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Anna Lindh

In office
7 October 1998 – 11 September 2003
Preceded by Lena Hjelm-Wallén
Succeeded by Laila Freivalds

Born 19 June 1957(1957-06-19)
Enskede, Sweden
Died 11 September 2003 (aged 46)
Stockholm, Sweden
Political party Social Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Bo Holmberg (1991-2003)
Children Filip, David

Ylva Anna Maria Lindh (19 June 1957 – 11 September 2003) was a Swedish Social Democratic politician who served as Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1998 until her murder in 2003. She previously served as Minister for the Environment from 1994 to 1998. Anna Lindh was married to Bo Holmberg, the Governor of Södermanland, with whom she had two sons.


Political career

Lindh was born to Staffan and Nancy Lindh in Enskede, a southeastern suburb of Stockholm, but grew up in Grillby, just outside of Enköping. She became involved in politics at the age of twelve. Lindh joined the local branch of the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League, protesting against the Vietnam war as one of her top priorities.

Lindh studied at Uppsala University and graduated as a Candidate of Law (jur. kand.) in 1982. The same year she was elected a Member of Parliament. In 1984 she became the first female president of the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League. Her six years as president were marked by a strong commitment to international affairs, for Nicaragua, Vietnam, South Africa and Palestine, and against the arms race.

Lindh served as a Member of Parliament until 1985, and again from 1998. From 1991 to 1994 she was Commissioner of Culture and Environment and Deputy Mayor of Stockholm. In 1994, following a Social Democratic victory, the new Prime Minister of Sweden Ingvar Carlsson made her Minister for the Environment. One of her resulting legacies is her pioneering work toward European Union legislation on hazardous chemical substances. She also urged for the establishment of a common EU strategy against acidification.

Following the general election in 1998, Göran Persson appointed Lindh to succeed Lena Hjelm-Wallén as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the new Government. Having made influential friends across the world during her time leading the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League, Lindh ardently supported international cooperation, both through the United Nations and in the European Union.

A high point in Lindh's career came during the Swedish Presidency of the European Union during the first half of 2001. Lindh served as Chairman of the Council of the European Union, with responsibility for representing the official foreign policy position of the European Union as a whole. Travelling with the EU foreign and security policy spokesman Javier Solana in Macedonia during the Kosovo/Macedonian crisis, she negotiated an agreement that averted a civil war in the country.

With Prime Minister of Serbia Zoran Đinđić in Stockholm. Anna Lindh was due to meet Đinđić in Belgrade in March 2003 but he was assassinated moments before the meeting was to begin.

Lindh criticised the 2003 invasion of Iraq, commenting that "a war being fought without support in the statutes of the United Nations is a major failure". She also advocated greater respect for international law and human rights in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, criticising Ariel Sharon's government in Israel, but also condemning Palestinian suicide bombings as "atrocities". In a January 30, 2003, speech, she called on Israel to "end the occupation, give up settlements, and agree on a pragmatic solution to Jerusalem" and on the Palestinians to "do everything in their power to stop the terrorist acts, and take legal measures against those responsible" and to "produce reform, for security, but also for democracy and human rights".

Lindh was generally seen as one of the prime candidates to succeed Göran Persson as President of the Social Democrats and Prime Minister of Sweden. In the final weeks of her life, she was intensely involved in the pro-euro campaign preceding the Swedish referendum on the euro, held on September 14, 2003, only three days after her death. As one of the most popular pro-euro politicians, she was used as a front person by the campaign, and so her face was on billboards all over Sweden the day she was murdered.

In April 2004, Lindh was posthumously awarded the 'Statesman of the Year Award' by the EastWest Institute,[1] a transatlantic think tank that organizes an annual Security Conference in Brussels.[2] The meeting room number 50.4 on the fifth floor of the Justus Lipsius European Council building in Brussels was named Anna Lindh in her honour.


CCTV image of the killer, Mijailo Mijailović.

Anna Lindh died on the early morning of September 11, 2003, following a knife attack in Stockholm on the afternoon of September 10. Just after 4 p.m., she was attacked while shopping in the ladies' department at the Nordiska Kompaniet department store in central Stockholm. She was stabbed in the chest, stomach and arms.

At the time of the attack, Lindh was not protected by bodyguards from the Swedish Security Service.

Following the assault she was rushed to the Karolinska Hospital where she underwent surgery for over nine hours, receiving blood transfusions continuously during the surgery. She reportedly suffered serious internal bleeding, her liver was seriously damaged, and her medical situation remained grave, although at first she appeared to have improved following surgery. One hour after concluding the initial nine-hour surgery, complications forced resumption of surgery. At 5:29 a.m. she was pronounced dead.


Criminal investigation

Anna Lindh memorial in Stockholm, marking the spot where Lindh's last speech was held.

The murderer was able to escape after the crime. According to eyewitness accounts, his actions appeared deliberate and systematic. A phone number was set up for anyone who might know anything about the crime, and a massive manhunt was launched in Sweden, centering on Stockholm. After two days an image of a man, believed to be the murderer, was released by the police. This image was taken by a camera on a floor above the scene of the murder. A few items, pieces of clothing and a knife, believed to be connected with the murder were found outside the department store, in the vicinity of a Stockholm Metro station. At the scene of the crime the police were able to secure a handprint, also believed to be connected to the killer. Images from the department store's surveillance system, showing the suspect, were published on September 13 and September 14.

A man was apprehended on September 16 and detained as a suspect to the murder on justifiable grounds, the lowest degree of suspicion but was cleared of all charges and released. On September 24, the police announced that a new suspect, Mijailo Mijailović, born in Sweden to Serb parents, had been apprehended and arrested at the higher level of suspicion, probable cause. On September 25 it was announced that the DNA-profile of Mijailović matches that of hairs found on the baseball cap, left at or near the scene of the crime. He also resembles the man filmed in the store where Lindh was attacked.

After previously having denied all involvement, on January 6, 2004, Mijailović admitted to the crime and gave a full account of the events on September 10, in an extra session of police questioning requested by Peter Althin, Mijailović's counsel. He was found guilty in the trial from January 14 to January 17, and following the psychiatric evaluation he was sentenced to life imprisonment on March 23. However, on July 8, an appeals court overturned Mijailović's sentence after tests had concluded that he was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the killing. He was then transferred from prison to a closed psychiatric ward. Prosecutors re-appealed into Supreme Court of Sweden which eventually on December 2 re-instated the life imprisonment. Mijailović legally renounced his Swedish citizenship and expressed his willingness to be transferred to Serbia, but there is no reason to assume the Swedish government would assent to this, given the nature of the crime. Anna Lindh was the second prominent Swedish politician to be murdered in recent decades. Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot and killed in 1986 by a still unidentified assailant.


Anna Lindh's gravestone at Katarina kyrka in Stockholm.

Anna Lindh was an outspoken campaigner for Sweden to join the euro in the referendum held on Sunday, September 14. Following the attack, all euro-campaign events, for both the yes and no camps, were immediately cancelled. Television campaign commercials were withdrawn from broadcasting, in fact, all channels in Sweden stopped commercials airing between the evening on the 10th and the whole 11th while helping the public-service channels of SVT to report news. TV3 merged broadcasting with ZTV and TV8 airing "Efterlyst" (a program similar to America's Most Wanted), where the people could send information directly to the police that could help trace the murderer. All campaign advertising on billboards was to be removed, advertising in printed media cancelled, etc. The murder was widely interpreted as an assassination of the free and open society that is a hallmark for Sweden and that this was a time for unity rather than political campaigning.

Following a meeting, held at midday September 11, with Prime Minister Göran Persson and the leaders of the other political parties in the Riksdag, the decision was taken not to let the murder affect the schedule of the referendum. Information and resources on the issues of the referendum were to be fully available but no political campaigning or debate was to take place. The party leaders unanimously pledged support for holding the ballot as planned and to respect and abide by the outcome. Despite speculations that the sympathy for Lindh could influence the voting behavior, the euro was rejected in the referendum.

Following Mrs. Lindh's death, the junior minister in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Jan O. Karlsson, was made acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. In October of that year, Laila Freivalds was appointed as the successor to Anna Lindh's Cabinet post.

A number of commemorative gatherings were held for Anna Lindh throughout Sweden and worldwide through the Church of Sweden Abroad, on September 12–13. One of them was held in the centre of Stockholm where tens of thousands gathered to grieve Anna Lindh. A more formal commemorative gathering was held at Stockholm City Hall on September 19. Speakers at this gathering were, notably, H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf, Prime Minister Göran Persson, Chris Patten, Margot Wallström, European Commissioners, and the Swedish-speaking George Papandreou, Foreign Minister of Greece. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell could not participate because storms prevented his plane from taking off, but he sent his condolences. The burial ceremony was held privately on September 20, at the Church of Ersta in Stockholm. Anna Lindh's grave is in the cemetery of the nearby Katarina Kyrka. Many thousands of roses and candles were placed both at Rosenbad (the government building) and outside NK, where she was murdered.

The Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy position at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University was established in memory of her. The current occupant of the chair is the human rights advocate Samantha Power.[3]


Memorial stone in Budapest, Hungary with the inscription: "Resignation is our biggest enemy."
  • The Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures, set up by the European Union and partner countries in the Southern Mediterranean region was named after her. The Foundation aims to bring people and organisations from the two sides of the Mediterranean Sea closer together, and to reduce gaps between them. cf The Foundation's website at[4].
  • The translation of the memorial: "Minister for Foreign Affairs Anna Lindh held her last speech at the stairway outside Medborgarhuset [House of the citizens] the 9th of September 2003"

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4]
Government offices
Preceded by
Görel Thurdin
Swedish Minister for the Environment
Succeeded by
Kjell Larsson
Preceded by
Lena Hjelm-Wallén
Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Laila Freivalds


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