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BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Two

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BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Two
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven speaking on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
07:07 CEST+02:00
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has taken to the stage at Almedalen, the Nordic nation's annual gathering of power players, and made cutting youth unemployment a key pledge.

8.07pm What's next at Almedalen?

Thanks for following The Local Sweden's live blog as we've brought you the key moments from an exciting second day at Almedalen.

We're wrapping up our coverage here for the day, but we'll still be posting on Twitter. Don't forget you can join Almedalen discussions in English by using the hashtag #Almedalen ENG.

Tomorrow, the smallest political party in the Swedish parliament, the centre-right Christian Democrats will dominate the agenda. Not sure what they stand for? Check out our ultimate guide to Sweden's political parties.

8.03pm Worries continue

Löfven appeared composed on the stage, but will no doubt be worried about several recent polls suggesting his party's popularity has slipped since last September's general election.

In a major survey released by Novus for Swedish Radio's news programme Ekot on Monday, 40.9 percent of voters said they preferred the four centre-right opposition parties that make up Sweden's Alliance, while only 39.5 percent of those quizzed said they supported the Social Democrats, Green Party and Left Party.

7.55pm Jobs and liberty

Swedish political commentators are now lining up to analyse Stefan Löfven's speech.

Most agree that Social Democrat leader did not deliver any surprises, focussing on his goal of boosting employment in Sweden and continuing to support an open, liberal society in the face of growing racism in Sweden as well as global terror.

The reaction on social media so far has been predictably divided.

"Old dusty speech. We live in the 2000s now," wrote one commentator, HG, quoted on Swedish broadcaster SVT's website.

But the Social Democrats themselves quickly retweeted a young football fan and green campaigner, Malte Roos, who tweeted:

"Stefan Löfven has really grown as a speaker. This was one of the best speeches I have ever heard. Very emotional and strong. #Almedalen".

7.38pm And that's a wrap

Stefan Löfven has wrapped up what was his first speech at Almedalen as Prime Minister of Sweden with a final promise to cut youth unemployment. Clearly this is the message that he is hoping people will take away from his appearance.


Stefan Löfven during his first Almedalen speech as Prime Minister of Sweden. Photo: TT

7.37pm Greece crisis

The Greece crisis, which has dominated the international headlines in recent days has had a mention from Löfven. He is a strong supporter of the EU and told the crowd that the European project was "badly needed" and that he would ensure Sweden continued to stand up for it.

7.31pm War on terror

Löfven has moved on to other international matters, criticising the terror attacks in Tunisia and Iraq last week. He has said that Isis (also known as the Islamic State) can be defeated.

7.25pm Reducing racism

Sweden takes in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU nation and Stefan Löfven has said he wants to reduce both racism and sexual discrimination in the workplace.

"If you love Sweden, stand up for everybody's liberty," he has just told the crowd, scoring a spontaneous applause.

7.21pm Helping young people 

Löfven appears passionate about reducing unemployment among young people and widening opportunities for them. The Prime Minister is himself a former welder and his first job in politics was leading the Social Democrat party. Read more about his rise to the top here.

7.17pm Swedish schools in focus

Education remains one of the key issues for Swedish voters and the Prime Minister is now addressing his efforts to push up the country's school results, following a slide in recent years. He's promised to make a "big commitment" in education.

Earlier in the day Löfven told reporters that around 60,000 highly skilled teachers would receive a salary increase of 3000 kronor a month from the autumn. But this was old news to many. It is a policy that his Red-Green coalition previously said it planned to implement when it first announced its budget back in September 2014.

7.14pm Large organisations

Sweden has a global reputation for its start-up scene, but Stefan Löfven, a former trade union leader has said he is keen to protect his country's large, flat, historic companies too.

7.11pm Lowest unemployment in EU?

Sweden currently has an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent.

Stefan Löfven has reiterated a previous goal for the nation to have the lowest unemployment rate in the EU. 

Investment in infrastructure and more nurses will help Sweden reach its jobs target, he has argued.

7.08pm "The best you can be"

Löfven has said he wants Swedes to "be the best you can be".

His government's jobs policies have been strongly criticised by Sweden's opposition centre-right parties in recent months and he has said he is going to address these next.

7.06pm A world focus

The Prime Minister has started with an international focus, noting that in 10 years, more than half of the world's GDP will be produced in Asia. 

He's looking relaxed, dressed in a dark blue suit and a white shirt, without a tie.

7.03pm Thanking the crowds

Löfven has thanked those attending his speech including some famous Swedes - the former Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson and the widow of former leader Olof Palme, whose speech on Gotland in 1968 paved the way for Almedalen as we know it today.

7.01pm The Prime Minister speaks

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven is on the podium and has just started speaking.

The text surrounding him says: "Do your duty, demand your rights".

6.59pm Any moment now

Stefan Löfven is about to take to the stage. The Local's James Savage is in the crowd and will be tweeting in English. Follow him here or stay with this blog.

 

6.54pm Lessons learned?

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has already been doing some media interviews in Visby, but as the TT news agency has just reported, he's brought “old news” to Almedalen.

The Social Democrat leader has told reporters that around 60,000 highly skilled teachers will receive a salary increase of 3000 kronor a month from the autumn. But this is a policy that his Red-Green coalition previously said it planned to implement when it first announced its budget back in September 2014.

With Swedish school results plummeting in recent years Löfven told TT he was “determined to turn things around”.

6.45pm Power players

We've used the expression power players a fair bit already this week. 

But here's an example of how easy it is to run into some of this Nordic nation's most influential people here at Almedalen.

Our Head of Commercial Content David Landes has so far crossed paths with Sweden's defence minister, the head of the country's largest business group, several MPs, the head of Sweden's largest union group…and the nation's only astronaut. And it is only Monday. Yes we're also gutted he didn't get any selfies.

6.40pm The smell of the sea

Some of The Local's team arrived last night, and those of us who've been here since the weekend have watched the small city of Visby transform into a hive of activity.

The air is slightly chillier today than yesterday though, despite the body heat and hot air generated by so many thousands of people now filling the streets. But the smell of the sea is still strong and glorious.
 
One thing that has surprised us is that even in the age of the app, many organisations here are trying to boost attendance at their events by using old fashioned methods such as tasking young people to roam the streets handing out flyers. Perhaps some of the Swedes here aren't as efficient and organised as their global reputation might suggest.
 
6.35pm It's not all work and no play

Almedalen isn't just about political speeches, it's also Sweden's biggest networking event. There are exactly 3474 events going on throughout the week, including plenty of after parties.

6.25pm And the wait continues

All of Sweden's major news networks and newspapers are on Gotland and many of them are offering Almedalen visitors the chance to watch Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's speech on big screens in their tents, rather than in the famous park that Almedalen is named after. 

The Local just snapped this picture of TV4's tent.

5.20pm Crowds await Sweden's Prime Minister 

Stefan Löfven is set to speak in less than two hours and the island is filling up with journalists, supporters and politicians who will soon be jostling for a seat in Almedalen Park, where he's set to make the keynote address of the week at 7pm. The Local's team of reporters will bring you the key moments on this live blog.

Missed the first speech of the week last night? Here's what Centre Party leader Annie Lööf had to say.

4.17pm From Grexit to Brexit

The risk of Greece leaving the euro is on everyone's minds today, but there's another country that could leave the EU altogether: Britain.

British Ambassador to Sweden Paul Johnston is in the European Commission's tent, talking about the UK's planned referendum about leaving the EU.
 
"A lot of the issues Cameron is talking about are finding echoes in other member states," he has said,
 
 
He's been stressing that since the referendum was announced, support for staying in has risen. He's also been talking about PM David Cameron's aims to secure reform before the referendum.
 
“It's clear that Europe's involving in different directions - some are in the euro, some are in Schengen.” 
 
“Ever closer union [one of the EU's stated aims] is not the automatic destination for everyone.”
 
Meanwhile, the Dutch have a saying: “Europe where necessary, but national where possible.”
 
2.11pm Busy day on the Swedish island of Gotland

It is crowded in Visby today, as the island town hosts Sweden's political festival Almedalen. Here's a picture by our Head of Commercial Content, David Landes, showing the crowds at Donnergatan.

New to the blog? Read our guide to Almedalen, Sweden's week of power politics, here. And for the newbies to Sweden's political scene, here's our guide to the party leaders you need to know about.

11.57am Swedish PM slams snap Grexit vote

It is not exactly dominating the news agenda at Almedalen, but the increasingly likely Greek exit from the euro is making some headlines in Sweden this morning.

"The risk is there, we can't be so naive that we don't see that. But it doesn't have to mean that the euro as such falls apart. There is an alternative plan in the euro group if worst came to worst and Greece actually quit," Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told Swedish Radio earlier.

"What happened the other day when Greece suddenly said that they wanted a referendum at the eleventh hour, and also believe that the people ought to vote no -- that kind of action does not impress me," he added.

Sweden is not a member of the euro, but it is likely it will not be left unaffected by the events on the continent. Read more about what's going on in Europe on our German sister site.

11.10am En route to Almedalen

Almedalen is without competition the biggest political event of the year in Sweden. It is the place where everybody who is somebody wants to be (or at least, wants to be seen to be) and hotels and flights to Gotland usually get booked up far in advance. Adding to that, the island is one of Sweden's most popular holiday destinations.

Here's the mad scrum at Stockholm's bus station this morning as The Local's editor Maddy Savage waited to catch the bus connection to the ferry terminal.

9.31am European Commissioner cancels as Greece crisis escalates

A slightly surreal atmosphere in Visby this morning. As the Greek exit from the euro dominates the news agenda (see our blog on The Local Germany), the official agenda at Sweden's biggest political meeting proceeds as if nothing was happening.

So this morning's highlights include 'How can Sweden learn from the small scale of Åland', 'Sustainable city planning' and 'How do we get pupils to turn up to school'. Life, as they say, goes on.

Still, Greece is making its presence felt in one way: a planned visit by European Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis ('Commissioner for the euro and social cohesion') has been cancelled. He was due to take part in a seminar this afternoon, but we were told at the weekend that he wouldn't be coming. No reason has been given for his cancellation, but it's a safe bet that events in Greece have something to do with it.

9.23am Löfven won't be swayed by polls

Stefan Löfven told public broadcaster SVT this morning that he will not let opinion polls suggesting the government is losing support among voters detract from his focus ahead of his speech in Almedalen later today.

"Of course we follow and look at the numbers. But I am not going to let myself be affected in a way that means I have to react every time I see various opinion polls," said the Prime Minister.

9.10am 

The Social Democrats' day in Visby is set to be an uphill climb for Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, after another poll on Monday indicated that Sweden's centre-right opposition now enjoys more support than the government's centre-left bloc.

In a major survey by Novus for Swedish Radio's news programme Ekot, 40.9 percent of voters said they preferred the Alliance's four opposition parties, while only 39.5 percent of those quizzed said they supported the Social Democrats, Green Party and Left Party.

8.30am

If you're heading to Almedalen, you're in for some great weather. Forecasters are predicting sunshine on the island of Gotland throughout the week with highs of up to 24C.

Click here to check the forecast in your part of Sweden

Many of the guests have arrived at the conference by boat. No cars are allowed in Visby, where most of the action is taking place. Below are a few snaps taken by The Local's Almedalen team on Sunday evening.

8.05am

Sweden's Prime Minister is centre stage at Almedalen following a survey by pollsters Ipsos and Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter which suggests that his party has lost support from voters on major issues.

The research, carried out earlier this month and released on Monday showed that schools and jobs were the most important current issues for voters.

On education, just 22 percent thought that the Social Democrats had the best policies, a decrease of four percentage points since January. With regards to employment, 28 percent of voters quizzed for the poll said they preferred the party's policies, while 34 percent opted for one of Sweden's centre-right opposition Alliance parties. 

The results are almost the exact opposite of a similar poll ahead of last year's Almedalen, which took place just before Löfven was elected.

Want to join the debate? Follow The Local Sweden on Twitter and use the hashtag #AlmedalenENG.

7.49am

Here's some more information to feast on while you have your breakfast or head into work:

The Social Democrats are the oldest and largest party in Sweden and dominated the political landscape until the 1990s. The party promotes workers' rights and built the modern Swedish welfare state, paid for by progressive taxation. 

After a crushing defeat in 2006, the Social Democrats continued to lose votes in 2010, particularly from Sweden's urban middle class. But the party bounced back after Löfven took over as leader and returned to power in a coalition with the Green Party following the general election in September 2014. Some of the party's more controversial policies so far have been recognizing Palestine and its push for a feminist foreign policy which saw relations grow frosty between Sweden and Saudi Arabia in the first part of 2015.


Stefan Löfven at a gathering of supporters in May 2015. Photo: TT

7.20am

In case you don't usually follow Swedish politics, here are a few facts about the country's Prime Minister:

Formerly the head of one of the country's most powerful unions, IF Metall, Stefan Löfven has led the Social Democrats since 2012 and led the party to victory in parliamentary elections in September 2014. He started his career as a welder after growing up with an adoptive family in Örnsköldsvik, a small industrial town in northern Sweden. 

READ ALSO: Who's who in Swedish politics

7.00am Good Morning!

Welcome to day two of The Local's live coverage of Almedalen, the biggest event of the year in Swedish politics. 

If you're new to Almedalen, in short it packs every Swedish political party's annual conference into eight days.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's Social Democrat party will be dominating the agenda on Monday after Centre Party Annie Lööf had her say on Sunday.

Click here to find out why it's worth following our coverage throughout the week, whether you work in business, education or the not-for-profit sector or are simply spying on Swedish news from afar.

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