business to business.


Welcoming U.S. Congressional Representatives to Sweden

While it is well known that the executive branch of the U.S. Government has authority to initiate and implement foreign policy, what is often overlooked is the role that the U.S. legislative branch plays in U.S. foreign affairs.  Not only is Congressional approval needed for spending funds to conduct foreign affairs, but Congress has a very important oversight role.  Hence the need for Congressional members to be able to travel abroad and find out firsthand what is happening in the world.










Last Sunday and Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm had the privilege of assisting seven Members of the House of Representatives carry out these oversight responsibilities.  A CODEL (short for Congressional Delegation), led by Chairman John Kline (R-MN), visited Sweden as part of a larger trip to Northern Europe to listen and learn from others as they seek global solutions in their areas of Congressional responsibility.









They engaged leaders on regional and global security matters to better evaluate America’s role in the region.  During a dinner meeting at Sweden’s Parliament, they  engaged broad coalitions of their Swedish parliamentarian counterparts on security matters in the Nordic/Baltic region and touched on the alarming trend of fighters from around the world traveling to fight for ISIS. The two side swapped ideas and experiences on countering foreign fighters recruitment and discussed the importance of engaging religious communities in countering violent extremism.









The CODEL also had the pleasure of engaging Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist on security matters in the region and in the global context.At a separate meeting with parliamentarians on education and workforce matters, they shared experiences and legislative ideas on issues common to both the United States and Sweden. They realized they faced many of the same challenges of how to foster innovation through education; how to improve the quality of teachers, particularly in underperforming schools; and how to integrate first and second generation immigrants into schools and the workforce.











To get an even closer look at innovative approaches Sweden is taking on education, integrating migrants, and preventing destructive subcultures, CODEL Kline took a trip to Fryshuset, Stockholm’s largest youth center, where they met Camila Salazar and took a tour of the facilities.

There they learned firsthand how Fryshuset’s programs work to draw in disaffected youth (through dynamic sports programs and Fryshuset’s message of inclusion and social engagement) who might otherwise be drawn into crime or extremism.









The CODEL also had a strong interest in hearing from Swedes about our economic relations, particularly their views on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).   We have a very strong trade relationship with Sweden in terms of both goods and services, and Sweden is the 11th largest investor in the United States.  But we can always improve, and one of the fastest ways to boost this already strong relationship is to conclude a comprehensive T-TIP agreement.   The CODEL members are all strong supporters of T-TIP and held substantive meetings with representatives from Swedish business, labor unions, and government on ways we can ensure a comprehensive, well-crafted agreement crosses the finish line.  Representatives from the U.S. business community in Sweden also met with the CODEL and underscored their desire to see the T-TIP agreement come to fruition.  What  resonated loudest for me from these meetings were the voices of both U.S. and Swedish small business owners who spoke about how much they stand to benefit from a comprehensive T-TIP.

During these two days, I was deeply impressed by not only the warmth of Sweden’s reception of CODEL Kline but also in the depth of the discussion.  These friendly and open dialogues underscored how much we can learn from each other as partner countries on a range of issues and are exactly why it is important U.S. Congressional Representatives travel to other countries to have these dialogues first hand.  These meetings also emphasized once again in my mind how unique and vibrant the U.S.-Swedish relationship really is.  Swedes’ openness and willingness to share challenges demonstrates the comfort level Swedes feel with their American counterparts and really showcases what this unique Swedish-American relationship is all about.

Learning about Science at the Terrific Tom Tits Experiment in Södertälje!

One of the absolute delights that my family and I just love about Sweden is how child friendly the country is. There are so many incredibly fun and interesting places and sites to take children in Stockholm and all around the country, who are enriched by the culture and arts and technology and science on display. Whether it is Stockholm’s‎ awesome ABBA Museum, or the wonderful Vasa Museum, or the incredible Butterfly Museum, the list goes on.

Makerspace at Tom Tits Experiment

Makerspace at Tom Tits Experiment

This weekend I had the pleasure to take my daughter to what is for me a new terrific discovery: the Tom Tits Experiment in Södertälje, which is about thirty minutes outside of Stockholm just off the E4 highway. ‎ Located in a huge, former Astra Zeneca facility, the museum is housed over four massive floors of experiments, interactive creativity, and challenges. The myriad of displays and experiments use balance, gravity, momentum, and water to teach your child and you about the world of science. It is tremendous fun, and each floor is a new world.

My child and I literally spent hours there, at the bubble machine, the displays of human physiology, and the art creation table.
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The brochure for Tom Tits Experiment states, “All we ask is that you leave ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ at the door and prepare yourself to light the fire that we all have within us.”  That captures well the joy we experienced when we visited Tom Tits Experiment.
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A Nordic/Baltic/Poland Conference: Clarifying the Impact of T-TIP


Last month, just before the holidays, U.S. Embassy Sweden was proud to join the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) to host a workshop on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).  We welcomed participants from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  The event captured the potential of collaboration between these countries of Northern Europe when it comes to advancing T-TIP.  The goal of the workshop was to bring together stakeholders to identify positive and negative narratives about T-TIP, and to develop plans on how to communicate the advantages of T-TIP in each country.  An absolute high point of the conference was the participation of the two lead negotiators for T-TIP, Ignacio Garcia Bercero from the EU and Dan Mullaney from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in the US – who were able to listen and learn and offer their vision of a way forward in the T-TIP negotiations














The workshop is part of a broader stakeholder outreach, which the U.S. Government and the European Commission have engaged in since the genesis of T-TIP.  A key point is that T-TIP is a tool for empowerment:  Youth need jobs, women need jobs, new immigrants need jobs.  At its foundation, that is what T-TIP is about.







T-TIP is an opportunity of a lifetime and one not to be missed.  Here’s the full English version of a piece I wrote for Swedish newspapers following the conference:


With 2014 now behind us, I look back on a year that has seen the Swedish-American partnership grow stronger than it has ever been. This summer I had the privilege of biking across Sweden, from the western shore to the eastern shore. And aside from the stunning landscapes and long sunny days of the Swedish summer, I was also struck by the entrepreneurial spirit I found in the villages, towns, and cities of this country. It was a reminder of Sweden’s business-savvy spirit that fuels the close trade relationship between our two countries. Looking ahead to 2015, we hope to make substantial progress on a groundbreaking U.S-European trade and investment agreement that will truly unleash the entrepreneurial spirit from Småland to San Francisco.

Last month entrepreneurs, labor leaders, diplomats, and politicians gathered in Sweden to discuss their hopes and concerns about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, known as T-TIP. This agreement, currently under negotiation between the United States and the European Union, would create the world’s largest free trade area, spurring new economic energy and opportunity in Europe, the U.S., and around the world.

Together, the U.S. and EU are the world’s leading economies – we account for about half of the world’s GDP and together form the world’s largest trading bloc. The strong U.S-Sweden partnership is a key driver of transatlantic trade. Our annual bilateral trade in goods and services is valued at over $25 billion, and U.S. companies directly invest more than $24 billion annually in Sweden, supporting 65,000 jobs.

Economically, Europe and the U.S. are stronger together, and T-TIP would boost economies on both sides of the Atlantic in five key ways:

First, T-TIP will fuel job growth and economic growth in Europe and the U.S. Unnecessary barriers to trade – such as tariffs, red tape, customs delays, and uncertainty over product requirements – now stand between entrepreneurs and potential customers. Tearing down these barriers is a common-sense way to more easily connect European entrepreneurs to U.S. consumers, and vice versa.

Second, we want to set a standard for trade built on our common values.  We live in a rapidly changing world with emerging markets, rising powers, and new technologies raising questions about the future.  Through T-TIP, the EU and the U.S. can ensure the rules of the road  build on our commitment to strong labor rights, enforceable environmental protections, food safety, and intellectual property rights that encourage entrepreneurship. We have an opening in T-TIP to demonstrate to the world that you don’t have to sacrifice standards to create opportunity. And if we don’t write the rules of the road, someone else will.

Third, we want to promote our shared vision for open, integrated economies and the rule of law.  The U.S. and Europe believe that open trade, transparency and rule of law are the cornerstones of our stability and long-term economic health. Amid a changing world, T-TIP would enshrine the highest standards in our transatlantic community and signal to the rest of the world that rule of law is key to growth.

Fourth, we want to lower costs to create opportunities for small businesses entrepreneurs on Storgatan and Main Street are the true engines of growth and opportunity. Businesses that export grow faster, and support better paying jobs than those that do not. But right now, there are too many barriers that can make global trade difficult for small businesses. With T-TIP, we are pioneering ways to open the doors of trade to entrepreneurs, be they in Arvidsjaur or  Östermalm, Manhattan or Montana

Fifth, we want to use our economic partnership to promote peace and security.  The world is safer when advanced democracies stand together. Building a stronger economic partnership and breaking down the barriers between us will make both Europe and the U.S. more secure and integrated.   This will allow us to continue our global leadership in other areas from security to development assistance to humanitarian aid.

The relationship between Sweden and the U.S. is the strongest it has ever been, a testament to the strong business and trade bonds that have existed between our two countries for centuries. With T-TIP, we now have an opportunity to generate new opportunity throughout Europe and the U.S. by building on the high standards and shared values link our economics and our nations.

What a remarkable year 2014 was!  A Year of Modern Diplomacy

As 2014 draws to a close, I could not be more proud of the performance and accomplishments of U.S. Embassy Stockholm.  I have to give credit to my Embassy colleagues for a truly extraordinary year.  Relations between the United States and Sweden have never been stronger, nor have they delivered more for our respective peoples. The U.S.-Sweden relationship is increasingly strategic:  We are close partners in addressing key global challenges such as mitigating climate change, safeguarding the Arctic, promoting free trade, advancing security in Northern Europe and beyond, and supporting democracy and human rights. The joint statement issued during President Obama’s historic trip to Sweden in September 2013 states: “Sweden and the United States are very special friends.”  That statement could not be more true as we begin a new year.

During 2014, US Embassy Stockholm worked hard to advance a modern form of diplomacy, using the platform of the U.S. Embassy and the power to convene to advance core U.S. goals in creative and new ways, often in ways that have never been done in Sweden.  Here are ten examples of how the U.S. Embassy engaged our mission in 2014 in unique and constructive ways that I am especially proud of:

1)  Advancing PowerAfrica in Sweden With New Public and Private Sector Partners.  In October, U.S. Embassy Stockholm welcomed Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to Stockholm for his second visit in less than a year.  His visit underscored the strong and continuing partnership between Sweden and the U.S. and commemorated the unique agreement the U.S. and Sweden have on international development cooperation.  One of the defining areas of that cooperation was the focus of a meeting that took place on October 22 here in Stockholm.  The U.S. and Sweden brought together donors, institutional investors, and multilateral organizations to discuss how to mobilize private capital at scale for investment in African infrastructure, particularly in the energy sector.  Mobilization of private capital and these investments are necessary to maintain strong growth and in particular, to make growth inclusive and alleviate poverty.  The meeting built on the groundwork laid during the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit that President Obama convened in Washington in August, during which the Government of Sweden formally announced a commitment to catalyse up to one billion U.S. dollars over the next ten years in support of the President’s Power Africa initiative. Sweden’s bilateral financial pledge for Power Africa represented the first such partnership between the United States and another donor government on this crucial initiative.  Together with the earlier U.S. pledge of seven billion over the first five-year phase, the funds will be aimed at doubling access to electricity in energy-poor sub-Saharan Africa where approximately two-thirds of the population now live without access.

U.S. Administator Raj Shah speaking at a reception to honor the one year anniversary of the USAID/Sida partnership

U.S. Administator Raj Shah speaking at a reception to honor the one year anniversary of the USAID/Sida partnership

2)  Attorney General Eric Holder Declares in a Major Speech in the Swedish Parliament that LGBT equality is one of the “defining civil rights challenges of our time.”  In February, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Sweden to advance cooperation to combat terrorism; to crack down on transnational organized crime; to fight against human trafficking, and to advance the fight against corruption.  But his visit also provided an opportunity for the Attorney General to make a major speech in the Swedish Parliament about a core value shared by the US and Sweden:  the fight to advance human dignity and LGBT equality around the world.  The Attorney General’s eloquent address in Sweden’s Parliament about the need to be increasingly conscious of our interdependent responsibilities, was a remarkable amplification of a core theme of US Embassy Stockholm:  U.S. Embassy Stockholm is “anti-anti-gay.”  Read the Attorney General’s speech here.

Attorney General Eric Holder speaking at the Riksdag

Attorney General Eric Holder speaking at the Riksdag

3)  Bicycling Across Sweden to Advance Trade. 
In July, I biked literally across Sweden, from the water’s edge of Sweden’s west coast to the water’s edge of Sweden’s east coast, to promote trade.  As the first Ambassador ever to bike across Sweden, nearly 550 miles, I had the unique opportunity to meet the people in Sweden’s heartland, and to do more than twenty-five different engagements, including speeches to local chambers of commerce, meetings with farmers’ groups, meetings with students and faculty at a leading university, with former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, and meetings with immigrant groups.  The trip gave me an opportunity to listen and learn about the hopes and dreams people associate with expanding their business through increased trade.  With stops in Alingsås, Falköping, Kumla, Carlsberg, at the University of Skövde, in the immigrant rich community of Södertälje, and many other locales, I was able to get a pulse of the Swedish heartland and a shared sense of optimism about trade and the future that I would have never gotten had I just stayed in the nation’s capital of Stockholm.

Meeting with former Prime Minister Göran Persson during our "T-TRIP"

Meeting with former Prime Minister Göran Persson during our “T-TRIP”

4)  Producing Arctic films with Swedish Superstar Felix Herngren and the World Wildlife Fund. 
Since beginning as Ambassador three years ago, I have been looking for opportunities to symbolize and underline closeness between the U.S. and Sweden on climate change and the the future of the Arctic.  The Arctic is simultaneously a strategic and a human problem.  I did not want to limit myself to speeches and press releases as I engage on the threat of climate change and the impact that will have on the people, the ecosystems and the economies of the Arctic.  I wanted to do something that connects with new audiences, with people you don’t run in to at an Embassy diplomatic reception.  The famous Swedish comedian Felix Herngren combined with me and the World Wildlife Fund to produce four films on the Arctic.  We took a unique approach to trying to understand the melting glaciers, the massive impact on biodiversity in the Arctic, and the way social welfare and local economies in the Arctic are being impacted.  Check out the films here.

Filming in Niila Inga's backyard outside of Kiruna

Filming in Niila Inga’s backyard outside of Kiruna

5)  Taking the US Embassy’s annual Independence Day celebration to the Island of Gotland for Almedalen. 
Every year, the U.S. Embassy faces the dilemma of a timing conflict between our annual July 4 party, which is the largest event the U.S. Embassy hosts every year, and Sweden’s annual political extravaganza of Almedalen, which occurs at the same time and attracts thousands of Swedes and others to the island of Gotland for a week of political debate and social interaction.  This year the U.S. Embassy decided to meet our Swedish friends on “their turf” and for the first time ever the U.S. Embassy in Sweden held its July 4 party outside Stockholm and on the island of Gotland during the Almedalen week.  On July 4, at the Governor’s Mansion in Visby, on the island of Gotland, we held the most terrific July 4 party and sang the Star Spangled Banner under a blue Gotland sky.  It was such a great memory of convening Swedes and friends from all over to celebrate American independence and values, this time in a place outside Sweden’s capital.  Check out a video of our Almedalen event in Gotland here.

Celebrating July 4th at Almedalen

Celebrating July 4th at Almedalen

6)  Advancing TTIP with Finland, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Sweden.  In December, US Embassy Stockholm was proud to join the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) to host a remarkable workshop on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), the proposed U.S.-EU free trade and investment agreement that would link the American and European economies closer than ever before. We welcomed participants from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The event captured the potential of collaboration between these countries of Northern Europe when it comes to advancing T-TIP. The goal of the workshop was to bring together opinion makers from our region and beyond to identify positive and dispel inaccurate narratives about T-TIP, and to develop plans to engage in each country. An absolute high point of the conference was the participation of the two lead negotiators for T-TIP, Ignacio Garcia Bercero from the EU and Dan Mullaney from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative– who listened, learned and offered their vision of a way forward in the T-TIP negotiations.

With T-TIP negotiators Dan Mullaney and Ignacio Garcia Bercero and Swedish participants from the conference

With T-TIP negotiators Dan Mullaney and Ignacio Garcia Bercero and Swedish participants from the conference

7)  Using Art as a Bridge – Jeff Koons and Young Swedish Artists from Immigrant Neighborhoods.  In October, U.S. Embassy Stockholm welcomed to Sweden the iconic American artist Jeff Koons. At the U.S. residence, we invited a large cross section of Swedish society to meet Jeff Koons‎. But perhaps most importantly, we also invited young artists from immigrant-rich neighborhoods in Stockholm to present their work to Jeff Koons, and to share their hopes and aspirations with all of us. The organization “Voices of the Suburbs” and the Botkyrka Art Center joined with the U.S. Embassy to present a vernisage of the young artists’ works. Jeff Koons and the crowd of more than 200 people who attended just loved it!  It was an awesome opportunity to “walk the walk” when it comes to inclusion and integration.

With Jeff Koons and several Stockholm artists

With Jeff Koons and several Stockholm artists

8)  Sharing our Story Back Home. 
In 2014, Natalia and I seized a number of opportunities to share with fellow Americans what we are seeing and hearing in Sweden, and the growing potential of the U.S.-Sweden relationship which we are deeply committed to.  In January, Natalia and I began the year by jointly presenting at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics (an Institute founded by the American political strategist David Axelrod) a series of slides that capture different ways we and the US Embassy are engaging on the U.S.-Sweden partnership.  That same day I signed a MOU with the Institute of Politics (IOP) on behalf of the US Embassy creating a summer internship program.  US Embassy Stockholm welcomed our first two IOP interns this past summer, and they performed magnificently.  In the course of the year, Natalia and I each separately gave speeches at the University of Virginia about different aspects of the work we are doing in Sweden.  I also spoke in March at the Atlantic Council in Washington about Sweden and the security context in Northern Europe, and I spoke at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington in October on Sweden’s successful chairmanship of the Arctic Council that ended in 2013.  Natalia spoke in May at the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce New York (SACC NY) conference on entrepreneurship and women and business leadership in May.  These and other opportunities allowed us to interpret for our fellow Americans the opportunities and also challenges that the U.S. and Sweden can engage on as partners.

Speaking with Natalia at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics

Speaking with Natalia at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics

9)  Advancing Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality:  In 2014, Natalia and I worked to fully and creatively maximize the potential of the U.S.-Sweden partnership in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Natalia has engaged on this issue all across Sweden, speaking at universities in the heartland but also at Stockholm School for Economics, and for three years running she has held a high profile International Women’s Day lunch at the US residence to honor inspiring women (I greeted each of these inspiring women at the front door with rose to reflect my respect!).  Natalia has also spoken on this topic at the Darden Business School at the University of Virginia, at SACC NY, and has done a lot of Swedish media on the topic.  A high point this year was the US Embassy’s engagement at the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC), which brought women from around the globe for a remarkable conference in November that considered how entrepreneurship and business is one of the best catalysts for advancing gender equality.  The conference, which Natalia supported as a moderator, conveyed to all participants the U.S. government’s commitment to empowering businesswomen on an international scale.  Ambassador Ruth Davis, a veritable institution in U.S. diplomacy, was able to share remarkable lessons learned from her more than forty years in the U.S. Foreign Service.  During the reception hosted at the U.S. residence for more than 150 women leaders, the U.S. Embassy strategically organized a number of “pop up” presentations by women entrepreneurs from around the world, who were able to share their unique stories of business success.  In 2015, we will honor our first female CEO as part of the US Embassy’s Businessperson Statesperson lunch series, which features leading U.S. business executives who offer perspectives on public policy during the lunch.

With Ambassador Ruth Davis

With Ambassador Ruth Davis

10)  Raoul Wallenberg and the Congressional Gold Medal:  Symbolizing Closeness between the U.S. and Sweden in the fight for human dignity.  Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who during the Holocaust risked his life, and ultimately gave his life, for a higher moral calling.  His story, and his rescue of hundreds of thousands of Jews scheduled for destruction in Nazi-occupied Hungary, epitomizes “the importance of not being indifferent.”  Since I began as Ambassador three years ago, I and the U.S. Embassy have embraced fully the narrative of Wallenberg and the theme of the importance of not being indifferent.  In July, the U.S. Congress conveyed the Congressional Gold Medal, the American Congress’ highest recognition, to Raoul Wallenberg.  The medal was accepted by Raoul Wallenberg’s still living half-sister, Ninna Lagergren.  I was able to join my Swedish counterpart in Washington, Ambassador Bjorn Lyrvall, in a joint interview on MSNBC’s “Ronan Farrow Show”, to discuss the legacy of Wallenberg, and what it means for the challenges of today and tomorrow.  See link to MSNBC joint interview here

Ronan Farrow interviewing Sweden's Ambassador to the U.S. Björn Lyrvall and me about  the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg

Ronan Farrow interviewing Sweden’s Ambassador to the U.S. Björn Lyrvall and me about the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg

What a remarkable year 2014 year has been.  As Ambassador, I am deeply committed to the relationship between our two countries.  I can say our destiny is joined together.  The breadth and depth of the relationship has produced a number of major accomplishments, and the relationship itself is transforming in a positive way.   Natalia and I are honored to join our U.S. Embassy colleagues and the government and people of Sweden in continuing to work to advance our common good as we go in to 2015.

Gott Nytt År!!

World premiere of four short films: #OurSharedArctic

This week US Embassy Stockholm premiered four short video films on the future of the Arctic.  We made these films with Swedish superstar Felix Herngren and the World Wildlife Fund to highlight climate change.   This is a new kind of diplomacy, in which we bring together new partners, and try to connect with people in a way that reflects out of the box thinking. I am so very proud of these four films – each of which addresses how climate change is impacting life in the Arctic, and what we can do about it.

‎Please view these films, and if you like them please share them via social media – we would appreciate your help.

FLX has created a trailer of the four films that can be viewed here.

The first film (“The Glacier”) covers the effects that climate change is having on glaciers through a visit to Rabots Glacier near Kebnekaise, Sweden’s tallest mountain.

The second film (“The People”) describes how climate change is detrimentally affecting the lives of the Sami people of northern Sweden.

The third film (“The Science”) shares scientific knowledge about climate change via interviews with experts at Abisko Scientific Research Station.

The fourth film (“The Future”) features US efforts in the Arctic – the upcoming Arctic Council Chairmanship and the Fulbright Arctic Initiative – and encourages viewers to take action themselves.

Last night at the US Ambassadorial residence, we premiered‎ these four films with Swedish actor Felix Herngren and with Tom Arnbom of WWF, in front of 230 guests and Embassy friends. It was a spectacular evening, with the Embassy team and our efforts saluted like no other time I have seen here in Sweden.  Here are some photos from the event:

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‎Amazing conversation with Sweden’s ABB about Energy and Infrastructure Opportunities of Today and Tomorrow!





Today I had the privilege of travelling with my Commercial Chief Nick Kuchova to Ludvika, Sweden, where we visited ABB’s offices to learn about the company’s international strategy, their role in the Power Africa initiative and their views on international trade. ABB is a global leader in power and automation technologies, with a considerable footprint in the US. Their North American operations are headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, and employ about 30,000 people in manufacturing and service in about 30 US states. Their global center of excellence for smart grids is located in North Carolina.

Nick and I met with ABB Sweden’s dynamic CEO Johan Soderstrom‎, and his highly able team including Mats Holmberg, Head of Public Affairs and Carl-Johan Liner, head of Power Products Division and Site Manager. We took a tour through ABB’s Transformer Unit, we visited the High Voltage Test Laboratory, and received a briefing from Olof Heyman, Global Head of HVDC.

Energy efficiency, sustainability are the national security challenges of today and tomorrow. Maximising the opportunity of cross border R & D, especially across the transatlantic area, is an opportunity we have not fully maximized. By partnering together we can solve the energy challenges of today and advance sustainability goals that will leave a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.

Thank you ABB for a highly effective US-Sweden engagement in Ludvika, Sweden!

Local Roots, Global Reach: Welcoming State of Georgia and Gwinnett County Commercial Promotion Delegation to Sweden

This week, US Embassy Stockholm welcomes to Sweden an 8-member delegation from the U.S. state of Georgia and Gwinnett County.  I was thrilled to host the delegation at my residence for a dinner discussion on their strategy to build links between Georgia and Sweden.  The delegation was in Sweden to meet with existing investors and future investors to advance their commercial engagement with Georgia and the United States.

At the US residence, we was able to introduce the delegation to some of Sweden’s most innovative companies.  What followed was an absolutely constructive and lively discussion on economic development and cultural ties between our two countries.  The delegation was led by Ms. Charlotte Nash, Chairman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners; Dr. Daniel Kaufman, President and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson.

The connections between Sweden and the State of Georgia are broad and deep, and are symbolic of the close linkages between the US and Sweden, which are stronger than ever before.  Georgia is host to 56 Swedish companies and their 153 facilities, approximately half of which are in Gwinnett County near Atlanta. Over 8,600 Georgians are employed by these Swedish firms.  It is so inspiring to see how Georgia and Gwinnett County are building on these existing business ties and working to grow and build through economic innovations such as the state’s Quick Start Workforce Training Program.

Sweden’s connections with Georgia extend far beyond investments however and include a sister city relationship between Vaxjo and Savannah, Georgia.  I have been to Vaxjo during my tenure here in Sweden and can attest to the vibrancy of its loval economy and the great opportunity that exists for even more linkages with the US.  Sweden also has an outstanding Consulate in Atlanta and a very active Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce.

It was just a wonderful evening celebrating the ties between Sweden and the State of Georgia.  During my tenure here in Sweden, I have hosted US President and Georgian Jimmy Carter, US Senator From Georgia Johnny Isakson, who co-chairs the US Congress’ Swedish Caucus.  It was a privilege to host in Sweden another delegation of great Georgians, including Ms. Charlotte Nash, Chairman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners; Dr. Daniel Kaufman, President and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson, and the rest of this strong delegation.

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