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POLITICS

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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TERRORISM

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

Sweden's government has submitted a new terror bill which could help convince Turkey that the country is acting to crack down on Swedish residents active in the Kurdish PKK terror group.

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

The new proposal, titled “a special penalty provision for participation in a terrorist organisation”, will make participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation in any way that “promotes, strengthens or supports” the organisation punishable with up to four years in prison. 

“This is a wider criminalisation that takes aim at a slew of activities within a terrorist organisation that don’t need to be concretely connected to a specific terrorist crime,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer told a press conference.

“Sweden has an increased terrorist threat which must be taken very seriously,” he continued. “Now the government is putting forward a legislative proposal which means that both participation in and financing of participation in terrorist organisations will be punishable.” 

Actions such as handling equipment, organising camps or locations for meetings, cooking or being in charge of transport for designated terrorist organisations would be criminalised under the new law, which Strömmer stressed was a “considerable widening of the scope compared to current legislation”.

In November, the country amended its constitution to allow the proposed bill to move forward, as it was deemed to infringe on Sweden’s freedom of association laws.

The proposal will now go to Sweden’s Council on Legislation, which judged a previous proposal to ban membership of a terror organisation, brought in in the wake the 2017 Stockholm terror attack, as in conflict with Sweden’s constitution right to free association. 

Under the proposal, serious cases of the new crime will be punishable by up to eight years in prison, while those found guilty of holding a leadership position in a terror organisation could be jailed for 18 years or even for life. 

The proposal criminalises all forms of support for terror organisations, regardless of whether it is financial or other ways of taking part in it, promoting it and strengthening it. 

Strömmer noted that “partaking in a demonstration or at a meeting will not in itself be punishable”, adding that said flag-waving in itself would not be criminalised but such activities could potentially be used as evidence in court.

The government hopes to be able to submit the proposal to parliament on March 7th, and for it to come into force by June 1st. 

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