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Europe

Leaning to the Left in Stockholm

Those agonising over the growing trend of right-wing parties in power in Europe, might tune in to Stockholm where leaders from the political left are meeting to ponder the state of democracy and global justice.

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The Left Club: Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, left and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder

European Socialists Gerhard Schöder, Lionel Jospin and Tony Blair are meeting with other Socialist friends from four other continents in Stockholm.

On the agenda is a long list of global questions. Right from the fight against international terror, economic disasters, the march of globalisation to simmering flash points around the world.

The two day summit meeting of Centre-Left state and government leaders is being held under the motto "A progressive Agenda for Democracy and global Justice". It's a meet that was planned for mid September last year, but the events of September 11 led to its postponement.

Apart from European countries, the 12 state and government leaders come from South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, Brazil and Canada. They represent five continents, 540 million people, poor and rich countries.

But the 11 men and one woman are definitely related in spirit.

Common values and political goals

The Swedish State Secretary, Pär Nuder says, "What the participants share in common are fundamental values and the view of what can be achieved politically. Besides all are convinced that democracy must be strengthened, on the national and global level".

What the participants share in common is hardly surprising. After all the progressive summit was founded by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair in 1997.

The two leaders during the course of other summits and meets in New York and Berlin gathered around them similar liberal-thinking people to build an informal network of Social Democratic or liberal state and government leaders.

As the website of the Stockholm Progressive Summit puts it, "The network consists of Heads of State and Government who share the conviction that development and equality are interlinked as each other's preconditions."

Sweden only Leftist power in Scandinavia

Little wonder then that the Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson is the only participant among the Scandinavian countries. Norway, Denmark and Finnland no longer have leftist governments in power.

Pär Nuder says that the informal network should be expanded geographically and not have a heavy European focus.

"Europe is well represented. Göran Persson should not be seen as a representative of the Scandinavian countries."

Tackling a host of issues

Over a business meal in the Wasa Museum in Stockholm, impassioned debates over democracy in the world are likely to be played out.

But Pär Nuder also expects the talks to turn to the dire economic situation in Argentina since there are two participants from South America. And discussions could also lead to the pressing problems in Zimbabwe and the Middle East.

But the summit will not be marked by mere rhetoric. Concrete exchanges of political experiences and ideas are also expected. The aim is to learn from one another.

An expert group has assembled examples from the respective countries that could serve as a model for others, for instance in the fields of health, environment and work.

And though the circumstances and conditions in the countries vary greatly, it's hoped that some of the state and government leaders at least pick up some good ideas to ponder over.

Summit flayed

The summit has come in for a fair amount of flak. Critics have pointed out that the meet which costs 700,000 euro is nothing but an attempt by the participating leaders to score points on the foreign political stage.

That would come in handy for future elections, they say like the upcoming ones in September in Sweden and Germany.

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