YEREVAN, JUNE 25, ARMENPRESS. Swedish Member of Parliament Björn Söder from the Sweden Democrats party says his government’s failure to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide is “betrayal”. The Parliament of Sweden, or the Riksdag, acknowledged the 1915 extermination of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire to constitute genocide in 2010, however to this day the government of the country hasn’t officially recognized it.
In an interview to ArmenPress, the Swedish MP – who from 2014 to 2018 also served as Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament – talked about the issue and other topics on the agenda.
Mr. Söder, you were among the first to visit Armenia after the 2018 Velvet Revolution. What are your impressions from this visit?
I was deeply impressed with this democratic maturity which was demonstrated during this crucial event for the country. I, as well as most of the world, was concerned that the situation during the revolution could’ve become the way we often witnessed in other countries, where initially peaceful protests transformed into mass revolutions. However, I believe that Armenia demonstrated that it deserves praise and respect. I have emphasized this during all dialogues that I had during my visit.
How do you assess the current level of the Sweden-Armenia inter-parliamentary cooperation? What prospects for developing these relations exist?
It is clear that there is an opportunity for inter-parliamentary cooperation and first of all for boosting it. I am very hopeful that we will be able to deepen cooperation and use the experience of our countries. There are additional opportunities for cooperation in various inter-parliamentary assemblies internationally also. Personally I am actively involved in the OSCE PA and I welcome the expansion of cooperation in this arena.
Mr. Söder, a parliamentary delegation headed by Speaker of Parliament of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan recently visited Sweden and met with Swedish lawmakers. What are your impressions from this visit?
It was a very good visit. I hope that the Armenian delegation found it to be as valuable as I did. I participated in the talks of the speakers, as well as the dinner. Overall we had a productive dialogue about politics. I took the opportunity to ask Mr. Mirzoyan to request our Speaker with the issue of designating Alma Johansson’s place in the Room of Kind Works of our parliament, something I have been trying to achieve for a long time.
Alma Johansson (1880-1974) was a Swedish missionary who worked with survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
Söder expressed hope that his work for inducting Johansson in the honorary room will be successful. “She deserves it so much. I guess the most important factor for doing so is that the Swedish school children who every year visit our parliament and pass this room will be informed about the genocide. This is extremely important, especially because to this day there are still those who deny what happened. We must never forget what happened”.
Mr. Söder, the Swedish parliament recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2010 and called upon the government to follow its lead. Why do you think the Swedish government hasn’t officially recognized the Armenian Genocide to this day? Don’t you think that the recognition of the Armenian Genocide will contribute to the prevention of such crimes against humanity?
The fact that our parliament has recognized the genocide is an occasion for personal pride. At the same time I feel disappointed and betrayed by the fact that the Swedish government hasn’t recognized what oru parliament asked to. During the 2014 campaigning period the Social-Democrats vowed to officially recognize the genocide if they were to win the election. Despite the fact that they won the election, and then again in 2018, they failed to realize this promise, and I find this to be a mass betrayal committed by our government and the prime minister.
On May 2, 2019 the Swedish Parliament ratified the Armenia-EU CEPA. How do you think can the agreement impact on the bilateral relations between Armenia and Sweden?
I hope that this agreement will contribute to the enhancement of trade turnover, scientific research and investment interests between our two countries.
Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan