In 2001, the same year Sweden held the rotating presidency of the European Union, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise launched an advertising campaign around Stockholm. The Confederation -- Svenskt nÃ¤ringsliv in Swedish -- is kind of a chamber of commerce for the nation, representing business interests. The product they were selling? Europe -- or at least a new attitude towards it.
Their slogan was Utvigda Europa, or Expand Europe, and the iconography harkened back to an ancient time of increased contact between Scandinavian and her southern neighbors: the Viking Age.
On posters throughout the metro system, Swedes in 8th-century costumes sat on forelorn shores and gazed out at the possibilities that lay out beyond their land's borders. Fraktur text gave us insight into their thoughts, which seemed to revolve around the various globalized commodities:
Having joined the EU only six years earlier, Sweden remained in 2001 still ambivalent about the tradeoffs and compromises inherent in linking its future with the rest of the Continent. This campaign was an effort by business interests to historicise the debate about European integration within a context of Swedish trade and barter with the rest of the world. Goods and services from outside the world, whether as luxurious as imported beer or essential as foreign cotton, were presented as things Vikings themselves longed for, and presumably set out to get.
(Left as subtext in these ads is the notion that, at least in the Viking age, Swedes were adept at getting what they wanted from Europe through piracy and pillaging, rather than free trade.)
The idea of a closer Europe remains suspect, however, to many Swedish citizens -- in 2003, they rejected membership in the monetary union (Euro), meaning that for all the Viking shopping dreams, Swedes will still be paying with kronor.