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Crisis and EU dominate party leader debate

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Crisis and EU dominate party leader debate
12:07 CEST+02:00
The financial crisis and its effects dominated the debate between the seven parliamentary party leaders on national Swedish television's Agenda programme on Sunday evening.

After the debate, the party leaders were most annoyed that the upcoming EU elections were given so little space.

The first hour of the televised party leader debate was taken up with discussing the global financial crisis and its impact on Sweden.

The prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Social Democratic party leader Mona Sahlin held conflicting views as to why the gulfs are increasing between the various social groups in Sweden.

According to Reinfeldt it is a consequence of the increased unemployment as a result of the financial crisis while Sahlin argued that it was due to measures introduced by the government.

"Your government has strengthened the effects of the financial crisis," Sahlin said.

One question that raised the temperature of the debate was the government's tax cuts.

The social minister and Christian Democrat party leader Göran Hägglund argued that the working tax credit had led to as many as 80,000 new employment opportunities.

The opposition were however united in that taxes should be raised, but there was disagreement over how much.

In response to the question concerning what was the most important initiative to tackle unemployment, the government responded by underlining the importance of assisting small businesses and improving the quality of education and training.

The opposition instead spoke about raising skills levels and bringing forward investment plans.

The climate was a hot topic. The government has declared that it has the most ambitious climate and energy policies in the world, a claim that the opposition disputed.

Maria Wetterstrand of the Green party argued that she would like to see more and faster measures, for example to bring forward investments in energy efficiency.

"The climate is an issue that we living in the rich countries have a particular responsibility for," she argued.

Fredrik Reinfeldt expressed surprise after the debate that Mona Sahlin had confirmed that the Social Democrats will raise taxes across the board.

"She is also prepared to raise carbon taxes and that was new for this evening," added Centre party leader Maud Olofsson when the Alliance party leaders met after the debate.

"That is something that all parties must be prepared to state," Sahlin countered.

The Social Democrat leader is prepared to consider broad talks with the government prior to the election to ensure a broad consensus over file sharing and integrity issues.

All four Alliance party leaders expressed a wish for the EU to have gained greater prominence in the debate. The participants were originally invited to the debate to discuss the pending election, according to Göran Hägglund.

"But then they changed tack a short while ago," Hägglund confirmed.

Mona Sahlin concurred.

"It is a scandal that with three weeks before the election it was not considered that a party leader debate could concern the EU."

Sveriges Television's presenter Karin Hübinette could not really understand the criticism against the debate. She claimed that the party leaders were free to address the EU during at least the first hour of the programme.

There will be a further EU debate on the Agenda current affairs programmed in two weeks time followed by a further debate involved the leading candidates for the EU parliamentary election.

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