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Five key moments in Löfven's first year as PM

Emma Löfgren · 15 Sep 2015, 13:04

Published: 15 Sep 2015 13:04 GMT+02:00
Updated: 15 Sep 2015 13:04 GMT+02:00

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1. Recognizing Palestine

Löfven first captured global media attention when he, at the opening of parliament in 2014, announced that Sweden would become the first major European nation to officially recognize Palestine as a state.

The move, while lauded by Palestinians, heavily angered Israel, which answered by recalling its Stockholm-based ambassador. The senior diplomat returned a month later as relations eventually began to thaw.

However, whatever goodwill the move won Sweden among the Arab states, it did not stop relations later growing frosty between Sweden and Saudi Arabia amid a diplomatic spat over human rights and a scrapped military deal in the first part of 2015.

Löfven was also brought before a parliament committee to answer questions about the decision to recognize Palestine. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

2. Managing a shock budget crisis

In early December Löfven hit the headlines when he called a snap re-election only months after being voted into office. The root of the political crisis emerged when the centre-right Alliance opposition put forward a budget to rival the new government's (as is customary in Swedish politics), which ended up getting more support than the coalition's offering, because it was also backed by the nationalist Sweden Democrats.

The snap vote was later scrapped after Löfven's Social Democrat-Green coalition held secret negotiations with the four Alliance parties and struck a controversial deal – the so-called 'December Agreement' – to prevent future similar crises and cut the Sweden Democrats' influence in parliament.

The agreement boils down to this: if it looks like a future government budget won't get enough support, then the main opposition parties either won't vote for or won't put forward a rival budget (leaving the Sweden Democrats' vote irrelevant). In the meantime, crazy as it sounds, Löfven has spent most of the past year following the opposition's budget.

Stefan Löfven with the leaders involved in the December Agreement. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

3. Putting Swedish feminism on the map

As part of the coalition's feminist foreign policy, Löfven became an international advocate for women's rights when he was appointed 'Impact World Champion Leader' for the United Nations' #HeForShe campaign in January. The initiative, which was later launched in Sweden, saw the Swedish leader locked in discussions with former Harry Potter actress Emma Watson at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The event clearly made an impact on Löfven, who, in his first official speech after the summer holidays in August homed in on gender equality and referred to the actress, as well as young Swedish artist Zara Larsson and US director Lena Dunham, as feminist pioneers and important role models.

Stefan Löfven and Hollywood actress Emma Watson. Photo: Maria Davidsson/TT

4. Starting to tackle Sweden's housing shortage

As more and more calls were heard for the government to tackle Sweden's escalating housing crisis, Löfven pledged in March this year to build 150,000 new homes each year from 2016, in a move designed to help both Swedish and international workers.

"A housing shortage is one of the biggest obstacles to growth, such that people cannot move wherever they want," he said at the time.

The current accommodation shortage is particularly acute in the capital Stockholm, where in some parts of the city there is a 20-year wait for apartment-seekers. The Local put together a guide to help expats navigate Sweden's crazy rental market

Stefan Löfven pledged to tackle Sweden's housing crisis. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Story continues below…

5. Welcoming refugees to Sweden

While Europe continued to debate the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War with more and more countries closing its borders, Löfven pledged that Sweden's door would remain open to those needing help as the Nordic nation took in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU member state.

In his 'Sweden Together' campaign, launched in September 2015, he called for the entire public sector to unite to ensure the swift resettlement of the latest influx of refugees – most of whom were fleeing war in Syria – and promised extra funding to encourage municipalities across the country to take in more new arrivals.

"For us to be able to get through this demographic challenge, we need to get more working. This means we need to quickly get those who have newly arrived into the work force,” he said.

Stefan Löfven, right, meeting with European Parliament President Martin Schulz about the refugee crisis. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

GUIDE: Who's who in Swedish politics?

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Emma Löfgren (emma.lofgren@thelocal.com)

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