This is to provide some background information about the plans for closing the Swedish research institutes in Athens, Istanbul and Rome.
A few weeks ago, the Swedish people elected its new government. The new minister of Higher Education and Research is called Helene Hellmark Knutsson.
On Wednesday, 22.10.2014 the budget proposal for the next year was published. In the section on research it was briefly announced that the department would save 10 million Swedish kronor in 2016 and another 12 in 2017, consisting in the withdrawal of support for the three Swedish Institutes. The chairperson of the board of the Institutes was informed by telephone the day before the budget proposal was launched. This development, however, does not take take place without resistance from wide parts of the Swedish and the international society. It has been criticized that there was neither an adequate discussion, nor a proper analysis of the consequences.
Immediately, a petition was started; after only 24 hours the number of signatures was already over 3.000. The present number of 12.800 is constituted by subscribers from many different countries. All the major Swedish newspapers, including those not usually reporting on humanities and culture, showed interest in the subject. Carl Bildt, the former minister of foreign affairs in the government which just resigned, has signed the list and written an article in one of the largest Swedish newspapers. The minister in question was interviewed in a program where Ida Östenberg, who is an Ancient Historian and one of the most important supporters of the protest, was also interviewed. Consequently, the minister was put under pressure to consider re-evaluating the decision.
It is now possible or even likely that the government is going to withdraw the suggestion: The minister claims that “this was just a proposal, not a decision”.
The petition is still available online: