This Thursday, Sweden became the 8th European Union country to officially recognise the state of Palestine. As noted in many media outlets, that made it the first Western European country to do so, although that distinction seems a bit anachronistic and seems to lessen the trailblazing decisions by other European nations such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania.
Margot Wallström, the Swedish Foreign Minister described the action as “an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination” adding that she hoped “that this will show the way for others.”
The move wasn’t a complete surprise, as Sweden’s new prime minister, Stefan Löfven, had announced his intention to go through with it during his inaugural address to parliament in early October.
Predictably, Palestinians cheered the move, with spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina telling AFP, that Mahmoud Abbas greeted the move as “brave and historic.” Meanwhile, Israel summoned Sweden’s ambassador to protest and express disappointment and its foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman took contemptful swipe at Stockholm, stating that “the Swedish government must understand that relations in the Middle East are a lot more complex than the self-assembly furniture of IKEA and that they have to act with responsibility and sensitivity.”
Back in 2008, Foreign Policy Magazine published a guide to the recognition of national sovereignty after Kosovo’s declaration of independence. The four steps were: Make sure you’re eligible, declare independence, get recognized, join the club. In Palestine’s case, the main stumbling point has been the third point. Will other countries follow Sweden and its seven European partners? We’ll have to wait and see. To say that Palestine’s quest for recognition has been long and hard would be an understatement, and this is a milestone whatever happens next.