Are you Closing your Borders? A study on the impact of the migration crisis on the work with promoting the image and interests of Sweden abroad
Abstract: The Image of Sweden abroad usually comes with positive connotations. Some of Sweden’s perceived strengths, e.g. being open, authentic, caring, and innovative, are represented in the Strategy for the Image of Sweden (2013). However, changing circumstances, such as the implementation of internal border controls as a result of the migration crisis beginning in autumn 2015, along with a changing political landscape in Sweden, might be contesting this image, showing a less tolerant side to this “open nation”. Through a framework of public diplomacy and nation branding, the purpose of this case study is to explore how the migration crisis has impacted on the work with promoting the image and interests of Sweden abroad at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs units UD-KOM and UD-FH, and the Swedish Institute. The findings show that Swedish public diplomacy actors are currently faced with the challenges of balancing several aspects: an image discrepancy between being open and closed; a self-image that does not fully correspond to the ‘Swedish identity’; short-term and long-term time frames; and international and domestic audiences. The study argues that the MFA and SI have shown an unpreparedness in promoting the image and interests of Sweden abroad when struck with a potential image ‘crisis’. It locates a lack of short-term focus among the Swedish Institute and UD-FH, the long-term actors not primarily ‘hit’ by the potential impact of the migration crisis on the Image of Sweden. Insufficient coordination and cooperation between actors furthermore aggravates the promotional work, which can be seen in contradictive messaging communicated in relation to the migration crisis. As the study has the form of a case study on Swedish public diplomacy, one must be cautious when attempting to generalise from the findings.
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