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POLITICS

Sweden’s new foreign minister settles in

Jan Eliasson has begun work as Sweden's new Foreign Minister. Eliasson, 65, was appointed on March 27th as Ministry of Foreign Affairs head by Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson following the resignation of former Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds.

The widely experienced and much-respected diplomat and politician has since his appointment been preoccupied with his duties as President of the United Nations General Assembly.

On Monday, he officially began work at Sweden’s Foreign Ministry.

With experience at the UN and as a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative, including a recent post as Swedish Ambassador to the US, Eliasson was regarded as a solid choice to succeed Freivalds.

Freivalds left the Ministry amid uproar over her handling of the 2004 Tsunami and recent ‘Mohammed cartoon’ crises.

As Foreign Minister, the governing Social Democrats hope Eliasson will utilise his network of international contacts and restore stability to the Foreign Ministry.

“I have had 40 good years, and now I want to function as a catalyst for change,” he stated.

Such measures could be critical in this election year, as Social Democrats slightly trail the opposition in many polls.

Eliasson’s first trip as Foreign Minister will be to Finland.

He will travel across the Baltic Sea on Friday to meet with his counterpart Erkki Tuomioja and Finnish President Tarja Halonen.

Items on the agenda for the visit include discussing Russo-Finnish relations and the future of the European Union.

COST OF LIVING

Who will get Sweden’s electricity subsidy and when will it be paid out?

Energy users in the south of Sweden were promised an electricity price subsidy by November 1st by Sweden's right-wing government during the election campaign. When will it be paid out, and who will benefit?

Who will get Sweden's electricity subsidy and when will it be paid out?

What is the electricity price subsidy?

The electricity price subsidy (elprisstöd in Swedish), is a one-time payment paid out to electricity users in southern Sweden based on energy usage over the last year.

Here’s some more information on the subsidy and who is eligible.

How does it differ from what the right-wing bloc originally proposed?

The right-wing bloc originally proposed a system of högkostnadsskydd or “high-cost protection”, designed to cover an unspecified amount of households’ energy costs above a certain limit.

This was rejected in favour of the current model, which was originally proposed by the outgoing Social Democrat government prior to the election, as the right-wing government believed its high-cost protection model would take too long to implement.

The government chose therefore to use the Social Democrats’ model which was already in progress rather than to start the process again and potentially cause further delays.

When will it be paid out?

Despite election promises to pay out the subsidy by November 1st, so it was available to households “in good time before Christmas”, social insurance minister Anna Tenje announced in a press conference on November 30th that the subsidy would first be available to households in February 2023, four months later than originally promised.

“The payments will begin in February if nothing unexpected happens,” she said. 

What about business owners?

Energy and business minister Ebba Busch, who was also at the press conference on November 30th, explained that payouts will occur in two stages.

“The first step will be payments to households. The second stage will be payments to businesses, and that question is still being decided,” energy and business minister Ebba Busch said. 

This means that business owners with high energy costs will have to wait even longer for a financial payout, despite Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson promising bakery and café owner Joel Lindqvist that it would be available “before Christmas” during election campaigning in Malmö.

Ministers Ebba Busch and Anna Tenje (centre) at a press conference on high-cost protection for energy prices, joined by Social Security Agency general director Nils Öberg and Swedish National Grid acting general director Peter Wigert. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
Ulf Kristersson meets with Joel Lindqvist, owner of Mat- och Chokladstudion, on September 1st. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

How could this affect businesses?

Lindqvist told TT newswire on November 18th when it was announced that the subsidy would be delayed that it was “really disappointing news”.

“I hope I’m not going to have to fire people. For me, it means more work and harder work.”

He was, however, happy that the government are offering support, albeit later than promised.

“Just look at how long the Corona subsidy took. And I’m happy a subsidy is on it’s way, but it would have been so much better if it was in place before Christmas.”

“You just have to work harder, hope there aren’t more delays and that it stays windy.”

What will happen if energy prices are high in 2023?

It’s not yet clear – the government’s electricity price subsidy is based on usage between October 2021 and September 2022 and will be paid out to whoever was listed on the energy network agreement (elnätsavtal) on November 17th.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has stated that he considers the current model to be “fair”, but did not comment on what could happen in 2023.

“We’ll have to see what happens in 2023,” he told TT newswire. “There’s a substantial risk that there will be high costs in 2023 as well.”

However, he stopped short of promising any new subsidy for next year.

“I’m going to let what happens in the future remain unsaid,” he told the newswire.

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