For centuries Sweden has had many and varied contacts with the Middle East and North Africa region. In recent years the relation with the region has taken on new dimensions. Through immigration people and cultures of the region have become part of the Swedish society.
Today around one out of fifty Swedes has a recent background from the Middle East and North Africa. Since Sweden entered the European Union in 1995 Sweden participates in the ongoing efforts towards closer co-operation between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbours as expressed in the Barcelona Declaration on the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. Sweden also has a long record of active engagement in issues of North-South relations, and of development co-operation with countries of the South.
It was in this light that the Swedish government in 1997 initiated a study on the establishment of a Swedish Institute in Alexandria. The motive was to develop a means to increase broad contacts and co-operation with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, to facilitate dialogues on issues of common concern, and to contribute to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.