BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Six

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BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Six
New Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra speaking at Almedalen. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Anna Kinberg Batra - the new leader of Sweden's biggest opposition party, the Moderates - focused on job creation in her first speech at Almedalen, Sweden's huge week-long politics forum.


Friday July 3rd

8.00pm See you again tomorrow

Anna Kinberg Batra is waving goodbye from the Almedalen stage and so are we. Thanks for following The Local today as we brought you the key moments from the Moderate Party's day in Visby. 

We're wrapping up today's live blog here, but do take part in the debate on Twitter. Join in the Almedalen discussions and let us know what you thought of Kinberg Batra's speech via the hashtag #AlmedalenENG.

Anna Kinberg Batra on the Almedalen stage in Visby, Gotland. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

We'll be back again tomorrow with live coverage of the Left Party's day at Almedalen. Want to find out exactly what the most left-wing group in the Swedish parliament stands for? Read our ultimate guide to Sweden's political leaders here.

7.50pm Reviews

So, how well did Anna Kinberg Batra do in her first speech at Almedalen as leader of the Moderate Party?

The general opinion seems to be that the overall performance was solid enough, but could have been better. The new leader stuck to her notes throughout most of the speech: boring and monotone are some comments appearing on social media.

"Batra seemed a bit nervous," wrote one Twitter user.

Content-wise, she is getting a lot of praise from her supporters for addressing the difficulties young people are facing on the jobs market in Sweden today.

"Human, responsible and powerful descriptions of problems in society," wrote the chairman of the Moderates' youth wing on Twitter.

7.40pm That's a wrap

"There is only one way to break social exclusion, and that is the first job." Moderate leader Anna Kinberg Batra wraps up her first speech at Almedalen, urging voters to send her and her fellow three parties of the centre-right Alliance opposition (Centre Party, Liberals and Christian Democrats) back into government in Sweden's 2018 general election.

7.35pm Lowering taxes

Kinberg Batra says it does not pay for many people to work instead of living on benefits. She wants to change this, proposing lower taxes for those on low incomes. Plenty of applause from the audience at Almedalen.

7.30pm Jobs, jobs, jobs

She's still talking about creating more jobs, now focusing on how to get people on to the jobs market more quickly: "If you do everything to get yourself an education and to make yourself employable, I promise that a Moderate-led government will do everything in our power to make sure that more people will be able to have a first job."

7.23pm Opposition leader hits out

"Sweden should be one country, not parallel societies," says Kinberg Batra. She says current centre-left government has failed to carry out an agenda creating more jobs, instead creating more divisions in society.

Anna Kinberg Batra. Photo:  Marcus Ericsson/TT 

7.20pm Social exclusion

If people are unable to find work, because of lack of work, lack of education, lack of opportunities, it creates a divided society. It creates an "us" and a "them", says Moderate leader Anna Kinberg Batra in her Almedalen speech. In areas of high unemployment there is also high criminality, she says.

7.17pm Job creation

The new Moderate leader is now talking about her first job, selling hot dogs on the roadside.

"But far too many have no first job at all to talk about. They instead tell of a society that failed them," she says.

7.12pm Defence

Kinberg Batra: "For us it is not a question about if, but when, Sweden should join Nato."

Sweden is traditionally non-aligned, but there has been a rise in support for Nato membership following increased Russian military activity in the region. Lots of applause for this one at Almedalen on Gotland, which was allegedly part of a Russian military exercise earlier this year.

What do the Gotlanders themselves think though? The Local found out earlier this week.

7.10pm Stable economics

She's saying that the Moderates will never allow Sweden's national finances to go down the Greek route.

7.05pm Grexit?

Kinberg Batra has started her speech by talking about Greece's snap referendum on leaving the euro. She's criticizing the Greek leadership, saying "we need an open Europe".

7.03pm Anna Kinberg Batra arrives

The 45-year-old new leader of Sweden's biggest opposition party, the Moderates, has taken to the stage at Almedalen. Here's a backstage picture of her from just a few minutes ago, preparing for the arguably biggest speech of her party leader career.

6.45pm The Moderates' leader prepares to speak

This is Anna Kinberg Batra's first speech at Almedalen as party leader and her supporters already arrived at the park an hour ago to snag the best seats (or maybe they were just enjoying the heatwave).

Need to brush up quickly on who the head of Sweden's biggest opposition party is? Read our guide to Sweden's party leaders here. She's about to take the stage in 15 minutes.

4.25pm Immigration

Immigration has been a huge talking point throughout the week here at Almedalen, with all party leaders mentioning it at some point during their evening speeches and offering very different perspectives on the issue.

This time last year, former Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt was calling on Swedes to open their hearts to refugees.

"Is there anyone here tonight who was born in another country? Thank you for choosing Sweden," he said during his final Almedalen speech as Prime Minister.

But politics in Sweden has changed a lot over the past 12 months.

While new the head of the Moderates Anna Kinberg Batra told reporters earlier that she wanted to help foreign-born young people to integrate better into Swedish society, her party has also mooted the idea of temporary permits for asylum seekers and toughened its rhetoric on immigration in the face of rising support for the nationalist Sweden Democrats.

So Swedish politics geeks will be closely watching the approach she takes in her first Almedalen stage appearance at 7pm.

3.17pm Disability talks

As we mentioned on yesterday’s blog, Sweden’s Feminist Initiative Party doesn’t get to make a speech during the official Almedalen week, although it will hold a day of events on Monday. 

In the meantime, co-leader Gudrun Schyman seems keen to capture new supporters before they head home for the weekend. She’s made up to three speeches a day at the political festival, most recently at Sweden’s Disability Federation’s tent (Handikappförbunden).

With the organisation's stand right on the waterfront close to the ferry terminal, she stopped plenty of people in their tracks with her appearance, in which she stressed that her party wants to promote equality across different groups in Sweden and was not only focussed on women’s issues.

Schyman explained that one in five people living in Sweden has a disability and said she felt the differences in their living conditions and those of the rest of the population were “still too large”.<!--

— Maddy Savage (@maddysavage) July 3, 2015

2.45pm Are low-skilled jobs the future?

Sweden has the lowest proportion of low-skilled jobs in the EU, and this is damaging integration of immigrants in the job market, a seminar by the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenska Näringsliv) heard earlier today.

High immigrant unemployment has, in fact, been a major focus of Almedalen. According to Susanne Spector of Svenskt Näringsliv, Sweden needs to create 360,000 jobs for people who didn’t complete high school. Green Party co-leader Gustav Fridolin also raised the topic in his keynote speech last night.

The fact that Sweden has, in recent years, welcomed more asylum seekers than almost any other EU country is having a major impact. One reaction of politicians who don’t want to see the low-wage sector grow in Sweden is to instead focus on educating the unemployed so that they can take better-paid jobs

But Åsa Storm, the founder of a cleaning company in Jönköping, southern Sweden, which employs mostly immigrant women, said this was unrealistic at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise conference. “Many immigrant women who work for us don’t want higher education. They’re proud of what they do.”

However Alice Teodorescu, leader writer for Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten, said that many of the things that need to be done to get migrants into work mean changing Sweden’s model - cutting taxes and social fees on work, for instance. Persuading politicians to do that will be an uphill struggle.

1.34pm Left Party attacks Greens

Sweden’s Left party has its big day tomorrow, but with Almedalen already starting to clear out, its leader Jonas Sjöstedt is busy doing interviews already.

He’s criticised the Green party for shifting towards the political centre, after co-leader Gustav Fridolin spent most of his keynote speech last night talking about education rather than the environment.

“They have been moving more toward the political centre….they have become less sharp on climate policy,” he’s told the TT news agency.

The Green Party has previously had strong links to the Left Party, but Sjöstedt has said he feels the distance between them has grown since the Greens entered into a coalition with the Social Democrats in September 2014 and excluded his group.

Sweden's Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt at Almedalen. Photo: TT

1.13pm Feeling hot?

It's 25C in Visby, with even higher temperatures further south. If you're sweltering in the heat at Almedalen - or elsewhere, don't miss our ten tips on how to stay cool (and look hot), Swedish style.

10.33am Who's left at Almedalen?

The Local's journalists were first in the press centre at 8am this morning, having previously had to jostle for a spot over the past few days. Meanwhile the streets around the Almedalen conference are certainly calmer than they were midweek.

With Sweden currently enjoying a heatwave and a warm weekend ahead, it seems plenty of people are already heading back to the mainland to enjoy the sunshine, despite the fact that Sweden's biggest opposition party has yet to make its keynote speech here.

9.53am Cutting social exclusion

Anna Kinberg Batra has been on Swedish radio and television this morning, outlining some of the issues she is expected to flesh out during her speech tonight.

The Moderate party leader has said she wants to tackle social exclusion in Sweden and to help young and foreign born people to feel more integrated into society.

She's also written a debate article in Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on the same topic, saying that it is "important to strengthen these groups skills".

The centre-right politician notes that one in three unemployed young people in Sweden leaves school without basic high school qualifications and that half of new arrivals to the country have no formal qualifications.

She's said she's also keen to make sure that more immigrants learn Swedish.

The Moderate Party leader at TV4's tent on Friday. Photo: TT

9.10am Geographical slip

A day after their main speech at Almedalen, the Green Party is still dominating the agenda after co-leader Åsa Romson erroneously placed Second World War concentration camp Auschwitz in southern Germany in a live radio interview yesterday.

READ MORE: Green leader in another Auschwitz gaffe

She quickly corrected herself, but the slip of the tongue is making the rounds on social media, with 'Auschwitz' currently trending on Twitter in Sweden.

7.15am Who's the new leader?

So who is the new head of Sweden's biggest opposition party? Well, joining the Moderates' youth wing at the mere age of 13, Anna Kinberg Batra then studied economics at the prestigious Stockholm School of Economics and worked at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce before becoming a member of parliament in 2001.

Born and bred in the Swedish capital, one of the statements she is still the most famous for -- and probably the one she would most like to forget -- is from 1998 when she said that "Stockholmers are smarter than hillbillies" in a televised interviews. Yeah, that one went down like a lead balloon. She has apologized repeatedly for it ever since.

Fun fact: Kinberg Batra is fluent in Dutch after having spent some time in the Netherlands in her youth, and is married to well-known Swedish comedian David Batra.

7.00am A big day for Sweden's opposition

This time last year the Moderate Party's Fredrik Reinfeldt was Prime Minister.

Today, its new head Anna Kinberg Batra will take to the stage to reveal how the party hopes to make its way back into power by the time the next election comes around in three years time.

The first female leader of the Moderates, Kinberg Batra has had a tough task taking over from Reinfeldt who stepped down with approval ratings of well over 50 percent after Sweden's general election in 2014.

If you're new to Swedish politics, the Moderates are a centre-right group focused on job creation and cutting taxes and they were in power for eight years before losing the last national vote.

The Moderates were in coalition with the Christian Democrats, the Centre Party and the Liberal Party in the last government. Together the group calls itself the Alliance.


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