Could maps of Sweden be completely redrawn?

Could maps of Sweden be completely redrawn?
Know your Swedish geography? Think again. Photo: Shutterstock
The Swedish government has announced plans to merge old counties into new administrative regions, in a bid to change a centuries old tradition that could see the map of Sweden completely redrawn.

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Sweden has enjoyed the fastest rate of urbanization in Europe in recent years, which has put pressure on today's regional councils, Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi writes in an opinion piece for newspaper Dagens Nyheter, published on Monday.

"The time has come to update Sweden's geographical division and create regional organizations that are more compatible with the needs and expectations of the modern citizen," he writes.

A decision on how to merge Sweden's 20 counties into new so called 'greater regions' is to be taken by December 2017 at the latest. The extensive reform would then take place gradually with one or more new regions being created by January 2019.

Sweden's administrative division into counties was originally conceived in the 17th century and has not changed much in the past hundred years. It has not adapted to the challenges of the country's modern society, writes Shekarabi, of the leading Social Democrat-Green coalition government.

“People don't let their dreams or everyday needs stop at administrative municipality or county borders. Citizens today move across significantly bigger geographical areas than before, and most civic issues concern more than just one county. It is obvious that the current divisions into counties is not adapted to this. Sweden's regional division needs to be modernized,” he adds.

The administration of Sweden is heavily decentralized, and county councils are in charge of issues such as health care and public transport.

If his calls lead to changes, it would not be the first time two or more regional councils have merged in Sweden in recent decades. In 1997-1998 the Skåne region was created from Malmöhus and Kristianstad counties, and the Västra Götaland county from former Göteborgs and Bohus county and Älvsborg and Skaraborg counties.

A government inquiry proposed dividing Sweden into six to nine greater regions in 2007, but no move to put the proposal into action was ever made.

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