The year in review: Scandinavia

28th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

Cartoons, school shooting and elections marked the Nordic year in 2007

Stockholm (dpa) - Finland held a national day of mourning after a high-school shooting in November that claimed eight lives before the gunman turned the gun on himself.

The shooting rampage added Jokela, some 60 kilometres north of Helsinki, to a tragic list of fatal school shootings dating back to Columbine in the US state of Colorado.

The gunman, 18, posted several videos and a manifesto on the internet-based video-sharing site YouTube.

The shooting sparked a debate on gun laws and how to spot signs of bullying and students who felt they had no part in the system.

Threats against other schools in Finland were reported in the wake of the incident, as well as in neighbouring Sweden and Norway.

For the second year running, the publication of a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed generated news in the Nordic region.

Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who depicted the prophet as a dog, was placed under police guard and moved to a secret location after a series of threats.

Regional newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published his cartoon along with an editorial on freedom of speech and religion after Vilks's cartoon was pulled from an exhibition.

Local Muslim organizations staged peaceful protests.

The stakes were raised in September when a threat attributed to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, a leader in the Abu Ghraib area of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq, offered a bounty of $100,000 on Vilks's head and $50,000 for the Nerikes Allehanda editor-in-chief.

Swedish companies also raised security in the wake of boycott calls published on a radical website, fearing a repeat of the 2006 cartoon crisis in neighbouring Denmark.

The ramifications were contained by some skilful moves by Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who met with the Muslim community and also with ambassadors from Muslim countries to explain the Swedish system of freedom of speech while distancing himself from the cartoon.


Reinfeldt's one-year-old centre-right government had an uphill haul in opinion polls after implementing reductions in unemployment benefits and disclosures of unpaid taxes by some key officials. Mona Sahlin was elected the first female leader of the opposition Social Democrats, succeeding veteran Goran Persson.

In Finland, Prime Minister Matti Vahanen continued at the helm of a four-party government after elections in March that saw his Centre Party retain its position as the largest party, just ahead of the conservative National Coalition Party.

The conservatives replaced the Social Democrats in the coalition that also included the Greens and the Swedish People's Party.

A last-minute wage deal averted looming chaos in the Finnish health sector as the health workers' union threatened mass resignations.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen called snap elections in October and, after a three-week campaign, was returned for a third term.

He aimed to continue with his centre-right minority government of Liberals and Conservatives that since 2001 has been backed by the populist Danish People's Party.

Foreign policy did not play a central role in the campaign, but earlier in the year Danish troops were pulled out of southern Iraq ending a controversial chapter in the nation's history.

Rasmussen needs support from other forces to secure a more firm working majority.

He approached newly formed centrist New Alliance that is at odds with the Danish People's Party on several issues, not least asylum policy, suggesting the premier's negotiating skills were likely to be tested in coming months.


In Norway, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg reshuffled his cabinet after a poor showing by junior partner the Socialist Left Party at local elections in September. In addition he named the "first non-Norwegian" cabinet member, Caribbean-born Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen, responsible for the Ministry of Children and Equality.

It the end of August, Iceland said it would not renew commercial whaling licenses at present citing lack of demand for whale meat.

In royal-related news, Norway's popular King Harald and Queen Sonja were feted as they both turned 70.

Their daughter, Princess Martha Louise, settled a case with the publisher of a book -- on the subject of angels -- that used her photo on the cover without her permission.

Her appearance at the trial in October was reportedly a first by a member of the royal family.

Martha Louise earlier made headlines by promoting a new centre that will offer courses on meditation, healing, self-development and how to get in touch with angels.

New grandchild

Denmark's Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik in April celebrated the birth of a new grandchild, Isabella, daughter of their eldest son Crown Prince Frederik and his Australian-born wife Mary.

Prince Joachim, youngest son of the queen, announced in October his engagement to French-born Mary Cavallier. The wedding date was later set for May 24, 2008.

In Sweden, royal watchers have yet to hear word of Crown Princess Victoria's possible engagement. She turned 30 in July.

Hostile bid averted

In business, Norwegian energy groups Statoil and Norsk Hydro merged their oil and gas activities, and were in the autumn awarded a 24-per-cent stake in the development of the huge Shtokman gas field in the Barents Sea. Swedish heavy-vehicle maker Scania and its main Swedish stakeholder in January welcomed the announcement that German rival MAN AG would withdraw a hostile takeover bid.

Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson's share prices tumbled 24 percent after a profit warning in October.

The SAS Group, operator of the joint carrier Scandinavian Airlines, in October announced it would stop using its fleet of Dash 8-Q-400 turboprop planes in the wake of several emergency landings attributed to faulty landing gear.

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