With the crowds swelling to their hundreds behind their placates and billboards chanting “Don’t create a platform for racism” the scene was set for a heated debate. But did we actually get any answers?
The medial attention turned to Studentafton this Monday as it went ahead in Athen behind the buffering bastion of police and SÄPO officers. There had been a lot of speculation, discourse and public ridicule against the organisers but as the Studentafton representative remarked;
“Studentafton, has and will always be an open platform for ideas and discussion, that’s not something we shy away from.”
The evening was held with just such a backdrop as the debaters took to the podium to a polite applause. Under the moderation of Jens Liljestrand, who kept tempers and opinions in check, integration minister Erik Ullenhag (FP) and party leader Jimmie Åkesson (SD) faced of in a debate which focused on what it means to be ‘Swedish’ and the challenges of integration in an ever changing Swedish society.
Ullenhag opened with; “We are lucky to have been born in Sweden, and in so follow a responsibility to cater and help those who are fleeing war and persecution.”
Åkesson nodded and countered Ullenhag’s words.
“I’ve had the pleasure in debating against Erik Ullenhag on several occasions, so I’ve got a check list of the usual suspects, “We are lucky to have been born in Sweden,” we can check that one of can’t we.”
This became very much indicative of the evenings proceedings and displayed the fundamental differences between them not just as politicians but also their ideological views in building the ‘welfare’ of the Swedish state.
They went on to argue the angles of integrational policies. Ullenhag stated that the immigration wave from the Balkan states in the 90s was a good example of social and cultural integration into the Swedish socio – economic sector.
Åkesson redirected the argument and said that the country was now facing waves of – ‘Uncompromisable immigration’
It took just minutes for tempers to flare between them after being asked to define what is “quintessentially Swedish.” Whilst Åkesson reminisced about his home municipality and the keeping in touch with the rural and traditional Swedish landscape, Ullenhag took a more aggressive stance.
“The problem is that today, the landscape which Åkesson paints is one where the standard is that of complacency against passive xenophobia and religious discrimination, which drives ideas which have become part of the growing “us and them” mentality”, stated Erik Ullenhag.
In their concluding arguments, Ullenhag was cautiously optimistic over the Swedish future and hopes for broader collaborations on the European level in tackling the questions of immigration and integration into a new society, “something which is significant for our shared future.”
But Åkesson questioned recent rulings and disregarded the notions of an integration policy all together. The Sweden of the future for him, is the revertion to old ideas, ultimately taking steps towards a homogenised society.
The debate went on for little over an hour and a half, yet it finished as abruptly as it had begun and the debaters were quickly whisked away, leaving us to gather what we’d heard.
Political rhetoric or simply words to fill the allotted time?