STOCKHOLM (AP) — The Nobel Foundation that administers the prestigious awards, has reversed its invitation policy and invited Russia, Belarus and Iran, as well as the leader of a far-right Swedish party, who had previously been banned.
Vidar Helgesen, the executive director of the private foundation said in a statement that there was a global trend in which “dialogue between those with differing views is being reduced.”
To counter that, he said, “we are now broadening our invitations to celebrate and understand the Nobel Prize and the importance of free science, free culture and free, peaceful societies.”
The foundation said that invitation for the 2023 events was extended to all countries with diplomatic missions in Sweden and Norway and parties “that have parliamentary representation via democratic elections,” adding that “this common approach promotes opportunities to convey the important messages of the Nobel Prize to everyone, and in future this practice will be common to the entire organization.”
Last year, the diplomatic envoys of Russia and Belarus were barred from attending the glittery prize ceremonies and banquets, which always take place on Dec. 10, because of the war in Ukraine, and the ambassador of Iran was also excluded because of “the serious and escalating situation” in the country.
All the Nobel Prizes are handed out in Stockholm other than the Nobel Peace Prize, which is awarded in Oslo.
The foundation also extended the invitation to the Sweden Democrats party leader Jimmie Akesson who declined it, saying on Facebook that “unfortunately I’m busy that day.”
Swedish political party leaders are traditionally invited to the banquet but Akesson, who heads a nationalist party with far-right roots, has been snubbed in the past. The Sweden Democrats, which are seen by some as a threat to fundamental values in the Scandinavian country’s society, including tolerance toward asylum-seekers from conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa, came second in in the 2022 parliamentary elections.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Friday he would not have allowed Russia to attend if it had been his choice.
”To isolate Russia in every possible way — militarily, economically — it is necessary,” he told the TT news agency. “In that situation, I would not have invited to a purely social celebration.”
This year’s Nobel prize winners will be announced in early October.