Sweden dismisses move to return ‘spoils of war’ to Poland

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Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde said she won’t return a historical document to Poland, as it was a “legitimate” spoil of war.

Łaski’s statutes, the first codification of Polish law, was published in 1506 before a copy was taken by Sweden during an invasion in the mid-17th Century and is now in the collection of Uppsala University.

Right-wing MP Björn Söder, from the Sweden Democrats, demanded earlier in July that Sweden return the “looted” parchment. Citing Poland’s swift backing for Sweden’s entry to the NATO military alliance, Söder said that it would be a gesture of goodwill to hand back the document, as one of only two surviving copies.

But Linde, from the center-left Social Democrats, disagreed.

In a written response, she said there is a wide “restrictive international practice regarding spoils of war” and “spoils of war from the 17th century are legitimate conquests according to the international law of the time.”

Linde added that “the return of cultural-historical objects can generally be complex and it can also in some cases be difficult to determine which state or natural person the object would be handed over to.”

Poland signed an agreement with Sweden in 1660 ending the war, which recognized that the looted objects from those years belong to Sweden. Therefore calls for return lack any legal base in this case.