The Malta Independent 20 June 2021, Sunday

Diplomatic Relations between Malta and Sweden

Malta Independent Saturday, 14 November 2009, 00:00 Last update: about 8 years ago

Francis Cachia

The present EU presidency of Sweden, which started on 1 July, 2009 and ends in coming December will go down in history! Not only was the Lisbon Treaty ratified by the last remaining EU member states; the implementation of it was also started in a special meeting of EU foreign ministers summoned by the Swedish presidency on November 19, 2009!

It seems to me appropriate under these circumstances to recall the history of diplomatic relations between Malta and Sweden.

Diplomatic relations can be at two basically different levels, those at ambassadorial level between independent states and those at consular level between a city or local region and a sovereign state or one of its cities or recognised regions. Therefore, independent states can have ambassadors as well as consuls, whereas cities and regions can have consuls, but not the highest ranking diplomats i.e. ambassadors who are accredited personally by the Head of State of one country to the Head of State of another country. However, it should be mentioned at this point that consuls have a distinct, enormous advantage over their higher ranking fellow-diplomats, the ambassadors. Consuls can be appointed for life, whereas ambassadors are appointed for three years normally; their term of office can be extended to five years, only in very exceptional cases, beyond that. When ambassadors and consuls cooperate as they should, this practice can provide excellent continuity in change in their coordinated diplomatic work.

For centuries, ever since the days of the rule of the Knights of St John in Malta, it is recorded that numerous diplomatic exchanges have been taking place between Malta and Sweden. Grand Master Pinto officially styled himself as Prince of Malta and emphasised the sovereignty of Malta by assuming a kingly crown. In his excellent book, The Life and Times of Grand Master Pinto, Carmel Testa recorded: “On 13 February 1749, the Swedish king wrote to Pinto to recommend Schijlman who was then embarking on an eastern tour to study the construction and the use of the galleys. Schijlman actually arrived in Malta with this royal recommendation on 4 February and was given exceptional treatment.”

As Testa further records, “On 3 April 1749 Baron Anders Johan von Hopken, Swedish Secretary of State for War, wrote to Pinto on behalf of the Crown Prince who wanted to build a squadron of galleys, Knight-Commander de Polastron, a boon companion of the Baron, was to act as unofficial agent in connection with this request.”

Furthermore, Testa records, “King Fredrick wrote to Pinto on 26 August 1751 to ask for his help and so that he could tender his protection to Corrin, a lieutenant in the Swedish navy, who was to visit Malta to study and perfect himself in the profession of a naval officer.”

Another interesting diplomatic exchange between the Swedish royal family and the Prince of Malta occurred in 1764. Testa attests, “On 19 March 1764 Count Hossenstein, son of the late Swedish King arrived incognito on a chartered German ship on his way to an eastern tour... The royal visitor took residence in the house of Angelo Rutter, the British and Swedish consul. On the day of his arrival Ball de Pennes introduced him to the Grand Master who put at his disposal one of his coaches and also sent him many choice items of food and fruits as a personal gift... The royal visitor left Malta on the twenty-ninth after having been entertained by Pinto in his country palace at Buschetto.”

Consular Functions

Consular functions are described in the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations as follows:

1. Protecting in the receiving state the interests of the sending state and its nationals, both individuals and bodies corporate, often acting as notary and civil register and performing certain functions of an administrative nature, within the limits permitted by international law.

2. Furthering the development of commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations between the sending state and the receiving state and otherwise promoting friendly relations between them in accordance with the provisions of the Convention.

3. Issuing passports and travel documents to nationals of the sending state, and visas or appropriate documents to persons wishing to travel to the sending state.

4. Performing any other functions entrusted to a consular post by the sending state which are not prohibited by the laws and regulations of the receiving state or to which no objection is taken by the receiving state or which are referred to in the international agreements in force between the sending state and the receiving state.

Very often dynasties of consuls are formed and the status is inherited from father to son. This is the case with the Gollcher family in Malta. Their general consulship for Sweden to Malta has been inherited for several generations until this very day. The Consul General of Sweden to Malta, Mr James G. Gollcher, delivered a very informative lecture at the Maritime Museum in which he recorded in detail his family’s dynastic status and service in their consular work for Sweden in Malta.

“Johan Gottfried Gollcher is traceable to Gothenburg, Sweden, as far back as 1750. He was accepted as a Swedish national in 1780. His great-grandson, Olof Fredrik Gollcher is the founder of the Gollcher dynasty of consuls for Sweden in Malta.”

The Consul General of Sweden to Malta, Mr James G. Gollcher recalls, “Olof Fredrik Gollcher – our founder, who started his Maritime business on the Island of Malta in 1854 was appointed Hon. Vice Consul at Malta for the Netherlands in 1857... Furthermore Olof Fredrik also held the position of Hon. Consul for Sweden and Norway from 1874 (25 September) to his death 1889 (15 February).” Olof Fredrik Gollcher’s son James was Hon. Consul for Sweden and Norway from 1889 (5 August) to 1901 (5 December). In 1932, Erik W. Gollcher was appointed Consul for Sweden. He was awarded several decorations for his outstanding service. The Consul General of Sweden to Malta, Mr James G. Gollcher also records with justifiable pride that when His Royal Highness Prince Oscar of Sweden visited Malta in January 1881, he was His Royal Highness’s host to a dinner and a Grand Ball at the residence of O. F. Gollcher in Valletta.

Mr James G. Gollcher records that “Between 1963 and 1965 – Denmark, The Netherlands and Sweden raised their Consulate to Consulate General – with myself holding the title of Honorary Consul General for these three countries. Between 1970 and 1985, I was decorated with the Order of Danneborg (First Class) Cavalier, The Order of Vasa (first Class) Cavalier, Commander of Orange Nassau and Commander of The Royal Order of The North Star.”

On 8 October 1987, Karl Marius Gollcher was appointed Vice Consul for Sweden, raising his status to Consul on 22 January 1991. Moreover on 1 January 1998 he was promoted to Hon. Consul General by H. M. Carl XVI (16) Gustaf.

Mr James G. Gollcher records finally, with much justifiable pride, “The Netherlands and Swedish Consulates have been seen by the Gollcher Group for five generations, with that of Denmark for four generations – I feel this is an unparalleled achievement.”

The Gollcher Dynasty

The chancellor at the Gollcher consulate is Mr Paul Mifsud Bonnici.

He told me: “I have been working in the Consulate general of Sweden for 20 years. Presently, I help Swedish citizens with an emergency passport which I issue myself in case of loss or theft. I organise programmes for the Ambassadors when they come to Malta, including transport, hotel accommodation and anything else the Ambassadors might require. Moreover, I help Swedish citizens in distress or having problems in Malta which can be of all kinds.”

Besides these services, Chancellor Paul Mifsud Bonnici keeps consular books, he accepts applications for work and/or residence permits for Sweden including interviews especially with refugees etc. He also helps to make contacts between Swedish and Maltese entrepreneurs. The chancellor concludes with great satisfaction: “I have received the King’s Gold Medal for my 20 years of service with the Consulate last June.”

The British Period and Today

During the British colonial period, the Swedish ambassador to the UK was the ambassadorial representative of the Monarchs of Sweden to Malta, while the Gollcher family provided the Consuls.

Since Malta gained independence in 1964, the following have been Ambassadors of Sweden to Malta:

H.E. Mr Brynolf Eng – 1969

H.E. Mr Richard Bergstrom – 1974

H.E. Count Axel Lewenhaupt – 1980

H.E. Mr Eric Virgin – 1984

H.E. Mr Bengt Griedman – 1987

H.E. Mr Lars Bergquist – 1989

H.E. Mr Krister Goransson – 1993

H.E. Mr Goran Berg – 2000

H.E. Mr Steffan Wrigstad – 2002

H.E. Mr Fredrik Valhquist – 2005

H.E. Ms Ulla Gudmundson – 2008

The following have been Ambassadors of Malta to Sweden:

H.E. Mr G. Attard Kingswell – 1972

H.E. Mr George Agius – 1977

H.E. Mr John Manduca – 1988

H.E. Mr Victor Camilleri – 1991

H.E. Dr John Vassallo – 1994

H.E. Mr Victor Camilleri – 1998

H.E. Mr Eric Gerada Azzopardi – 1999

H.E. Mr Alfred Falzon – 2002

H.E. Dr Noel Buttigieg-Scicluna – 2006

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