At the Almedalen political festival in Visby, Swedish lawmaker Per Bolund joins us to talk climate change, national politics, Sweden’s response to global National Security Agency surveillance and the government’s standoff with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Elected to to the Swedish Riksdag in 2006, Bolund serves as the Green Party’s spokesperson for finance policy and is a member of the party’s board of directors.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Per Bolund. I met him earlier today right by this broadcast. He is the economic spokesperson for the Green Party.
PER BOLUND: This is like a democratic workshop for a whole week in Sweden where every party is here, and also many organizations and companies are here. And we have possibility to discuss all different topics that are on the political table. And this is really, really interesting. And I think one of the problems is there’s too much happening, so it’s really hard to choose where to go and what seminar to attend, actually.
AMY GOODMAN: How did Almedalen start?
PER BOLUND: It actually started in the '70s with Olof Palme, one of the prime ministers from before, who started speaking at a park nearby here. And then other party leaders started to join in the coming years, and then it's been a tradition that all parties who are in Parliament come here. And now we have—each other, we have one day each. And we also have seminars and speak—talk together. So, it’s a very good playing field for actually meeting and discussing in a more not-so-tense way as we do it in Parliament, for example.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what the latest polls show for the elections that are coming up? And when are those elections?
PER BOLUND: The elections are in mid-September, 14th of September, here in Sweden, so it’s just a couple of months ahead. And it shows very clearly that we’re going to have a shift in power, so the conservative government that is now in place will probably, as it looks today, at least, lose the election. And there’s a great chance that red and green parties, the Green Party together with the Social Democrats, will have a possibility to form the next government.
AMY GOODMAN: And what does that mean, a green-red alliance?
PER BOLUND: Well, we’re the Green Party, of course. And in the latest polls, we have around 13 percent of the voters, so that’s a great increase for us, which is of course very positive from our standpoint. And then there’s the Social Democrats, who are around 25 to 30 percent in different polls. And then there’s also the Left Party and a new party, actually, who perhaps will come into the Parliament, who is a feminist party, the Feminist Initiative. So, there’s a possibility that there will be nine parties actually in Parliament after the election this fall.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is the main platform of the Green Party?
PER BOLUND: Well, the main platform for our party is, of course, that the environment is the basis for our whole society and for our economy. And right now we’re talking about an environment that is being destroyed rapidly, both with the climate issue, of course, climate destruction, but also with biodiversity, which is decreasing rapidly. So we are actually undermining the—what is actually serving our society and giving us the basis for existence. And that, of course, is not a sustainable way to walk into the future. So we have to solve our climate and environmental problems, and we believe that we can do that in a modernizing way so that we also get more businesses, more economic development and more jobs.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the role of the United States when it comes to the issue of climate change?
PER BOLUND: Well, I think I’m—to say positively, I think it’s very good that President Obama has actually started to tackle the climate issue. But previously, I’m sorry to say that the United States has been a destructive force in the climate issue, which is very unfortunate, because I think that the United States would also be able to benefit from a modernization of the energy system and the transportation system to work towards renewable energy and energy efficiency. So, I’m very positive that President Obama at least has taken the initiative now, and I think that is promising, so that we also can get an international deal in Paris in 2015, to have an international regulation that makes it able for us to save the climate.
AMY GOODMAN: I just saw this very unusual scene here. You were standing in front of a coffee truck with, oh, scores of people watching, and you were questioning business people about what kind of regulations they prefer. I mean, to see a scene like that in the United States, politicians questioning business people, asking if they would like to be more regulated, what would help—we wouldn’t see that. Explain what was happening.
PER BOLUND: Well, it was actually a fun way to try to turn the table around. Normally, of course, it’s the business asking us questions, and also the media asking us questions. So now we had a chance to ask questions back, to ask them what would they like to see, and what do they see as the problems, but also the possibilities of a modernization and reduction of climate emissions and, of course, an increase in efficiency. So it was very interesting. And I felt there was—they were very understanding, and they had high knowledge about our environmental issues, which is very positive, from our standpoint, of course.
AMY GOODMAN: What are you proudest of in terms of the Green Party’s accomplishments around the issue of climate?
PER BOLUND: Well, my pride is that Sweden is actually ahead in taking the lead internationally, and that is of course due to the Green Party. We have been cooperating in government position, and we’ve increased the environmental taxes, and that has improved our economy and has also made it possible for us to take the lead to actually decrease our emissions at the same time as our economy is growing.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you grow the economy and regulate it more around the issue of climate?
PER BOLUND: Well, if we make it that you actually have to pay the costs that you are imposing on the climate and on the environment, you actually get a modern economy. That is, you take in all the indirect effects of your production, for example. And that, of course, makes the economy more effective, and it makes it also profitable for companies to develop the new technologies, to develop the efficient technologies that all of the world will ask for. And so, that makes it also possible to increase our exports. So, more and more people here in Sweden are starting to see that modernizing the economy and decreasing resource use and increasing efficiency is the recipe for a modern, effective economy.
AMY GOODMAN: Per Bolund, it might surprise many to know that, though Sweden to the rest of the world is known as the place where the Nobel Peace Prize comes out of—it’s awarded in Oslo, but of course—that Sweden is one of the major weapons exporters in the world, number two, I believe. Can you talk about—can you talk about that?
PER BOLUND: Yeah, well, of course. That’s a problem that, in the Green Party, we would like to tackle. We’d like to redirect the industry so that it doesn’t produce weapons, but actually increase production, for example, of environmental technology instead. So, the knowledge that we have in the weapons manufacturing industries could be used for peaceful and environmentally friendly products instead. And that is, of course, the Green Party policy. So, we’re very critical about the size of the weapons industry, but also about the countries that we export to. We export, unfortunately, to countries that are not very democratic and actually oppresses their population. And to us, that’s totally unacceptable. So we have to change the system around, and we think we can do that by having regulation and by having a tax system that actually makes it more profitable to invest in what is sustainable.
AMY GOODMAN: Two last questions. The United States and much of the rest of the world—for example, we were just in Germany—has been rocked by the NSA scandal, National Security Agency spying on people in the U.S. and around the world. What about here in Sweden? What are your thoughts on that?
PER BOLUND: Well, of course, we are very upset about that, and both about the American system but also about the Swedish authorities that has also been involved in not very open projects about finding information about us Swedes and about other people in the world. And we think that a modern society has to be based on trust and that we actually are able to be private and have our integrity also on the Internet. And that is, of course, much harder when you have this kind of system that actually uses information in an illegitimate way, in my opinion.
AMY GOODMAN: Edward Snowden, do you think he’s a hero?
PER BOLUND: I think it’s very good that he actually exposed the system, which is very important, because, I mean, there’s been a lot of talk and a lot of—well, not very based discussion, but now we have more information to go on, and I think that’s very good for the future discussions.
AMY GOODMAN: And the person that facilitated his making it to Russia and getting political asylum was Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. Your thoughts on Julian Assange?
PER BOLUND: Well, I think that WikiLeaks, which he founded, is a very good organization. I mean, we, of course, have had some problem. Julian Assange has been indicted here in Sweden because of some of his activities that he had here. So that’s a—
AMY GOODMAN: Well, not indicted, but there are allegations that have been brought.
PER BOLUND: Yeah, exactly. There are allegations. So I think that it would be very good if the law system could have its space and actually work that out. But I think that the WikiLeaks is an important tool to use for democracy worldwide.
AMY GOODMAN: On that issue of Julian Assange, he said he’s willing to be questioned by Swedish authorities. He’s concerned, if he was extradited to Sweden, he might then be extradited to the United States and be charged around the issue of the leaks. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think the Swedish authorities should question him at the embassy where he’s holed up in London?
PER BOLUND: I think that that’s a question that is for the legal system to answer, not for the political system, actually. So I think I’ll pass on that one.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Per Bolund. He was elected to the Swedish Parliament in 2006, representing the Green Party. He serves as the Green Party spokesperson for finance policy and is a member of the party’s board of directors. Today is Green Day at Almedalen here in Sweden. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.