Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh Assassinated

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, September 11, 2003 (ENS) - Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who died early this morning after being stabbed in Stockholm Wednesday, was a passionate environmental campaigner who served four years as her country's environment minister. Lindh was repeatedly stabbed by an unknown assailant in a Stockholm department store.

Police have staged a nationwide hunt for a lone attacker. Lindh, who was shopping without a bodyguard, was stabbed a few blocks from where Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated in 1986. His killer was never found.

Her death, just days before a referendum on whether Sweden should join the euro, drew questions about whether the vote should be postponed. But the leaders of the seven Swedish political parties reached a consensus that the referendum should proceed as planned.

Peter Eriksson of the anti-euro Green Party, said, "It's of the utmost necessity. We can't let some violent madman rule our democratic process."


Foreign Minister Anna Lindh died of multiple stab wounds this morning. (Photo by Pawel Flato courtesy Office of the Minister)
Lindh, 46, became environment minister in 1994. During her tenure she fought in particular for tougher European Union and international controls on chemicals, for stricter limits on sulfur in motor fuels, and for caution over the environmental release of genetically modified organisms.

She continued to play an active role in national and EU environmental policy issues after becoming foreign minister in 1998, and was considered considered a possible future Prime Minister.

Her political philosophy placed environmental conservation high on the list of important issues, as she expressed on December 19, 2000, at the conference on Sweden´s Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers.

"When we are building Europe of the future for peace, the environment and democracy, we must not forget its openness vis-a-vis the surrounding world," Lindh said. "Here, I believe that the EU has great responsibility for the global future of humankind."

On May 21, at the signing of the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation Agreement, she said, "Nuclear waste is one of the very greatest threats facing our environment. Given that the Barents Sea area is the largest repository of nuclear waste in the world, there are huge tasks to be tackled. If we don't do anything it is not a matter of if - but when - an accident will happen that might lead to a catastrophe."

The agreement establishes a framework to deal with spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste in Northwest Russia and to improve reactor safety.

Lindh's death has drawn tributes from across Europe and around the world

Prime Minister Goran Persson called Lindh, "committed, quick-thinking, straightforward.Ready to debate and discuss, to go out onto the streets and campaign."


On behalf of Sweden, Foreign Minister Anna Lindh signs the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. June 25, 1998. (Photo courtesy Ministry of the Environment Denmark)
"Sweden is known for its openness and democracy," the Prime Minister said, "seen as a democratic society where the distance between people and their representatives is and must be small. A tolerant and uniquely cohesive society. Anna Lindh was a good representative of all of this."

"The attack on her has dealt a blow to the society we have built and want to live in. It undermines trust in society," he said, calling for a quick solution to the crime.

In his message of condolence to the Swedish government, European Commission President Romano Prodi expressed "great sorrow" on behalf of the whole European Commission. "We will remember Mrs. Lindh as a dedicated, courageous and intelligent politician, but first and foremost a warm and generous person," Prodi said.

Lindh's fellow Swede and social democrat, EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström, praised her as "outstanding as a mother and a politician" and said she considered her murder as an attack on democracy both in Sweden and in Europe.

President George W. Bush expressed shock and sadness, saying in a statement that Lindh was "a tireless advocate for freedom and peace."

{ENDS Environment Daily contributed to this report.}