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Sweden in bid to 'define Swedish citizenship'

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Sweden in bid to 'define Swedish citizenship'
09:04 CET+01:00
The government plans to launch an inquiry to study Swedish citizenship in hopes of finding ways to boost its value and use it as a tool for integration.

“When someone immigrates to our country, we want the signals to be clear – we want you to be a part of Sweden, find work quickly, and learn Swedish,” integration minister Erik Ullenhag wrote in an opinion piece in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper in which he outlined plans for the inquiry.

“The goal is to have immigrants feel a sense of belonging and become a part of Swedish society and hopefully also become Swedish citizens.”

According to Ullenhag, Sweden shouldn't be reduced to a “collection of different ethnic or religious enclaves that live in parallel worlds” and that having the courage to “discuss, reassess, and preserve our values” requires engaging in the debate about what's wanted when it comes to integration and citizenship.

While citizenship has legal significance in terms of giving people the right to vote as well as the “unconditional right” to live and work in Sweden, citizenship has another, more symbolic meaning related to a sense of belonging to a society.

“We in Sweden haven't been very good at creating this sense of belonging to a new country,” Ullenhag writes.

The minister references Canada, the United States, and Australia as successful countries built on immigration where citizenship is equated with “unity, diversity, and participation” and where citizenship is bestowed via a formal ceremony.

“The signal to new arrivals from day one is that he or she is welcomed and that the expressed ambition is that the new arrival should strive toward citizenship,” writes Ullenhag.

The goals of citizenship inquiry, according to the minister, are to provide suggestions for defining the meaning of Swedish citizenship as well as proposals for the organizing of citizenship ceremonies accessible to all new Swedish citizens.

In addition, the inquiry will be tasked with “examining whether citizenship can, to a greater extent, be used as an incentive to promote integration”.

“The thought is that citizenship in itself should symbolize a common future rather than a common history,” writes Ullenhag.

“The question we must ask ourselves is how we can best secure a fellowship, a social glue, what holds society together.”

During a Monday press conference, Ullenhag announced that the inquiry would be led by lawyer Gunnar Strömmer, former head of the youth wing of the Moderate Party and executive director of the Centre for Justice (Centrum för rättvisa).

The results of the inquire are expected to be presented on April 1st, 2013.

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