Swedish politicians, lobbyists and ordinary citizens have been gathering for their annual Almedalsveckan this week on the island of Gotland off Sweden’s east coast. The popularity of the event is inspiring Norwegians to copy its success.
Almedalsveckan started informally more than 40 years ago, when Gotland’s local Labour Party chapter asked then-Prime Minister Olof Palme to share some thoughts in the park area of Almedalen in Visby, Gotland’s main city.
The event was so popular that it became an annual affair, with other political parties eventually joining in.
Now every party represented in Sweden’s Parliament (Riksdagen) is allotted its own day of speeches and seminars. Lobbyists started turning up because all the country’s most powerful politicians were there. The number of seminars skyrocketed, with nearly 1,500 on the program this year.
Several Norwegian politicians and lobbyists have been following the success of Almedalsveckan and would like to host a local version, reports newspaper Aftenposten who had a reporter on Gotland this week. Various venues have been proposed including Bø in Telemark (known for an extensive water and holiday park), Eidsvoll (where Norway’s constitution was signed in 1814) and the seaside town of Arendal on Norway’s southern coast.
Øystein Djupedal, country administrator where Arendal is located, and a local newspaper editor have been on a “study tour” to Gotland and already plan to host a party leader debate in Arendal in early August.
Lobbyists including the former Labour Party politician and government minister Bjarne Håkon Hansen have also traveled to Gotland and reportedly were impressed with the program.
For Visby, the Aledalsveckan has given an important boost to an economy already geared towards tourism. Visby was reported to now live off of trade, education – and Almedalsveckan.
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