Ukip-backed ‘Freedom Awards’ spark protests in Stockholm

An event backed by Nigel Farage has sparked protest in Stockholm. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
An event backed by Nigel Farage has sparked protest in Stockholm. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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Ukip are at the centre of controversy in Sweden after co-organising a networking event and awards ceremony together with a range of populist-right and neo-fascist European parties.

The ‘European Freedom Awards’, due to take place at Stockholm’s five star waterfront Grand Hotel this evening are being run together with the far-right Sweden Democrat party and are expected to attract far-right politicians from across the EU.

This year the prizewinner and ‘guest of honour’ at the luxurious party is former Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Among other things, Klaus has denied the impact of man made climate change, spoken out against gay rights and accused refugees from the Middle East of being ‘fortune hunters’. Klaus had also previously blamed the migration crisis on an ‘EU elite’ and claimed it was designed to dilute European society.

The prize claims to reward ‘increased national autonomy and democracy’ in Europe, but many of those taking part have a a history in anti-democratic and authoritarian movements. Several leading members of the Sweden Democrats have roots in neo-nazi politics in the 1990s. The growth of the far right in Eastern Europe has led both Ukip and the Sweden Democrats to forge alliances with several slavic nationalist parties.

“Just think, 25 years after the fall of the Soviet Union and the East may be what saves Europe,” commented Kent Ekeroth, one of the Sweden Democrat’s leading figures.

Ekeroth was previously involved in the so called ‘Scaffolding-scandal’ after he drunkenly stole materials from a building site and threatened passers by with racist and sexist abuse.

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The Sweden Democrats have campaigned on a strong anti-immigration, white nationalist platform similar to Ukip. They are opposed to EU membership and the vote to leave the EU was regarded as a major victory by both the Sweden Democrats and their allies in the far-right Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE). Members include the right-wing Lithuanian Order and Justice Party, and the event is designed to facilitate networking between members of Europe’s emergent nationalist right.

Stockholm’s prestigious Grand Hotel meanwhile has faced a string of complaints and protests after the event was made public. Activists have given the venue zero star reviews on Facebook and Tripadvisor in protest at their organisation.

The Grand Hotel is owned by the Wallenberg business empire, one of Sweden’s richest and most influential families. The Wallenberg name is known internationally thanks to the efforts of Raoul Wallenberg, who as Sweden’s envoy in Budapest in World War II arranged for thousands of Jews to be sheltered under Swedish jurisdiction to protect them from Nazi and Hungarian fascist deportation drives.

Challenged about the ethics of hosting the event, a spokesman for the Grand Hotel told Swedish newspaper DN “We never comment on such questions, we have not done so in the past and will not do so in future either.”

Nigel Farage is expected to represent Ukip at the awards. Rooms at the Grand cost above 300 pounds a night and the venue offers views onto Stockholm’s old town and royal palace. Ironically, the tab for the event is being paid using EU-funded foundation the Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe, the advocacy arm of the ADDE. EU foundations are taxpayer funded think-tanks designed to support democracy and European integration, something both Ukip and the Sweden Democrats are opposed to.

Eric Rosen, editor of the left wing Swedish comment site Politism said “All around Europe racists, right wing populists, fascist parties and in some case even Nazis are mobilising. The meeting at the Grand Hotel gives them the opportunity to deepen, strengthen and broaden cooperation between the hard right across Europe.”