Robin Cook: 'It is hard to accept that her warm smile and zest for life have been extinguished'

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The Independent Online

I counted Anna Lindh as a friend, not a colleague. Hours after her death, I still find it hard to accept that her warm smile and her zest for life have been extinguished and will never return.

Anna was an example that is too rare in public life. She was a formidable politician and also a happy, normal human individual. I and my wife spent a memorable day with Anna and Bo in her constituency outside Stockholm, when it was impossible not to be impressed by the personal interest she took in all whom we met - from primary school children to the coastguards who took us round the islands in the bay.

She had the felicitous combination of strong political principles and a light tough in human relations.

For Bo and their young children the loss is greatest and the most personal. Anna had made it a priority to provide a normal family home for her children and to protect them from being affected by her public position. Every day when she was in Stockholm she insisted on being driven out to her home in the early evening to spend time with her children. It is a wicked tragedy that they should now have lost her because of her public role.

Her murder is also a test of the relaxed, open society of Sweden. Anna always insisted that she was going to continue while Foreign Minister to lead the life of an ordinary citizen. To her that was not just a matter of personal taste, but an expression of her strong egalitarian views.

On one occasion when I was Foreign Secretary we left her ministry on foot and travelled to our official engagement by underground. That common touch would have been inconceivable in just about any other European capital and Anna would not want the circumstances of her death to bring it to an end in Stockholm.

As Foreign Minister she exercised an influential, often pivotal, role at European meetings because of the confidence with which she would assert her case and the ease with which she related to other ministers.

She commanded respect and affection throughout Europe and beyond. Her nation has lost a powerful voice for the country. Sweden's loss is also Europe's.