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Swedish Foreign Ministry organizes business trip to the corrupt regime

Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Things are getting tough and the markets are getting cramp, as such, countries such as Sweden which used to shy away from doing businesses with regimes that are deemed corrupt and repressive regime reversing that.

Although it is not something that started today, Swedish business have been growing gradually in countries where most people consider repressive and are supposed to be avoided when it come to doing ethical businesses. Take for example, doing business with regime like today’s Azerbajdzjan which has been criticised for human rights violation.

But Swedish companies are now penetrating these markets and are assisted at the highest level of government. This morning, the news headline on the Swedish leading daily, Dagens Nyheter, reads that “the Swedish Foreign Ministry organizes business trip to the corrupt regime”.

In the article, it is held that the minister of trade and commerce, Ewa Björling, has called on Swedish Telecom Companies to react to accusation of their activities in dictatorships countries.


This happens at the same time when the Swedish foreign office as well as the Swedish Trade Council are leading a delegation of Swedish companies to Azerbaijan, regarded as one of the world's most corrupt and un-free countries.

The purpose of the trip which will take place next week is to encourage Swedish energy companies to do business with the country's oil and gas industry.

Ewa Björling has previously reacted and called for, companies such as Telia Sonera and Ericsson among others to discuss their responsibility for human rights in dictatorships regime win which they are accused of supplying eavesdropping and surveillance equipments to the regimes to monitor and tract down critics of those regimes. It should be noted that recently Ericsson was accused to have supplied spying equipments to the Iraqi tyrannical regime to monitor and listen to critics and later on capture and detain them.

In Azerbaijan, much of the oil revenue goes directly to the governing elite in the country, according to observers.

“The state oil and gas industry is the key to control by the state for this type of regime. The president has total control of the country's oil fund, a certain percentage of the money is distributed annually to various government agencies through the budget process and that is where the money to some extent disappears,” says Svante Cornell, a political scientist at the Institute for Security and Development Policy to the paper.

During the two days visit by the Swedish Export Council, they promised to meet with senior government representatives, Azerenergy - the National Electricity Company, and the national oil and gas companies, Socar Azerbaijan as well as meetings with major international oil companies currently operating there. On the trip is also there will be Carl Bildt's cabinet secretary, Frank Belfrage.

Frank Umbach is one of Europe's leading experts on security and energy issues. He does not believe that bribery is unavoidable.

“There is nothing in the national energy companies that the government, president or his closest advisors don’t approval. People are very corrupt and as a company, you must play by their rules. There are many companies that are willing to take your place,” said Frank Umbach.
Inspired by the Arab spring's success in Tunisia and Egypt there has been a number of peaceful demonstrations staged in Azerbaijan. It has led to the regime's brutality to increase, according to Human Rights Watch.

“Human rights situation in the country is worrying and has deteriorated considerably. 14 dissident bloggers and activists have been arrested this year alone,” says Rachel Denbar, director of Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia Department to Dagens Nyheter.

Azerbaijan is ranked at 152th  out of 178 countries in press freedom organization, Reporters without Borders press freedom index. It is further down the rankings than, say, Ethiopia, where Swedish journalist Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson are imprisoned.

Despite this, Swedish companies and the Swedish government have to do what it has to do even if it has to bulldoze through a repressive regime to make some money. As for the companies, reputation means nothing especially if the shareholders’ needs their returns and again Sweden will be seen as a high rated western hypocrite which bites and blows.
By Team

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