Things can go quickly from space to underground in northern Sweden.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had just let himself be guided through a large space research facility, now he is rolling a few kilometers further in a bus through a dark shaft a good 500 meters deep into a pit in the iron mine of Kiruna, Sweden's northernmost city.

In the space research center, rockets are tested and weather balloons are sent into the sky to collect data on climate change.

Matthias Wyssuwa

Political correspondent for Northern Germany and Scandinavia based in Hamburg.

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Kiruna was only built because of the mine in the sparsely populated area north of the Arctic Circle. Today, most of the iron ore extracted in the EU comes from the mine - and the city has to move because the ground threatens to sag because of the mine. But despite this dramatic impact on the landscape, the state operator of the mine speaks of "green steel". The production of the steel from the rocks blasted out of the pit should succeed without fossil fuels. Steinmeier is also here because of this vision of the future.

With space travel and mining and the visit to Kiruna, the Federal President's state visit to Sweden came to an end on Thursday. He was the first state guest in the kingdom since the pandemic began. Sustainable business, digitization and innovation should draw a red thread through the days in the north. After all, there is a lot to discover in Sweden. And maybe to earn a lot of money in the future. After arriving in Stockholm on Tuesday, the Swedes drove up a lot to show the guest their appreciation. That King Carl XVI. Gustaf did not leave the side of the Federal President during the entire trip, the entire Steinmeier government welcomed the city palace and later specialist ministers accompanied the appointments, was understood by the German side as an unusual appreciation for the state visit.

It is easy to remember the long common history of Germans and Swedes in Stockholm. You only have to look at the old town, from which the tower of the German church rises to this day. In the present, especially after Brexit, Stockholm is looking even more closely at Berlin than ever. The relationship is considered close, even if there are occasional irritations: For example, when Sweden, as part of the “thrifty four” in the discussion about the Corona reconstruction fund, criticized the plans in Paris and Berlin last year. Or with a view to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is viewed with skepticism in Sweden. Steinmeier is also approached in Stockholm. He says that relaxation is spreading everywhere in Europe after Germany and America had come to an understanding:"Everyone says here too, let's look ahead."

Looking ahead on this trip means above all: strengthening the economic partnership in times of climate change.

Germany is Sweden's most important trading partner.

Both countries are economically highly dependent on their industry, which is looking more or less for a way to a CO2-free, or at least a CO2-poor future.

However, Sweden has the advantage of already obtaining a large part of its energy from renewable sources, primarily from water, but also from wind power.

Nuclear power plants provide the rest.

An exit date was once postponed and then discarded.

The last coal-fired power plant went offline last year.

The different paths in the pandemic

When Steinmeier spoke in the Stockholm Reichstag, he even highlighted something in common with a view to the fight against the corona pandemic. "Our paths through the pandemic were different, we struggled intensively in our own countries to find the right strategy," he said, "and we Germans have always looked at the Swedish path with great interest and lively debates". But despite all the differences in strategy, they shared one basic conviction: "The only long-term successful way out of the pandemic is the way of science." He praised the innovative strength of both countries: "We have something to offer the world."

Above all, however, both countries have to export to the world. Steinmeier asked for an explanation of what digitalization can do in the healthcare industry and was digitally present at the inauguration of the tallest building made of wood. He visited the Scania plant in Södertälje, where 15,000 people work for the commercial vehicle manufacturer that belongs to VW. Here, with partners, electric trucks are being developed that are supposed to hum on the streets. One of the partners is building a huge battery factory in northern Sweden, which alone will need up to two percent of the current Swedish energy budget. This should be possible with hydropower.

When Steinmeier is asked why things are going worse with digitization in Germany than in Sweden, he says that we are not lacking in the will, “but sometimes also in the determination to go ahead and the different interests involved in the introduction of such large-scale projects merge ". That will have to be done better in the future, not only in Germany but throughout Europe. When the King and Federal President stand by the electric truck and talk to Scania representatives about how far you can get with the battery, it's 280 kilometers, they all come to the conclusion that the route is too short and the charging time is too long , and the load is too small. The lofty plans are back on earth very quickly.

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