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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: Liberals face questions over Sweden Democrat links

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains the key events to keep an eye on in Swedish politics this week.

Sweden Elects: Liberals face questions over Sweden Democrat links
Liberal leader Johan Pehrson and Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson at a debate on broadcaster SR before the election. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Hej,

Here’s this week’s Sweden Elects, with the latest political talking points.

It’s starting to seem like the Swedish Liberals may have underestimated the strength of their international liberal colleagues’ reaction to the centre-right party’s decision to co-sign a bunch of governmental policies worked out together with the far-right Sweden Democrats.

There’s now talk of potentially expelling them from Renew Europe. The organisation tweeted that its president would “for the time being” not invite their leadership to its events, and that they welcomed the liberal Alde Party’s “fact-finding mission to Stockholm (…) to assess the relationship of the parties supporting the government”.

For any readers who want a crash course on European politics: the Alde Party is a transnational European political party made up of liberal parties from across Europe. Its members are part of the Renew Europe group in the European parliament.

Liberal party leader Johan Pehrson told Swedish media that he was “trying to explain” to his European colleagues that the policies also include “meaningful liberal reforms”.

When The Local spoke with the legal director of human rights group Civil Rights Defenders, he said that the government’s policies take Sweden in an illiberal direction.

“It’s not aimed at strengthening the protection of our human rights. It’s not meant to strengthen the rule of law. It’s not meant to strengthen democracy either,” he told The Local of the political programme agreed by the three government parties and the Sweden Democrats. Read the full interview, for members of The Local, here.

At The Local, we will continue to keep an extra close eye on how government policies and any new legislative proposals affect international residents living in Sweden – and we’ve had quite a few questions from readers about this. This article explains what we know so far about who will be affected by Sweden’s new immigration policy.

(I just want to say a quick thank you here to you as a member of The Local – your support lets us strengthen our coverage of these issues. If you enjoy this newsletter or The Local in general, please feel free to help us spread the word about membership)

Sweden Democrat in hot water over Anne Frank comments

In other news, Rebecka Fallenkvist, a high-profile Sweden Democrat and a presenter on the far-right party’s Riks web television channel, grabbed global headlines last week for making degrading remarks about the Jewish teenage diarist and Holocaust victim Anne Frank.

The party’s press chief called the comments “insensitive and inappropriate”, and told Swedish media that Fallenkvist would be suspended pending an internal probe.

She was instead forced to leave her role as a Riks presenter and was moved to an administrative role, working for the party’s finance department in parliament, reported Aftonbladet. The party confirmed she would help plan its “conference activities”.

Fallenkvist, if you remember, also caused a scandal on election night by declaring “helg seger” – which means “weekend victory” but sounds like and is often used in place of the Nazi salute “Hell seger” (Sieg Heil) – in an interview with pro-SD newssite Samnytt.

Power shifts in Stockholm

While Sweden as a whole handed over power from the left to the right, in the Stockholm region, the winds are turning in the other direction.

A centre-left coalition of the Social Democrats, Green Party and Centre Party is set to take over the reins of Stockholm’s regional government, with the support of the Left Party.

It’s easy to draw the conclusion that the urban areas of Sweden are turning leftwards and the rural areas rightwards (the left wing won Stockholm City too), but that may be too shallow an analysis in this particular case. Discontent had been brewing for several years.

In short: the Swedish capital region had been run by centre-right coalitions, headed by the Moderates, for 16 years, but the leadership had been facing growing criticism.

A scandal over cost overruns and operational problems at what was supposed to be Stockholm’s flagship hospital, several structural errors laid bare by the Covid crisis, and accusations of avoiding questioning by the media all led to the shift of power.

The new government of Sweden

Last but not least, the most significant political event since my last Sweden Elects newsletter is Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s new government being installed.

Here are the key points about everything you need to know about the new government. On the latest Sweden in Focus podcast, the Local’s team speaks more about the controversial decision to merge the Ministry for the Environment with the Ministry for Business, creating a new ministry headed by Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch, with Liberal Romina Pourmokhtari working underneath her as Climate Minister.

Here’s a quick rundown of Sweden’s new government ministers, who represent three parties in total: the conservative Moderates and Christian Democrats and the we-promise-we’re-still-the-liberal-conscience-of-the-government Liberals. Thanks for reading and speak again next week.

Best wishes,
Emma

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues after the Swedish election. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Why did Sweden’s emissions drop in 2023 – and what’s in store for the future?

Sweden's greenhouse gas emissions fell by two percent last year, but the good news may be short-lived.

Why did Sweden's emissions drop in 2023 – and what's in store for the future?

In 2023, the Scandinavian country’s emissions amounted to 44.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, a drop of about one tonne from 2022, according to preliminary statistics, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement.

The two percent decrease was in line with a 1.6 percent drop announced by Statistics Sweden in late May.

The EPA said the 2023 figure represented a decrease of 38 percent from 1990.

The EPA attributed the year-on-year drop primarily to lower emissions from industry – in particular the cement, iron and steel industries, due to lower production as a result of Sweden’s economic recession – and the electric and district heating sector, due to lower electricity prices.

“Emissions have continued to decrease, not least in industry and electric and district heating, which form part of the EU’s emissions trading system,” Anna-Karin Nyström, the head of the EPA’s climate target division said.

“The pace has slowed compared to the year before, when above all domestic transport and (fuel-based) work machinery contributed to a sharp reduction.”

But in March, an independent panel of experts tasked with reviewing climate policy said the government’s plans would lead to short-term emissions increases in 2024 and knock it off-course from its 2030 reduction target.

The Swedish Climate Policy Council, said in the March report that “policy adopted in 2023 will increase emissions and does not lead towards the fulfilment of Sweden’s climate goals and EU commitments by 2030”.

The council said several measures, such as a reduced fuel tax, put climate ambitions at risk.

But it also lamented a lack of concrete measures in the government’s “climate policy action plan”, a roadmap that the government is required by law to present every four years.

Sweden’s Minister for Climate and the Environment Romina Pourmokhtari said she was “not particularly worried” about the review’s assessments.

“They are based on the government’s policy announcements during 2023, and there are several measures that have been added since then,” Pourmokhtari said.

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