Yes, this really is a press conference with the Swedish government, but it’s called sommarfika – “summer coffee break”. No suits, no microphones, no bureaucratic furniture; instead some garden chairs, bowls filled with strawberries and lots of colourful dresses and shirts.
The sartorial line-up included a lavender shirt, a breezy cerise top, a multi-coloured pastel top, an electric blue number, and a clementine cardigan.
“Are spunky colours mandatory dress code?” The Local’s acting editor Ann Törnkvist asked the prime minister’s press secretary Daniel Valiollahi. “Well, it is summer… you obviously didn’t get the memo,” he replied, eyeing up her all-black ensemble.
In the summertime back home in my native Germany, public broadcasting does some summer interviews and always tries to sell it as big news – but in the end they are just criticized for not being tough enough. Other than that, you still get the same pictures of politicians standing in hallways, giving the press summer-hole-stories. In Sweden, at least, you can take some pictures of politicians in front of some bushes.
And even while the sun did not penetrate the deepest depth of the courtyard at government quarters Rosenbad, there was no missing the laid-back atmosphere. At one point, European Affairs and Democracy Minister Birgitta Ohlsson offered grapes to her colleague and Social Insurance Minister Ulf Kristersson. I have never seen someone get so excited about fruit.
So, as it is summer, and most Swedish newsrooms are choc-a-bloc with summer substitute reporters, we asked Valiollahi if the journos churn out less than astute questions during the summer months?
“Not stupid questions, but you can tell they’ve not been around for long, because they might ask about something that the government gave a press conference about in May, for example,” the mild-mannered bureaucrat said.
And while journos might be able to take all of July off, as is customary in Sweden, the politicians have no such luck.
“Politicians do not have vacations, they are always politicians,” said Valiollahi.
But they do take turns, this is, after all, the “summer cabinet”, and while the ministers drinking coffee from dainty cups sealed with the three-crowns insignia of the Swedish state don’t necessarily have minor portfolios to carry to work each morning – culture, labour, and equality among them – hard-hitting head honchos such as the prime and finance ministers were drinking their morning coffee elsewhere.
Steffen Daniel Meyer and Ann Törnkvist