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‘Swedish should be spoken in Sweden’

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‘Swedish should be spoken in Sweden’
Richard Jomshof at Almedalen. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
13:35 CEST+02:00
Top Sweden Democrat politician Richard Jomshof tells The Local all refugees must become fluent in Swedish but “it’s okay” for foreign businesspeople to use English instead. He's also rooting for the UK to quit the EU.

Richard Jomshof is one of Sweden’s most powerful nationalist politicians. 

A member of parliament since 2010, and party secretary since February, he took over from Björn Söder, a highly controversial figure famous for questioning how peaceful Islam is and suggesting Jews should not be considered Swedish.

Jomshof - by contrast - appears to choose his words very carefully as he speaks to both Swedish and international reporters at Almedalen, in between posing for photos with supporters who have travelled to Visby for Sweden’s biggest political conference.

And whereas Jimmie Åkesson has made it clear he wants the media to focus on his new “children's politics” this week, Jomshof seems very happy to discuss his party’s core goal: cutting immigration.

“We think that the immigration is too much,” he says confidently, after agreeing to be interviewed by The Local in English.

But when quizzed on how he feels about the global language becoming increasingly common in Sweden in recent years, he suggests that different rules might apply to different groups of foreigners.

“It depends…if you have a business for example - if you’re just planning to stay for six months or one year or so  - then it’s okay if you speak English…But if you are a refugee or whatever and you have a plan to stay here forever, then you have to learn Swedish of course.”

Asked if he accepts that it might be hard for some foreigners to improve their Swedish because Swedes are - like him - frequently keen to respond in English, he nods, before adding: “Yeah, we learn English in school and most of us can handle English quite well I guess. But still, if you come here from another country I guess Swedish should be the language you are speaking.”

READ ALSO: How the Sweden Democrats went mainstream

Sporting sunglasses and an open necked pale shirt (a standard look at Almedalen), the 45-year-old, who is a former secondary school teacher, says he is concerned there are “a lot of municipalities” with high immigrant populations where large numbers of people “can’t speak proper Swedish”.

However he concedes that it may be difficult for foreigners who find themselves living in immigrant communities where many of their neighbours speak their mother tongue.

“That’s the main issue, because we have so many people coming from different parts of the world. Of course, as a Sweden Democrat, I don’t like that.”


Richard Jomshof posing with a supporter at Almedalen. Photo: The Local

READ ALSO: A portrait of modern Sweden in ten statistics

While his tone is reviled by the majority of Swedes from across the political spectrum, around one in five people now back Jomshof's nationalist party, if recent opinion polls are to be believed.

And his comments about Sweden's swelling immigrant population are not exaggerated. The Scandinavian country currently takes in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU nation.

Of the almost 10 million people currently living in Sweden, 1.53 million were born abroad, a rise of 41 percent since 2003.

But Jomshof - like many of his party peers - clearly has an opinion on the potential contributions that different kinds of immigrants to the Nordic nation might make.

With the UK currently preparing for a referendum on leaving the European Union, he tells The Local he has no objection to the thousands of Brits currently living in Sweden - thanks to the EU’s open borders - continuing to stick around if Britain votes to leave the 28 member bloc.

"There should be no problem as long as they are here to work or to study or if they for example find a Swedish husband," he says.

“That’s something completely different,” he adds, bringing the conversation back to his strong views on asylum seekers.

“Why we criticise the immigration policies in Sweden, is mainly due to the fact that we have a lot of refugees coming from different parts of the world and it costs a lot of money to support them.”

“We have nothing against people moving from Britain if they can support themselves…that’s something we should still cherish I think.”

He says that his party is closely following events in the UK and he would "love" to see Sweden following in the UK's footsteps if a Brexit does take place.

“I think they should [leave]….I don’t like that Europe is growing into some kind of United States, so I think it is good that England is talking about it,” he says with a smile.

“They are showing us the way I think.”

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