Thursday, February 22, 2018
Politics

Sweden has no idea what Trump meant when he said, 'You look at what's happening in Sweden'

If you believe Swedish media, Friday night was relatively uneventful. Among the most noteworthy headlines were reports that a popular Swedish singer had technical problems during a musical competition.

But if you believe President Donald Trump, something happened in Sweden on Friday night that deserved the attention of the world. However, nobody knows what that might be so far, least the Swedes.

During a rally Saturday, Trump referred to several countries that have taken in a disproportionate number of refugees and that have recently been struck by attacks. "We've got to keep our country safe. You look at what's happening in Germany. You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?" Trump went on to refer to Paris, Nice and Brussels, cities where attacks occurred in the past two years.

A spokeswoman for the Swedish Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press on Sunday that authorities were not aware of any "terror-linked major incidents" that occurred Friday night in Sweden. According to the spokeswoman, the Swedish embassy in Washington has asked the State Department to clarify Trump's remarks.

Although Trump did not explicitly say it, his remarks were widely perceived to suggest that an attack occurred Friday night in Sweden. "Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound," former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter.

Others reacted by posting photos of how they believe Sweden really looked Friday night, using the hashtag #lastnightinsweden.

The White House already faced criticism this month after it included an incident in the Swedish city of Malmö on its list of allegedly underreported attacks. In October, arson caused smoke damage at an Iraqi community center in Malmö. A judge, however, decided that there was no evidence for treating the incident as a "terror attack" - months before the White House released the list that referred to the incident.

Sweden took in more refugees per capita than any other country in Europe at the height of the influx in 2015. The country has long viewed itself as having a moral obligation to take in refugees from war-torn countries. But Sweden reached its limits as other E.U. neighbors refused to fulfill their commitments.

The influx of refugees has not come without problems in Sweden, but mainstream politicians and immigration experts say the criticism has been disproportionate. In summer 2016, Swedish embassies were tasked to counter rumors or false information on Sweden's experience with taking in large numbers of immigrants.

Speaking on Friday, one day before Trump's remarks, Henrik Selin of the Swedish Institute said there are "people whose political agenda suggests they would like to tell the story of countries not being able to receive that many refugees, who seem to want to exaggerate problems," according to Radio Sweden.

Although Sweden views itself as increasingly isolated in regard to its pro-immigration stance, the country found widespread cross-European support on social media Sunday. "Dear @realDonaldTrump," Alexander Stubb, the former prime minister of Finland tweeted. "Sweden is immigration friendly, international & liberal. One of the most prosperous, richest, safest places on earth."

And a country with relatively calm Friday nights, it seems.

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