• Sweden's news in English
 

'Åkesson must tell Swedes if he plans to join the National Front'

Published: 14 Mar 2014 16:06 GMT+01:00

Many of us choked on our morning coffee this week when reading an interview with Sweden Democrat party leader Jimmie Åkesson in the business newspaper Dagens Industri. He praised the leader of the National Front and suggested that the Sweden Democrats could collaborate with the French party's representatives in the European Parliament. 

Åkesson issued a denial the same day, claiming that he had been misquoted, but on the website of the party's own newspaper SD-Kuriren readers can take a look at a transcript of the interview. Åkesson says in black and white that he thinks National Front leader Marine Le Pen is leading her party in a “modern, quite fresh direction” and that he does not rule out collaborating with them.

The Sweden Democrats are holding an elections conference in Stockholm this weekend. Jimmie Åkesson must give Swedish voters an answer in due time before the European elections: Will the Sweden Democrats, if they are elected to the European Parliament, ask to become members of the parliamentary cross-national party group that Le Pen intends to create?

The figurehead of French racism is not only the party leader of the National Front, she is also a member of the European Parliament. Thus Le Pen is very much aware of how important it is to belong to a party group in the European Parliament. It guarantees a platform to make yourself heard, it guarantees resources, and a set number of seats on the parliamentary committees, and it gives power in negotiation bills put forward to parliament by the  European Commission and the national governments.

That is why Le Pen, along with Geert Wilders who is the leader of the Dutch Islamophobic Freedom Party, is fighting to form a party group. Twenty-five seats are required to do so. Recent opinion polls suggest that the National Front could increase their seats from the three they have today all the way up to 20. That means Le Pen's influence of a party group's political agenda will be significant. 

While Marine Le Pen has polished the appearance of her party, she has hardly steered it in a "fresh" direction, to borrow Åkesson's turn of phrase. Behind the facade, the National Front is still the same racist and deeply nationalist party that it always has been. Immigration and the EU are described as threats to the nation that consume French identity.

Marine Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the party, has denied the Holocaust and the crimes committed by the Nazis on several occasions. The anti-Semitism has been toned down by his daughter for tactical reasons. The hate is directed at Muslims and Islam instead. Only four years ago in an election speech, Marine Le Pen compared Muslim prayer meetings on French streets to the occupation by Nazi Germany during World War II.

She refused to retract what she said despite a storm of protests. A preliminary probe into whether she had incited racial hatred was opened, and in July 2013 the European Parliament decided to revoke her immunity as parliamentarian so that she could be prosecuted. In September. Le Pen demanded that veils and kippas be banned in public places.

The ties between her party and the Sweden Democrats go back to the foundation of the Swedish party. The French politicians gave financial aid to the Sweden Democrats, whose party secretary Björn Söder has been a National Front member. The bonds of friendship go far back. The Sweden Democrat youth wing SDU met with their French equivalents last summer. 

Therefore it was hardly surprising that Le Pen came to Stockholm last autumn to confer with Jimmie Åkesson.

At a press conference in Strasbourg last Wednesday, Le Pen made it clear that the door is open for the Sweden Democrats. "They are free to join our group," Le Pen said after having been asked a direct question by Sveriges Television.

Jimmie Åkesson has to put his foot down. If you vote for the Sweden Democrats, does that mean that you're supporting the National Front and racism? The Swedish people deserve an answer.

"Every man is like the company he is wont to keep."

The words of the Greek tragedian Euripides are appropriate. Åkesson's choice of alliances in Europe says a lot about his party.

Birgitta Ohlsson is Sweden's EU and democracy minister.
This op-ed was originally published in the Aftonbladet newspaper. Translation by Anders Sjölin/The Local. 

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Crackdown on illegal streaming in Sweden
Popcorn remains legal in Sweden but a site with a similar name isn't. Photo: TT

Crackdown on illegal streaming in Sweden

Users of illegal movie and television series streaming sites in Sweden including Popcorn Time are set to be tracked by a Danish lawfirm representing "major Hollywood companies" and could face fines of around 2000 SEK ($231). READ  

Swedes' Easter holiday saved as strike called off
A strike threatening to hit Swedish holidayers has been called off. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/SCANPIX

Swedes' Easter holiday saved as strike called off

Tens of thousands of Swedes hoping to spend their Easter weekend in Helsinki can rest easily again, as a sympathy strike threatening to hit all passenger traffic between Sweden and Finland was called off late on Wednesday afternoon. READ  

April Fools' Day
April Fools' Day: The Local's 2015 gags
We had many readers fooled that a town in southern Sweden said "no" in a Scottish way. Photo: Shutterstock

April Fools' Day: The Local's 2015 gags

Did you spot our story about Swedes in a former Viking town sounding Scottish? It was one of a range of April Fools' Day jokes across The Local's network of nine European news sites. Have a laugh reading about our other red herrings. READ  

Analysis
Rocky six months for new Swedish PM Löfven
Swedish PM Stefan Löfven on a visit to the US. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Rocky six months for new Swedish PM Löfven

The Swedish centre-left coalition government's first six months in power since last year's general election have not been the whopping success that Prime Minister Stefan Löfven had been hoping for. READ  

Swedish pilots fail to reach deal with SAS
Negotiations between Swedish pilots' unions and SAS are ongoing. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Swedish pilots fail to reach deal with SAS

A deal between Swedish pilots and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is being automatically extended a week at a time after the agreement ended at midnight on Tuesday. READ  

Presented by ConnectSweden
CEO: Bromma 'essential' for Skanska's success
Pierre Olofsson, CEO of Skanska Sweden. Photo: Skanska

CEO: Bromma 'essential' for Skanska's success

The future of Bromma Airport has sparked a torrent of political debate, with supporters arguing it’s essential for Sweden's connectivity. But it’s more than that, says Skanska Sweden’s CEO Pierre Olofsson. It’s also critical for work-life balance. READ  

Thousands lose global TV channels in Telia row
Several channels are affected. Photo: Telia

Thousands lose global TV channels in Telia row

Up to 700,000 households that subscribe to Nordic telecoms giant Telia’s television packages have seen several channels – including Eurosport – disappear due to a dispute with broadcaster SBS. READ  

April Fools' Day
Sweden's silliest April Fools' Day tricks
Could Swedish supermarket shelves look like this? Photo: TT

Sweden's silliest April Fools' Day tricks

Alcohol is set to be sold in a Swedish supermarket, buses are introducing 'selfie zones' and Malmö football club's new grass contains cannabis, if you believe the country's newspapers. Here's The Local's round-up of this year's April Fool gags. READ  

The Local List
Six super Swedish family Easter traditions
Easter witches in Sweden. Photo: Lena Granefelt/Image Bank Sweden

Six super Swedish family Easter traditions

The clocks have gone forward and the supermarket aisles are piled high with chocolate delights. It must be time for Easter. But what do secular Swedes do slightly differently to other nations when it comes to celebrating the festival? READ  

Presented by ConnectSweden
ConnectSweden: Examining Sweden's place in the world

ConnectSweden: Examining Sweden's place in the world

Read The Local's ConnectSweden ambassador series, in which we interview prominent figures in Sweden's business, diplomatic, and cultural spheres to learn more about Sweden's place in the world, both literally and figuratively, and how international air connectivity affects perceptions of the country abroad. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
US spy agency to feature in new 'Stieg Larsson' book sequel
National
Beaver bite at Swedish bus stop
Sponsored Article
ConnectSweden: Examining Sweden's place in the world
Gallery
Property of the week: Åreda
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm is the 'Boston of Europe'
Blog updates

27 March

Celebrating Three Great English Exports In 2015 (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Deputy Head of Mission Aidan Liddle joins us for another guest blog today. In 2015, England..." READ »

 

27 March

Editor’s blog, March 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Europe remains in shock following the Germanwings plane crash in the Alps that killed 150..." READ »

 
 
 
National
How this Syrian travelled to Sweden
Was Swedish TV host too harsh on nationalist leader Åkesson?
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
National
Travelling over Easter? Don't miss our guide to rail disruption
Scandinavian airlines change cockpit rules after Greenwings crash
National
Sweden remembers Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer
Politics
Why petrol prices are going up
Gallery
People-watching: March 28th
What's on in Sweden: March 26th - April 2nd
Stieg Larsson's partner blasts Millennium trilogy sequel
Society
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
Gallery
People-watching: March 25th
National
Which words are changing in Sweden's latest dictionary?
National
Is this house 'un-Swedish'?
National
Sweden pays tribute to victims of Germanwings Alps crash
National
Neo-Nazi activity rising in Sweden
National
How to make Swedish Waffles
Gallery
Property of the week: Torslanda - Hjuvik
National
Stray dog Arthur moves in with Swedish owners
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in Sweden
National
Sweden triples maximum limit at asylum centres
Gallery
People-watching: March 21st
National
Why elderly Swedes are among the world's happiest people
National
TIMELINE: Gothenburg shootings
National
Can Sweden's feminist party score success in neighbouring Norway?
National
Why Brits can't get enough of Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's solar eclipse
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Royal wedding countdown begins
National
Viking ring reveals Islamic ties
National
TIMELINE: Julian Assange sex allegations in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: March 18th
National
One in three Russian diplomats are spies, says Sweden's Security Service
National
Hitchcock opera set to hit Gothenburg stage
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Northern Lights on show across Sweden
Technology
Why Swedish pop star Robyn is pushing for more girls in tech
Gallery
Property of the week: Umeå
National
Introducing Sweden's Eurovision 2015 entry Måns Zelmerlöw
Gallery
People-watching: March 13th - 15th
National
Why have Swedish prosecutors made a U-turn in Julian Assange case?
Sponsored Article
How Sweden and India can work together
Politics
Who's the new young leader of the Christian Democrats?
Travel
Why are Swedes so obsessed with Mallorca?
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,371
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se