He had been noted internationally as a mediator in the Yugoslav wars, serving as the European Union's Special Envoy to the Former Yugoslavia from June 1995, co-chairman of the Dayton Peace Conference in November 1995 and High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from December 1995 to June 1997, immediately after the Bosnian War. From 1999 to 2001, he served as the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Balkans.
Bildt was born on 15 July 1949 in Halmstad, Halland, to an old Norwegian-Danish-Swedish noble family traditionally domiciled in Bohus county.
Bildt's father Daniel Bildt (1920–2010) was a former major in the reserves of the now defunct Halland Regiment and a former bureau director in the now defunct Civil Defense Board's Education Bureau. Daniel Bildt married Kerstin Andersson-Alwå in 1947. Carl Bildt's brother, Nils, was born in 1952. Bildt was married to Kerstin Zetterberg from 1974–75; to Mia Bohman (daughter of former Moderate party leader and Minister of Economy, Gösta Bohman) from 1984–97; and, since 1998, to Anna Maria Corazza. Bildt has three children; two from his second marriage and one from his third marriage.
Bildt attended Stockholm University.
In May 1968 Bildt opposed the occupation of the Student Union Building by leftist political forces and co-founded the Borgerliga Studenter – Opposition '68 group which went on to win the Student Union elections in Stockholm for a number of years. He served as chairman of the FMSF Confederation of Swedish Conservative and Liberal Students, a centre-right student organisation, in the early 1970s, and also chaired European Democrat Students, bringing together like-minded centre-right student organisations from across Europe.
When the non-socialist formed government in 1976, Bildt served as the head of the Policy Coordinating Office in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and close collaborator to the party leader and Minister of Economy Gösta Bohman. Bildt became a Member of Parliament in 1979, although he served instead as State Secretary for Policy Coordination in the reformed non-socialist government after that election.
As an MP in the early eighties, he became noted as an incisive and combative debater on foreign affairs. He was a member of the Submarine Defence Commission investigating the 1982 incursions of foreign submarines in the Stockholm archipelago and naval base areas, and often found himself pitted against prime minister Olof Palme. Bildt was elected leader of the Moderate Party in 1986, succeeding Ulf Adelsohn.
In 1991, the Social Democrats were defeated by a four-party coalition led by Bildt's Moderate Party.
On 4 October 1991, Bildt became the first conservative prime minister in Sweden in 61 years, leading a four-party coalition government. The policies of his government aimed at giving Sweden a "new start" after two decades of lacklustre economic performance and a rapidly mounting economic crisis which had severely dented the credibility of the preceding Social Democratic government, focusing on liberalising and de-regulating the economy in order to improve the prospects for entrepreneurship and growth.
Long a champion of European integration and Sweden's participation in this, negotiating membership in the European Union was a priority for the Bildt premiership. The preceding Social Democratic government had, as part of an emergency economic crisis package in the autumn of 1990, done a sudden U-turn, abandoned its previous opposition and in the summer of 1991 submitted a formal application for membership in the EU.
Benefiting also from his close links with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Bildt was able to initiate and conclude membership negotiations with the EU in record time, signing the Treaty of Accession at the EU summit in Corfu on June 23, 1994. The accession was supported by a referendum in November, and Sweden entered the EU as full member on January 1, 1995, thus fulfilling a key part of the platform of the Bildt government.
By that time his governing coalition had lost its majority in the September 1994 elections, in spite of his Moderate party making slight gains.
The economic program of the government was focused primarily on a series of structural reforms aiming at improving competitiveness and improving grown. Economic reforms were enacted, including voucher schools, liberalizing markets for telecommunications and energy, privatizing publicly owned companies and health care, contributing to substantially liberalizing the Swedish economy.
These reforms were highly controversial at the time, and the government also had to deal with a rapid increase in unemployment as well as public deficits during 1991 and 1992. The period was marked by a severe economic crisis. These problems were reinforced by the economic crisis in other European countries and the crisis within the EU Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992. As a result, Sweden in November 1992 was forced to abandon its policy of a fixed exchange rate and allow the Swedish crown to float freely. As part of the effort to handle the economic crisis, the government was able to conclude an agreement with the Social Democratic opposition on some of its expenditure-cutting measures.
By 1994 the economy was registering strong growth, and the deficits were declining, although unemployment was still at levels higher than in 1991.
Prior to becoming Prime Minister, Bildt had been a strong supporter of the three Baltic nations, and during his period as PM devoted considerable efforts to trying to assist the three now again independent Baltic states in handling their immediate challenges in form of withdrawal of ex-Soviet forces and strategic installations, as well as deciding on sensitive issues of citizenship. In this he worked closely together with the leaders of the three countries as well as with Russia Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev.
His government also had to handle a large increase in refugee flows from primarily the war in Bosnia, defending a liberal approach against the anti-immigration New Democracy party that had entered parliament in 1991.
Bildt was an early champion of the internet and information technologies. He led the first IT Commission in 1994, and in that year also had the first exchange of emails between two heads of government with US President Bill Clinton.
The government's effectiveness was sometimes hampered by in-fighting, most memorably over the construction of the Øresund Bridge, which led to the departure of the leader of the Center Party Olof Johansson from the government, paving the way for the government taking the decision to approve the construction of the link.
Bildt continued to serve as leader of the Moderate party, and thus of the opposition until 1999, when he was succeeded as party leader by Bo Lundgren.
After his term as prime minister, Bildt was active as a mediator in the Balkans conflict, serving as the European Union Special Envoy to Former Yugoslavia from June 1995, co-chairman of the Dayton Peace Conference in November 1995, and High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from December 1995 to June 1997 immediately after the Bosnian War. From 1999 to 2001, he served as the United Nations Secretary General's Special Envoy for the Balkans.
Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008, without the approval of the UN Security Council, and Sweden recognised it on 4 March 2008. On 8 March 2008, Carl Bildt became the first foreign minister to officially visit Kosovo since it declared its independence.
On 6 October 2006, Bildt was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the newly formed cabinet of Fredrik Reinfeldt. This was seen by many as a surprising move. Not only had Bildt already served both as prime minister and as leader of the Moderate Party, but he and Reinfeldt had previously not got along very well. He retained this post following the 2010 general election.
He lost his post after the 2014 general election, and moved on to become a board member of the International Crisis Group.
Throughout his career, Bildt has frequently been reported by his critics to the Constitutional Committee of the Parliament, but in all cases acquitted of the accusations made.
After leaving his position as leader of the Moderate Party in 1999, other than engaging in international issues, Bildt took positions in the private sector and positions with international think tanks. His positions in think tanks included serving as the first non-US member on the Board of Trustees of the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, and on the Advisory Board of the Centre for European Reform in London. He was a member of the board of the European Policy Centre in Brussels, the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Affairs in New York.
Bildt served as non-executive director of the Baltimore-based US assets management company Legg Mason, Inc. He served as chairman of the board of Teleopti and chairman of the public affairs consultancy Kreab AB, and board member of the IT consultancy HiQ AB. He was chairman of Nordic Venture Network, which brought Nordic high-tech VC firms together in an informal network.
In 2000, Bildt joined the Lundin Group's board of directors, a company with oil interests in Ethiopia and Sudan - the seven years with the Lundin Group that followed made Bildt a wealthy man.
In 2002, Bildt joined the board of directors of Vostok Nafta, a financial company primarily with holdings in Gazprom.
He left his positions on all these boards upon becoming Foreign Minister in October 2006.
Since 2014, Bildt has again become active in different national as well as international functions. He has been re-appointed to the Board of Trustees of the RAND Corporation in the US, appointed as one of the Co-Chairpersons of the European Council on Foreign Relations as well as to the board of the International Crisis Group and the council of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
He served as Chair of the Global Commission on Internet Governance that concluded its two-year work and produced its report in June 2016.
In 2016, Bildt became a Member of the Global Leadership Foundation (chaired by FW de Klerk) that works to support democratic leadership, prevent and resolve conflict through mediation and promote good governance in the form of democratic institutions, open markets, human rights and the rule of law.
Though decorated for his services in the Bosnian conflict and its immediate aftermath by Great Britain, France, and Germany, his mediation of the conflict and aftermath was castigated as well as celebrated.
While prime minister, he was accused of indifference to the ethnic cleansing and genocide committed by the Bosnian Serb forces against Muslim and Croat civilians. Bildt opposed any military intervention and criticized the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1993 for calling NATO to intervene against the Bosnian Serb forces, which led to the Sunday Times describing Bildt and other EU leaders as "robotic political pygmies" and their acceptance of the ongoing genocide as "shameful".
Following Bildt's appointment as the EU special envoy to Yugoslavia, Tom Warrick from the Coalition for International Justice described Bildt as "dangerously misinformed about his own job description" and largely ignorant about the region. The New York Times criticized Bildt for a nonchalant attitude towards the Srebrenica massacre when over 8,000 Bosniaks were killed, and described him as being burdened with a reputation for accepting Bosnian Serb claims of good behavior at face value and overlooking evidence of atrocities against civilians.
Bildt has been questioned for his role as a member of the International Advisory Council of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a group with ties to the Bush administration pushing for an invasion of Iraq in 2003.
On 8 April 2008, during his visit in Israel and Palestinian Authority, Bildt gave an interview to Swedish state radio, where he responded to a question on whether it would be possible to strike a peace deal without the involvement of the Palestinian group Hamas, which remained under international boycott. He responded that the Palestinian Fatah-backed government could deal with Israel, in the same way that it was possible for the Israeli government to make peace with Fatah over the objections of the former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, similarly to Hamas opposed a two-state deal. Israeli officials issued very strongly worded condemnations of this, describing it as "horrible and stupid" and an example of "chutzpah" and "complete ignorance of the Middle East", on the grounds that they saw it as comparing Hamas and Netanyahu as equals.
After the 2008 South Ossetia war, Bildt wrote on his blog that the Russian rationale for its intervention, concern for the welfare of its expatriates in the Near Abroad, had similarities with the rationale for the annexation of Sudetenland. Bildt called South Ossetian independence "a joke", and said it would be supported only by a "miserable" lot of countries.
Bildt, together with Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski, is one of the main architects of the Eastern policy of the EU.
During the 2014 unrest in Ukraine, Carl Bildt has been criticized in Swedish media for ignoring and downplaying the issues with the Ukrainian Svoboda party. Johan Croneman at Dagens Nyheter has also condemned Bildt for pushing Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt to rephrase himself after having expressed understanding of the Russians' concerns about the situation.
In a public message on Twitter, Bildt compared Viktor Yanukovych to Vidkun Quisling, writing that he was "sitting on foreign soil begging a foreign army to give his country to him". This has been described as "undiplomatic" by Christer Jönsson, professor in Political Science at the Lund University. Norwegian politician Anniken Huitfeldt also criticized Bildt's statement, saying that it showed "ignorance of history" and that it "does not contribute to solving the conflict". Torsten Kälvemark from Aftonbladet has criticized Bildt's statement as well. "Our Foreign Minister is ignorant, because it was actually Norway's legal head of state, Haakon VII, that during the war sat on foreign soil and hoped that he would with help from the British get back his country", he remarked. The culture editorial of the Aftonbladet newspaper where Torsten Kälvemark works has repeatedly been criticized since for being a tool of Russian propaganda in Sweden.
Stefan Hedlund, professor at Uppsala University, stated that "Carl Bildt's threatening rhetoric should in this context be regarded as extremely destructive", in an article about the Ukrainian crisis. Hedlund also suggested that Bildt should take a "time-out", and that progress can only be made through dialogue with Russia.
In a radio interview with channel SR P1 on March 15, Bildt stated that he considers the Crimean referendum illegal, and "invalid, no matter which way people vote". He continued his refusal to answer questions about Svoboda, saying that he "won't describe what that party is". His overall comment on the new regime in Kiev was that it's a "reasonable and democratic government" and that he does not want to "play along with Russian propaganda".
In early 2015, a study made at the Swedish Defence Research Agency stated that Bildt had been a target of information warfare and that he was "regularly smeared in Russian state-controlled media". The reason was described to be Bildt's involvement in the Eastern Partnership program and that the project was perceived as a threat by the Russian government.
In September 2015 Bildt visited Kiev, where he argued that the EU should provide more financial support to Ukraine.
Bildt was an early pioneer among politicians of using the Internet for communicating. On 4 February 1994, he sent an email message to US president Bill Clinton, which was the first publicly known electronic message sent between two heads of government. In the message he praised Clinton's decision to end the trade embargo on Vietnam. In the same year, he also started a weekly electronic newsletter which was active until 2005. He is an active blogger, starting his first blog in February 2005. His current blog, started in January 2007, is one of the most widely read political blogs in Sweden.
On 30 May 2007, he officially opened a "Swedish embassy" in the virtual world Second Life. The embassy, called "Second House of Sweden", is a virtual replica of House of Sweden, the Swedish embassy building in Washington, D.C.. During Bildt's time as Foreign Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has opened a channel on YouTube which has been active since early 2008. He maintains a personal Twitter feed in English with approximately 620,000 subscribed followers. As of 2014, Bildt has served as Chair of the Global Commission on Internet Governance.
On Mid May 2015 Bildt was appointed to Ukraine's International Advisory Council on Reforms .The group consisting of several foreign advisors to President Petro Poroshenko, aims to improve security and economy in the country which has been ravaged by armed conflict in its Eastern part.
Carl Bildt has also been appointed as an advisor to Russian-controlled investment group LetterOne. The Luxembourg-based Group, led by Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman, was founded in 2013 and specialises in the energy and technology sectors. Whereas Bildt is a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country's involvement in the Ukraine conflict Fridman seeks distance to Russia's policy by contacts to prominent Western politicians. Fridman, the billionaire chairman of Russia's Alfa Group, said in a statement that Bildt's appointment is part of the company's efforts to build "a team of world-class advisers to contribute to our thinking and growth as an international business," H. M. The King's Medal,12th size on chain (Sweden).
Legion of Honour, Commander (France).
Order of St Michael and St George, Honorary Knight Commander (UK).
Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Grand Cross (Germany).
Order of the Oak Crown, Grand Cross (Luxembourg).
Order of the Phoenix, Grand Cross (Greece).
Order of Merit, Grand Cross (Italy).
Order of Merit, Grand Cross (Poland).
Order of Grand Duke Gediminas, Grand Cross (Lithuania).
Order of the Three Stars, Commander Grand Cross (Latvia).
Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, Grand Cross (Estonia).
Royal Order of Merit, Grand Cross (Norway).
Order of the White Rose, Grand Cross (Finland).
Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, Second Class (Ukraine).
Bildt has an honorary doctorate from the University of St Andrews.
Bildt is an honorary member of the Institute for Information on the Crimes of Communism, and contributes to its publications.