(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Dear Swedish citizens, at home and overseas. Everyone in Sweden!
My family and I would like to wish you all an enjoyable Christmas. This year the cheer of Christmas has perhaps been even more keenly awaited than usual by many of us.
It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that this has been a challenging year for Sweden and the Swedish population. Global concerns have impacted on us here in a way we haven’t experienced for many years. We should take the opportunity now over the holiday to take a step back for a while, and take time to reflect on the past year and perhaps formulate our hopes for the year ahead of us.
There are 60 million refugees in the world. Some of them have come to seek asylum and a future for themselves and their children here in Sweden. We have a strong desire to help people. Massive and important efforts are being made to assist those seeking asylum and security.
In the autumn I met several young people at an asylum centre outside Östersund and I was greeted by a sense of enthusiasm and a keen aspiration to succeed and do well in their new country.
Together with The Queen, I also visited Kronan School in Trollhättan a while back. A perfectly ordinary Swedish primary and lower secondary school with basketball hoops in the playground and the word “Welcome” painted in large yellow letters at the entrance. It could have been anywhere at all in Sweden if it wasn’t for the terrible act of violence that had occurred at this very school several weeks earlier. Candles in memory of the victims had been lit at the youth recreation centre.
Amidst the grief and gloom it was good to see how the staff were working to restore things for the pupils. To restore a sense of normality and security, which is so valuable, to children and adults alike.
Then in November, 130 young people lost their lives in a series of coordinated terror attacks in Paris. These attacks affected us all deeply, and they reminded us how vulnerable we are. The openness and trust that has characterised our society thus far cannot always be taken for granted. Not even here in Sweden. We must safeguard and stand up for these values.
Undoubtedly, our times are subject to darkness and unrest, but that is one of the reasons why it is so important to also hold onto all the positives and remind one another that we have good reason to feel hope and confidence in the future.
As Sweden’s head of State, I visit many places both in Sweden and beyond our country’s borders and meet many people from different walks of life.
Over the past year, for example, I have visited several authorities working to consolidate our contingency planning for accidents and crises. I have seen some of the important work being done by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and SOS Alarm. Work that is particularly relevant today. It is also interesting to see how international cooperation is leading to reciprocal exchange. Swedish know-how can save lives in other countries and we in turn are able to learn from others’ knowledge and experience.
During the year I have also met many talented Swedish entrepreneurs who are creating new jobs, in particular through environmental innovations. The people behind these enterprises have extremely varied backgrounds. They may come from Västerås, from Gnosjö or from Pakistan. However, they have certain crucial things in common: they have an idea, and they are focused on working hard to realise it. Such ideas, and the genuine desire and driving force embodied within them, will benefit us all in the future.
It is inspiring to gain an insight, through these meeting and visits, into some of what is being done to not just keep Sweden running, but to ensure future development, even in times of hardship and change.
One of my most recent trips this year was to Paris and the big UN climate conference. I was there when the conference opened, and there was a strong feeling of optimism in the air, but also a sense of gravity and determination.
The countries of the world have worked together on one of our biggest future challenges. We now have a common objective to curb global warming. A historic agreement is in place: the first ever global climate agreement. It is gratifying and inspires hope in the face of future challenges. I am proud to be able to say that Sweden will be a force to be reckoned with in the continued work towards a sustainable future.
Incidentally, it was also in Paris, 120 years ago, that Alfred Nobel wrote the will that formed the basis for the Nobel Prize. It was a particular honour this year to be able to award the Prize in Chemistry to a winner with a Swedish background. Tomas Lindahl began his career as a scientist here in Sweden, and together with colleagues he has laid an important foundation for the development of new cancer treatments, among other things.
The major issues of our time sometimes bring us face to face with a difficult balancing act, as a country and as individuals. It is not always easy to know which is the right way forward.
My desire is for us as a nation to shoulder our shared responsibility to contribute to constructive solutions to the challenges of the future. But we should also take responsibility as people, to show respect and consideration to one another. And our responsibility as adults is to communicate confidence, hope and belief in the future to our children and grandchildren.
On a more personal level, The Queen and I are very happy that The Crown Princess and Prince Daniel are expecting their second child. We are also delighted that Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia are to become parents, which will make us paternal grandparents for the first time.
In this context, let me take this opportunity to thank you for all your good wishes during the year, on the occasion of both Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia’s wedding and Prince Nicolas’ christening. Your kind words and good wishes mean a great deal to all our family.
In conclusion, I want to thank those of you who are actively involved in Swedish clubs and organisations. I believe that broad networks of dedicated individuals are a huge asset to our country, in particular when it comes to taking care of our young people and helping new Swedes to settle into our community. With the new year approaching, I want to offer special encouragement to those of you who devote your time to others. You are needed!
And that brings me to the end of my Christmas message from the Royal Palace. My family and I would once again like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for 2016!