What is Almedalen?

7:47 min

Sweden's annual political jamboree known as Almedalen Week is underway. If you follow us on social media, you may have seen us talking about the event, which kicked off yesterday in the medieval city of Visby on the Baltic island of Gotland.

It lasts for eight days and our reporter Frank Radosevich is there. Today he tells us what is Almedalen about; and when it all began?

"Almedalen is a weeklong political gathering chock full of meetings and mingles with everybody from politicians to pressure groups to private companies. The name itself comes from a little park that's right on the harbor of Visby. It's where the leaders from each of Sweden's 8 political parties hold speeches every night. They use it as a opportunity to focus their party's message, put forth new policies or take potshots at their opponents. Nowadays, Almedalen is a massive operation. There are more than 3,500 seminars and events taking place over the coming days. But it has humble beginnings, starting in 1968 when then-minister Olof Palme, soon to be prime minister, gave a speed in the park on the back of a truck."

The week is a big deal for lobbyists and political junkies but why should the average Swede care about what happens on Gotland during the coming week?

"It's true there's a lot of in-the-weeds seminars and wonky discussions here," Frank Radosevich says, "but Almedalen's also where Sweden's movers-and-shakers converge and hash things out with these lively political discussions. This year there's a lot about the topics of sustainability and the future of healthcare.

"It's a huge deal for the media. Organizers expect between 900 to 800 journalist to attend. And that's 10 percent fewer than last year - if you can believe it. Granted, we did just have a national election last year so I'd image this year's Almedalen won't be as heated or carry the same weight as the year before."

Jenny Sanders, one of the coordinators for the week, told us why politicians and others keep coming back:

"Every year they tell us it was well worth it, they've met some many people, they've listened to new things, and been able to put their own topics on the table."

Almedalen isn't just for Sweden anymore, several other countries have tried to emulate the idea?

"That's right," Frank Radosevich says. "According to organizers here neighboring Finland, Norway and Denmark have all hosted their own versions of the week. There's been representatives from South Korea who have traveled to Visby to find out more about how Almedaeln works. And one group even took the concept to Egypt."

Peter Weiderud of the Swedish Institute in Alexandria, a government group that promotes dialogue between Europe and the Middle East and North Africa, told us why they are in Almedalen this year and why they brought the concept to Egypt:

"After the Arab Spring there was an openess and an interest in discussing almost everything. And that fit very well with bringing in the idea of Almedalen."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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