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'Limit Sweden's right of public access': minister

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'Limit Sweden's right of public access': minister
11:32 CEST+02:00
Environment minister Andreas Carlgren opens for the possibility of curtailing Sweden's traditional right of public access, the so-called "allemansrätten", in order to relieve commercial strain on woods and land.

"Today it's possible for commercial operations to exploit the land of others, and wear down nature, without either paying for it or standing for the consequences," said the minister to national TV network Sveriges Television (SVT).

Referred to by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) as a "national symbol," allemansrätten (literally translated to "everyman's right") is enshrined in the Swedish constitution and has roots in political customs dating back to medieval times.

It is a well-established custom designed to ensure that individuals right to visit the country's vast natural expanses, whether or not the land is privately owned.

But Carlgren wants to make it possible to charge rent from companies, who today exploit the public access right in order to use land for commercial purposes without paying anything at all.

The main offenders, in his view, are berry-picking companies and wilderness tourism.

"I have heard enough reports about this to be worried about it, and I don't think it should be ignored," he said to SVT.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently investigating the right of public access, and the environment minister claims to be prepared to make some changes once the investigation is completed, in the autumn of 2011.

"I want to protect the right of public access for regular people as well as protect personal ownership," said Carlgren.

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