Issued by the Office of the Presidency

Prime Minister Persson
Minister Engqvuist
Ladies & Gentlemen

I welcome you all to our beautiful country and particularly to this beautiful city, Cape Town. I am told Prime Minister that you have had a busy schedule prior to travelling to South Africa and must therefore be tired. I am convinced however that the trip has been worthwhile. I trust also that you will find the change in weather rather pleasing and that the welcome you receive from South Africans will be even warmer.

Today is a very special day as it is a culmination of an idea conceived in Stockholm last November, when you and our President felt that there was a need to bring our two countries closer together. Although relations between the two countries have always been, and still are, excellent there was a recognition that this special friendship could always be deepened and further improved.

Looking back, on the even of the dawn of a new millennium, one has to recognise that the links between the people of South Africa and Sweden go back centuries. Swedish missionaries made great sacrifices in coming to our country where they made great contributions to the well being of our people.

During the latter half of this century, Sweden has been amongst our closest friends in aiding and supporting the struggle for democracy in South Africa. A most special and remarkable aspect of this support was that it was based on the goodwill of the Swedish people and not only official governmental aid. In the smallest communities and various corners of your country people recognised the rightness of our cause and aligned themselves with our struggle. Their support took many forms and assistance covered a myriad of fields.

The people of Sweden offered their resources, their homes and facilities to South Africans.

Their support was felt in international organisations, where they constantly pushed to keep South Africa on the agenda and pressed for progress in bringing about democracy in our country. It was a support that never wavered but grew until democracy was finally achieved. We are at the point now where we can together with our friends celebrate our freedom and look forward to making this freedom more meaningful for ourselves in all the many spheres of our society.

Today then is the beginning of a remarkable week in which we will examine not only what we have already achieved, but where we want to go and how we can get there together. The emphasis on partnership is a very important one because the people of both our countries have much to benefit from it. The celebration of this week, the South Africa-Swedish week will encompass all corners of South Africa, from Cape Town to Pretoria, Kimberly to Port Shepstone and from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. It will build on the existing political, economic, cultural, sporting and many other aspects of the relations between our two countries.

Since 1994 the official relations between Sweden and South Africa have increased dramatically, but here in Cape Town during the coming few days it is the civil society links between our two countries that will be celebrated, this being the very foundation upon which our relationship and partnership exists.

Relations that aim to promote human rights, youth matters, gender issues, children's rights, issues around the disabled, culture and sport, to mention just a few, are dependent on the passion that exists between the peoples of South Africa and Sweden. These are vital relations that must be encouraged. I am positive that the next few days will set new goals and I look forward to seeing more co-operation between our two countries.

Dear Swedish friends, thank you once again for being with us. I feel assured that our two peoples will always be linked by a close friendship.

I thank you.

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