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Sweden’s new PM in New York for first US visit

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven is in New York as part of his first official visit to the United States since his election in September.

Sweden's new PM in New York for first US visit
Stefan Löfven has flown to the US. Photo: TT
The Social Democrat party leader is attending a United Nations meeting in connection with the 25th anniversary of the Unicef Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international human rights treaty designed to protect children around the world.
 
Sweden's Queen Silvia, who is a patron of several children's rights charities will also be present.
 
In a statement, Unicef said of the anniversary:
 
"There is much to celebrate…from declining infant mortality to rising school enrolment, but this historic milestone must also serve as an urgent reminder that much remains to be done. Too many children still do not enjoy their full rights on par with their peers".
 
Stefan Löfven will be in the United States for three days and is also set to hold a separate meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
 
His press secretary Erik Nises told Sweden's Expressen newspaper that the pair would be discussing environmental issues including how to "work to achieve a sufficiently ambitious global climate agreement" at a key global summit in Paris next year.
 
They are also scheduled to discuss international policies on gender discrimination and sustainable development.
 
The Swedish prime minister will meet former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visit the New York branch of Swedish music streaming site Spotify and give a lecture at New York University.
 

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Norwegian Labour party leader Jonas Gahr Støre and Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Photo: Lise Åserud/TT
 
The US trip is Löfven's first outside Europe since he was elected, although he has made several visits to neighbouring Baltic states including Finland, Norway and Denmark.
 
On a recent visit to Oslo, Löfven was included in a selfie photo with Norwegian Labour party leader Jonas Gahr Støre and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
 
The Danish stateswoman snapped a similar picture with President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron at Nelson Mandela's funeral in 2013, a move that divided political and media commentators, with some suggesting it was distasteful, while others said it showed that politicians had a human side and a good grasp of new technologies.
 

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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: The latest political news as the election campaign kicks off

What's Sweden talking about this week? In The Local's Sweden Elects newsletter, editor Emma Löfgren rounds up some of the main talking points ahead of the Swedish election.

Sweden Elects: The latest political news as the election campaign kicks off

In an interview that could have jeopardised his job a decade ago, Social Democrat Immigration Minister Anders Ygeman’s suggestion in DN that there should be a 50 percent cap on non-Nordic immigrants in troubled areas of Swedish cities showed how the debate has shifted in recent years.

That said, his comments did not go without criticism. The Left Party slammed them as “racist”, the Greens and the Centre Party also criticised them, and so did the Moderates and some within the Social Democrats.

Ygeman himself said that he had been misunderstood, that he had never meant it as an actual proposal, and that factors such as crime and unemployment were far more important in terms of integration.

“But of course segregation is not just class-based, it also has an ethnic dimension. If you have areas where almost everyone is from other countries, it’s harder to learn Swedish, and if it’s harder to learn Swedish, it’s harder to get a job,” he told public broadcaster SVT.

What do you think? Email me if you want to share your thoughts.

Campaign posters and a new poll

The centre-left Social Democrats and the Moderates, the largest right-wing opposition party, both unveiled their campaign posters last week, which I guess means that the summer holiday lull is officially over and the election campaign is now definitely under way. Just over a month to go.

It’s interesting that the Social Democrats are clearly trying to turn this into a “presidential” style campaign, taking advantage of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s overwhelming popularity compared to the Moderates’ Ulf Kristersson, whose reception among voters is lukewarm.

A poll by the DN newspaper and Ipsos a month ago suggested that 37 percent of voters want to see Andersson as prime minister, compared to 22 percent who preferred Kristersson (12 percent preferred the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats’ leader Jimmie Åkesson, and the other party leaders did not get more than four percent each).

Andersson is in the unique position where voters like her way more than they like her party – a new opinion poll by Demoskop suggests that 28.7 percent would vote for the Social Democrats if the election was held today (the Moderates would get 20.3 percent). The same poll has all the right-wing parties with a slight majority compared to the left-wing parties.

Anyway, the Social Democrats’ campaign posters cover pensions, schools (specifically, limiting profit-making free schools), crime and law and order. Climate change is conspicuously absent, but a party spokesperson told reporters it will be more prominent in its social media campaigns.

When Kristersson, on the other hand, spoke at his party’s event to kick off their election campaign, he emphasised how he’s got a viable coalition on his side – a jibe at the Social Democrats, who will struggle to get their partners (specifically the Centre and Left parties) to collaborate.

He also reiterated his praise for the Sweden Democrats, and The Local asked several experts if the Moderates are the same party that fought the 2018 election, when Kristersson promised Holocaust survivor Hédi Fried he would not cooperate with the Sweden Democrats after the election.

Election pledges

The Local’s Becky Waterton has looked at the election pledges of Sweden’s four main parties, the Social Democrats, Moderates, Sweden Democrats and Centre Party. Click here to read her guide, it’s a really useful roundup.

And what about Covid? Is Sweden’s handling of the pandemic not going to be a talking point in this election? No, at least not if the parties have their way. The Social Democrats run the government, but most of the regions (who are in charge of healthcare) are run by right-wing coalitions. So from a strictly realpolitik perspective, no party is able to attack another without putting themselves at risk of becoming a target. Best forget about it.

In other political news…

… a Sweden Democrat member of parliament has been accused of sending unsolicited dick pics to women, the Moderates want to legalise altruistic surrogacy in Sweden, the Christian Democrats want a national scheme to improve maternity care, the Liberals want to make it harder for people with a criminal record to become Swedish citizens, and Centre Party leader Annie Lööf hit the campaign trail just before the weekend by pledging to reject any proposal for raised taxes after the election.

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column plus several extra features as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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