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Profile: Sweden's new EU minister Birgitta Ohlsson

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 2 Feb 2010, 13:52

Published: 02 Feb 2010 13:52 GMT+01:00

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"She is in many ways the antithesis of the sort of law and order liberal typified by her party leader Jan Björklund - she's a true social liberal," says James Savage, The Local's political affairs commentator.

Like many high profile Swedish politicians of all stripes, Birgitta Ohlsson first came to prominence as chairperson of her party's youth league - a post she held until 2002.

Since 2007 she has been chairperson of the Liberala Kvinnor women's association. The role appears made to measure for Ohlsson, who has positioned herself as a high profile liberal feminist, something of an exception in an area otherwise dominated by the left in Swedish politics.

When the centre-right Swedish government assumed power in the autumn of 2006, Ohlsson was thus in contention for the post of Minister for Integration and Gender Equality.

This post however went to Liberal Party colleague Nyamko Sabuni and Ohlsson has instead used her position as the party foreign affairs spokesperson to argue for full Swedish Nato membership and the adoption of the euro.

A staunch republican, Ohlsson was chairperson until 2005 of the Swedish Republican Association, a group deeply sceptical of Sweden's monarchy and enjoying broad cross-party support in the parliament.

While Ohlsson had been a hot favourite for the EU minister post ever since it became clear that Cecilia Malmström would become Sweden's EU commissioner, there was also speculation that she would be overlooked by a party hierarchy unhappy with her refusal to tow the party line on several issues.

Some of Ohlsson's most vocal objections came within the feverish debates that preceded the adoption of the anti-piracy Ipred law, and the FRA signals intelligence law, at one point threatening to vote against the government.

Ohlsson also argues that the childcare allowance introduced during the current mandate period traps women in traditional gender roles. She also advocates higher quotas for parental leave, a position espoused by the left-green opposition.

On her homepage, Birgitta.nu, Ohlsson details her support for open immigration, abortion and privatization, as well as opposition to the proposed language test for prospective Swedish citizens.

Asked whether Ohlsson's strong views, often at odds with her party and with the government, could pose a problem with a general election looming, James Savage says:

"She is an ambitious politician. As such, I think she fully understands the constraints of collective responsibility now that she is part of the government."

Birgitta Ohlsson is pregnant and is expecting her first child in July. There has been speculation in the media over the past week that this would prove a further hindrance to her fulfilling her role as a government minister.

Ohlsson roundly rejected the assertion in a recent post on her blog:

"I am married to a modern man and not a dinosaur. My husband and I plan to share our parental leave... For the media to refer to my pregnancy is just sad and tritely conservative. Maybe we are still living in 1950 and not 2010."

Ohlsson is pro-choice on abortion issues and in June 2009 helped to launch the "Make Noise for Free Choice" campaign aimed at Ireland, Portugal and Malta, all Catholic countries that ban pregnancy terminations.

Story continues below…

The petition called on the EU to classify the right to abortion as a human right, but Ohlsson later denied that the campaign's intention was to use the Lisbon treaty to "force" the issue on member states.

With an election looming in October in Sweden, Ohlsson's established social liberal credentials and radical liberal economic position may provide a boost to a government lagging behind in the opinion polls and seeking to attract centrist voters. Some commentators have voiced suspicions of party political opportunism.

"But make no mistake, Ohlsson is in the government to stay. If the government regains power then you can expect her to remain," says James Savage.

Birgitta Ohlsson stated in a press conference on Tuesday morning that she wants Europe to be the most important voice for peace in the world.

On her homepage, the outspoken 34-year-old indicates that her ambitions do not rest there. Her dream job? - to work with human rights at the UN in New York.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:04 February 3, 2010 by thelionking
Pretty!...(in a word)
16:38 February 3, 2010 by Texrusso
True, Pretty! Politicians don't always have to be too old and fat belly. Swedish state is a model of young and vibrant politicians, starting from Prime Minister Fedrick R.
18:37 February 3, 2010 by Mr. Puppy
One of the things I like about the Riksdag is that you don't see as many fat old wrinkly balding white men as you do in most parliaments around the world.

It's just sad that Sweden has an octopus like Iceland - an elite consisting of fat old wrinkly balding white men that control everything anyway - called an octopus because their tentacles reach everywhere in samhället.
21:26 February 3, 2010 by wxman
A "law and order liberal"? Someone's going to have to explain that one to me.
05:40 February 7, 2010 by Chuy
If more women who looked like her got into politics, I'd pay more attention : )
06:26 February 9, 2010 by Nordicreb
Although I left Sweden for the United States due to marriage well over a decade ago, people like Ms. Ohlsson removes any homesickness I might harbor. In American terms, she is a dreadful combination of open border, imperialist neo-con and abortion-on-demand, family destroying liberal. It doesn't get much worse than that, politically speaking...

As far as "pretty" goes: she looks like "artist" Thomas di Leva...
15:28 February 9, 2010 by JDV
Very strange... Why is NATO membership so important... a fraudulent orgainization created only to extend American power and influence... is she just another of our current government's fifth columnists American wannabes.
10:33 February 13, 2010 by johnnyrebel
"I am married to a modern man and not a dinosaur... " Of course Birgitta, the dinosaurs have been extinct some years now. Besides, if it had been a dinosaur you would have a terrible time passing an egg so large not to mention the difficulties spawning with such a beast. Pretty?...not particularily.

Ohlsson also argues that the childcare allowance introduced during the current mandate period traps women in traditional gender roles...We cant have that, can we?
12:28 February 14, 2010 by thelionking

You may be right. She does sound a tad monsterous on reflection.

To be honest never even read what was written below her picture besides the heading.

My processing for this article went a little like this...

1. pretty face

2. new job


And I moved on. Did nt really read the text below the picture. I suspect many have probably done the same thing ie judged her on her "Bambi eyes" look. Only to have a bit of a rude awakening. The definitive character description in text. And Birgitta quotes. Geez what a sweet heart- Scary frankly.

They should have her and Anna Anka debate the virtues of a good marriage. Sic

*could it be*

'Plain girls' are taken more seriously in politics as opposed to the 'pretty ones' - Discuss

Not wanting to sound unpleasant. Politics tends to draw a certain kind. Brains being the currency of the game. Prom queens in politics??...Sarah Palin comes to mind. I say no more.
07:49 February 15, 2010 by johnnyrebel
thelionking...To be honest never even read what was written below her picture besides the heading.

I have done a lot of research on women. When looking at the picture we males want to see something warm in the eyes that say something along the lines of...Hey there Big Boy I am dying to meet you. But something from a Springsteen line comes to me looking about Birgitta...She had the diamond hard look of a cobra...those are definitely not Bambi eyes. I think that her eyes say something to the effect of...Snip, snip. Of course we could check out the husband to verify...you know, to see if he is intact.

That bit about the trapping of women in traditional gender roles...that kind of talk is scary to me. Has our species really evolved to this? She is not quite as scary as the Prom Queen you mention but only because she hasnt reached the level to hurt as many people.
18:16 February 15, 2010 by thelionking

"She had the diamond hard look of a cobra"...HARSH!

More like a thorny rose n'est pas? I know. I am REALLY trying to find something hopefully nice behind that face.

Be really interesting debate with these 2

-Anna Anka advocating 'a blowing' every morning to hubby as being a 'dutiful' spouse's responsibilty!!!

-And Birgitta in the other corner with her "castrated drone" ideals as the way forward for humanity...spell binding!
12:38 February 16, 2010 by billyb362
- Uh, does anyone care about where this woman stands on THE ISSUES? I mean, doesn't

that have anything to do with why she got voted Sweden minister for the EU?

She's a flaming liberal feminist...with some very extreme positions!

Question: Did the citizens of Sweden get to vote on this woman becoming Minister of Sweden in the European Union?
19:19 February 20, 2010 by Dio
abortion is already permitted in portugal..
10:29 January 22, 2011 by Murad2
Are you looking for a flat belly diet for women? Some people look to lose the belly because they find it unattractive. They envision the perfect beach body where they have those ever elusive 6 pack abs and look like a Bay Watch cast member.

Others still want a flat belly diet for women because a doctor told them there are health concerns. Indeed, belly fat is one of the riskiest and most dangerous kinds of fat due to its relation to many ailments including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Or maybe you want a flat belly diet for women because you yourself are a man and you want your lady to look like she once did. Of course this opens you up to criticism for how you look, because if you have a pot belly and are trying to convince your lady to get a flat belly, you are going to be in the dog house. If this is the case, I wish you luck.
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