First meeting between Sweden Democrats and Moderate Party leaders

The leader of Sweden's centre-right Moderate Party has had a meeting with Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson, despite saying only a year ago that he would never work with the party.

First meeting between Sweden Democrats and Moderate Party leaders
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson, left, shakes hands with Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson during a parliamentary debate. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

In a post on his Facebook page, Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson said he met Åkesson “in order to discuss a number of important issues for the country, where our parties have similar views”.

According to Kristersson, the pair had a “constructive conversation” related to the areas of crime, energy supply, and immigration.

He said that he and Åkesson discussed the recent wave of gang-related murders in Sweden, but also the role that nuclear energy could play in Sweden in the future.

In his Facebook post, the Moderate leader reiterated a statement he made at the party's annual conference in October, when he said he would do all he could to find broad support in parliament “for a better policy”, and would not wait until the next election.

Åkesson wrote in a statement that the meeting was “rewarding, constructive, and bodes well for future collaboration in a new political landscape”.

The September 2019 election was followed by months of deadlock after neither of the traditional blocs reached a clear majority, and disagreements within the centre-right bloc on whether they would accept Sweden Democrat support led to the disintegration of the former four-party Alliance.

“The Moderates and Sweden Democrats are different parties, with different ideologies, and we think differently on several issues. However, we treat each other with respect, and on several important matters we think the same way. On these issues, I would, of course, want us to be able to cooperate in Parliament,” Kristersson wrote on Wednesday.

This is quite a contrast with statements he made previously on the idea of collaboration with the anti-immigration party.

As recently as January 2018, Kristersson said: “My values are not the Sweden Democrats'. I will not work together with them, speak with them, govern with them.”

The leader of the Christian Democrats, which has traditionally been allied with the Moderate Party, has previously held one-on-one meetings with the Sweden Democrats leader. 

The news of the Moderate-Sweden Democrat meeting comes after a new opinion poll suggested that the latter party had reached a record high, with support around 22.6 percent, which would make them the second largest party.

The same survey showed that a potential conservative bloc made up of the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats would be almost equal to the bloc involved in the current governing deal plus the Left Party, whose support is required for them to have the numbers to govern. The former grouping gets 47.5 percent and the latter 50.9 percent.

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FACT CHECK: Has the EU really banned Swedes from lighting bonfires?

Claims that a new EU law had outlawed lighting fires in private gardens have hit the headlines recently, with outraged Swedes accusing Brussels of banning Sweden's traditional spring fires. But how true are they?

FACT CHECK: Has the EU really banned Swedes from lighting bonfires?

What’s happened?

On April 6th, TV4 Nyheter published a story claiming that burning twigs and leaves in private gardens has been illegal since the beginning of the year, due to new EU rules.

“A common habit for gardeners during their spring cleaning is now banned. An EU law which came into force at the beginning of the year demands that all food and garden waste are sorted separately,” the article states, quoting Milla Sundström, an administrator from the waste and chemicals unit of the Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) as saying this “indirectly” bans spring fires.

Sundström added that the ban is enforced by local councils, so rules may differ.

Wait… why is it so important for Swedes to burn twigs in their gardens?

It’s a common way of getting rid of the leaves and branches that have accumulated over the last year, with the ashes often used as fertiliser in the garden. It’s usually only allowed for a couple of weeks a year in spring and again in the autumn, and during Valborg at the end of April, when it’s traditional to light a spring bonfire.

Quite a lot of people in Sweden live in pretty remote areas, so it’s much easier for them to get rid of bulky garden waste by burning it rather than having to drive it off to the nearest recycling centre.

So has burning garden waste been banned by the EU?

Technically, no.

The EU law says that member states should “encourage the recycling, including composting and digestion, of bio-waste”, as well as encourage home composting and promoting the use of materials produced by bio-waste, but it doesn’t say anything about banning fires.

“This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Center Party MEP Emma Wiesner wrote on X, before blaming the government for interpreting the law incorrectly.

“Banning tidying up in your own garden has clearly NOT been the EU’s intention. The inability of the government and authorities to implement the simplest of directives is embarrassing and adds to the contempt for politicians,” she added.

So who has banned fires on private property?

In a regulation from December 22nd, 2022 signed by Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari, the government writes that exemptions “from the prohibition on the incineration of separately collected waste” may be granted in the case of public events. 

This refers to a separate law governing waste, which states that “waste that has been collected separately to be prepared for reuse or recycling should not be incinerated”.

This regulation came into effect on January 1st, 2024.

Wait… what does that even mean?

Admittedly, the regulation isn’t particularly clear. Having said that, the new rules on bonfires appear to stem from Naturvårdsverket interpreting this regulation as an outright ban.

“The new regulations mean that garden waste must be composted on-site, left at a recycling centre, or collected by the council,” it writes in a post on its website dated April 11th. “In practice, this means that it is no longer permitted to burn branches, leaves and other garden waste”.

Naturvårdsverket claims that this is “part of the introduction of the EU’s waste directive, which means that bio-waste should primarily be recycled”.

It does, however, add that local councils are able to grant exceptions, “for example if it’s a long way to the closest recycling centre”.

So whose fault is it?

Energy and business minister Ebba Busch, who is head of the climate and business ministry, seemed to indicate in a post on X that the confusion was due to the badly-worded rules introduced by the government at the beginning of the year, which were designed to coincide with the EU’s waste directive.

“I want to be clear and say that the government has not introduced a new ban against burning garden waste,” she wrote, alongside a picture of her standing in front of a fire in her own garden.

“There are new rules, but not any huge changes compared to how it’s worked in the past. We can see that these can be interpreted in different ways. For that reason, the rules will be clarified,” she added.

Can I burn twigs in my garden then?


Despite politicians sharing posts telling you to “Keep calm and keep lighting fires,” you should check with your municipality before you do so.

Some, like Halmstad, have interpreted the new regulations as meaning that you can still light a fire in your own garden, while others require you to apply for an exemption (which usually includes paying a fee), whether you’re applying for a May bonfire or just want to burn some leaves in your own garden.

Others, like Värmdö municipality, allow you to burn things like twigs and small branches in your garden, while stating that grass and leaves should be composted.