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Reinfeldt and Sahlin lock horns in televised debate

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Reinfeldt and Sahlin lock horns in televised debate
10:41 CEST+02:00
While both Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin could agree that Sweden should support troubled euro area countries, the tone of their Sunday evening televised debate was often heated.

"We will all be affected if calm and order is not restored," Sahlin said in a live election debate on Sveriges Television's (SVT) Agenda news programme.

Both Reinfeldt and Sahlin characterised the situation in southern Europe as serious with the prime minister explaining that Sweden was prepared to offer loans, but at competitive market rates.

"We can say right now that we are not going to risk taxpayers' money," he said.

Reinfeldt warned that the crisis could deepen if EU countries could not quickly reach agreement and that Sweden is not immune despite not being a part of the single European currency.

"It is important that we do the right thing now," he said.

Reinfeldt emphasised that Sweden was the 'happy exception' in the EU with sound public finances and a smaller national debt than in 2006, when the Alliance coalition assumed power. At this point Sahlin reminded Reinfeldt of the deep financial crisis under the centre-right government at the beginning of the 1990s.

Sahlin continued by attacking Reinfeldt's claim that the national debt had decreased under the tenure of the current government, arguing that it had only done so thanks to the sale of state assets, such as Vin & Sprit.

"It is surely positive that I have sold a spirits factory and seen to it that the national debt and taxes have been reduced," Reinfeldt retorted.

Both party leaders underlined their continuing support for Sweden's membership of the euro, although they agreed that further evaluation was required after the recent demonstration of the euro's weaknesses.

Reinfeldt and Sahlin differed on their view on welfare with Sahlin arguing that the centre-left coalition strive to reduce differences among social groups, while Reinfeldt was keen to emphasise the right of the individual to choose what is best for them.

The pair also differed on taxes with Reinfeldt underlining that the Alliance coalition had no plans to raise taxes, while Sahlin arguing that taxes would be raised in order to improve public services.

Sweden's pensioners stand to stand to benefit from tax cuts regardless of which coalition comes to power at the September election, with Reinfeldt and Sahlin at one point competing on the scale of their respective plans.

The debate was concluded with a discussion over the tax rises on petrol proposed by the left-green opposition.

"The hike is needed for the sake of the environment," said Mona Sahlin in defence of the plan. Reinfeldt meanwhile argued that the environment is done a disservice by raising the tax burden of those living in the countryside and dependent on their cars.

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