Swedish FM on Ramallah visit raps Palestinians for corruption

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde called on the Palestinian Authority to fight its own corruption, but did not threaten to slash aid to Palestinian NGOs if the corruption will not be curbed.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde (L) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R). October 18, 2021. (photo credit: JORGE NOVOMINSKI)
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde (L) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R). October 18, 2021.
(photo credit: JORGE NOVOMINSKI)

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde called on the Palestinian Authority to mitigate corruption in its ranks, during her visit to Ramallah on Tuesday, the Press Office of the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm confirmed on Thursday.

However, contrary to reports in pro-Hamas media that were picked up by more mainstream sources, the ministry did not confirm that Linde threatened to cut aid to the Palestinians if they do not take care of corruption.

Rather, the press office said, “strengthened democratic public institutions – including reduced corruption and increased accountability – is one of the objectives of Sweden’s five-year strategy” for aid to the Palestinians, which ends in 2024.

Linde “underlined that Sweden’s development cooperation with Palestine will continue in line with our five-year strategy,” the ministry stated.

And, in fact, Linde called for the EU to transfer funds to Palestinian NGOs, which have been stuck because the EU made its standards more stringent against funding organizations that employ people who are members of terrorist organizations, and due to complaints that school books published thanks to EU donations contain antisemitic content and incitement to violence.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde arrives for the EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium May 10, 2021. (credit: Olivier Matthys/Pool via REUTERS)Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde arrives for the EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium May 10, 2021. (credit: Olivier Matthys/Pool via REUTERS)

“Sweden believes that continued EU support to Palestine is very important,” the Foreign Ministry stated. “Both Sweden and EU have robust control systems to ensure that development assistance is only used for the intended purposes.”

The idea that Linde conditioned Sweden’s aid to the Palestinians on eradicating corruption seems to be rooted in a remark she made to Radio Sweden before the visit to Ramallah, which Google Translate said was, “If we are to be able to fully support economic development, then we cannot have corruption at such a level as exists in Palestine.”

However, Radio Sweden’s English website translates Linde’s statement as, “Ms Linde also points at widespread corruption within Palestine as an obstacle for Swedish ambitions to help with economic development.”

In other words, Linde would like Sweden to increase donations to the Palestinians, but their corruption stands in the way.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry said that “at every meeting, the Minister emphasized the importance of holding national elections and improving the human rights situation and the rule of law, including the need for justice sector reform. These issues have been regularly raised and discussed as part of our bilateral dialogue.”

Linde visited Jerusalem before going to Ramallah this week, making her the first Swedish foreign minister to do so in a decade, and the first since Sweden-Israel relations were downgraded due to Sweden recognizing a Palestinian state in 2014.

Linde said “Sweden is a friend of Israel” and that her country is committed to Israel’s security. She also congratulated Israel for the Abraham Accords.

Neither the office of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid nor President Isaac Herzog would comment on whether the issue of Palestinian NGO funding came up in their meetings with Linde.