Sweden in the world
Nordstjernan recently reported that Annika Rembe has been appointed the new General Director of Svenska Institutet (SI) and that a “new” image of Sweden is about to be presented. The question most Swedes ask is: What exactly is it about Sweden that we want to present internationally? Is it Volvo, Abba, and Ingmar Bergman? Or is it perhaps something newer than that? The directives given by the Swedish state to among others, SI, states that it’s important to create a clear, attractive and modern image of Sweden in order to sell the country abroad. But how is that done? Jan-Olof Bengtsson in KvP/Expressen examines “Sverigebilden 2010” (Sweden’s Image 2010), which was launched last month and is a kind of key to the most recent PR-form, which is based on a yearly international questionnaire from Anholt Nation Brands Index (NBI). Last year over 20 000 people from over 20 countries participated in giving their view of 50 other countries. Sweden is number 10 when it comes to the total power of its brand name – the worst placing since the NBI began in 2005. America has, on the other hand, bettered its image internationally – much thanks to the Obama effect – and has gone from number 7 to number 1.

Sweden unknown, lacking in interesting sights..?
But back to Sweden. What’s worrisome is how unknown Sweden is in the world and how vague it remains as a tourist attraction. When it comes to culture alone, Sweden plunges to number 14. How come? Sweden, the general consensus seems to be, is lacking in interesting sights, and our cities are much too small for packaged city tours alone, add to that the fact that Sweden is cold and dark and quiet expensive. When it comes to the general knowledge about Sweden, we plunge even further to a dismal 19th spot - a spot we share with Cuba, Ireland and Scotland. Not many people seem to know much about our country. Thus what the index blatantly shows, according to Bengtsson, is that we’ve failed in trying to make Sweden attractive. “In many respects we cling to old merits with names like Palme, Hammarskjöld and Bergman,” he writes. what this has led to is a canned image of Sweden, a somewhat old-fashioned and nearly static image. Bengtsson warns that if this is not corrected properly, “the image of our country will pale as the generations change.”

Per Olov Enquist awarded Austrian literature prize
The prolific Swedish author Per Olov Enquist, famous for his historical novels, has been awarded Austria’s State Prize for European Literature. The 25,000 Euro ($32,275) prize was given to him in Salzburg by Austrian Culture Minister Claudia Schmied, who called the 76-year old writer a “great European story-teller”. "Accuracy and mastership define Enquist's diverse and rich literary oeuvre, which seems to have been written effortlessly and which involves the reader in a unique way in stories that he can tell like no other, somewhere between fiction, reportage, essay and autobiography," Schmied said. Author of novels such as "The Visit of the Royal Physician" about Danish king Christian VII, and "The Book about Blanche and Marie", centering around Nobel physics laureate Marie Curie, Enquist has also written plays, essays and children's books. Past winners of the Austrian prize, which has been awarded since 1965, include Umberto Eco, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Simone de Beauvoir and Harold Pinter.

Few gay church marriages
The controversial law on same-sex marriage was introduced in Sweden just about one year ago. But since then, only 48 same-sex couples have chosen to get married in church, new figures show. At the same time, a total of 588 same-sex couples have chosen to get a civil wedding, and 548 couples have chosen to convert their civil union to the legal status of a marriage.

Officially a couple
The Royal Swedish Court has been busier this year than in a long time, at least when it comes to admitting, denying or simply avoiding relationship issues. The latest from the court is an admission: They are indeed a couple, Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist. At the same time, new photos of a bikini-clad Sofia have surfaced in Swedish media, and the magazine Slitz (for which Sofia posed before her royal romance) named her the “Sexiest woman in Sweden” – something that irks the royal family. Says Nina Eldh, Press Officer at the Royal Swedish Court: “It is unfortunate that a young woman’s earlier life and that the fact that she has a relationship with the prince is being exploited.” One ponders why the court is admitting the romance at this particular moment in time. Might it be that the Prince is set on staying with Hellqvist, whatever others may think? And if so, what will be the next step in the romance? The couple was recently spotted vacationing in Båstad, where also the Prince’s ex, Emma Pernald, was seen partying.