Refugee crisis

Swedish PM ‘confident’ of refugee opportunities

Swedish PM 'confident' of refugee opportunities
Stefan Löfven being interviewed this week. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
Stefan Löfven has told Swedish media he believes the refugee crisis in Sweden is stabilising and said he has high hopes that those granted asylum will have the "best opportunity" to start a new life.

The Swedish leader has been giving a range of high profile interviews reflecting on an intense first 16 months in government, largely dominated by Europe's refugee crisis.

He told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter on Tuesday that he was satisfied that the number of refugees arriving in Sweden each week had dropped since his coalition toughened border checks last month and announced that residency permits would be limited as Sweden struggled to guarantee accommodation for all new arrivals.

But he said he was confident that those who were granted asylum would be given “the best opportunity to start a new life, both for their own sake and for Sweden”, despite ongoing concerns about integration in the Scandinavian country.

The Prime Minister argued that Sweden “needs more people” and said that he hoped the country offered “good potential” for those who were keen to work, while also offering a welfare safety net.

However he rejected an idea promoted by many centre-right commentators in Sweden that more low-paid entry level jobs should be created in the Nordic nation, in order to guarantee work for new arrivals, describing the idea as a “very big mistake”.

“We should not compete with low wages because that is not where our competitive edge lies. It lies in good products, both goods and services,” he said, promising that his government would invest in education and internships.

Löfven admitted that 2015 had been a “difficult” period but said he was pleased that his Social Democrat-Green coalition had managed to reach a number of cross-party deals with Sweden's centre-right Alliance oppositon groups.

The Prime Minister's end-of-year reflections come as his party continues to experience a dip in support, while polls suggest that the country's nationalist party is growing in popularity.

In a separate interview with the TT news agency, released on Monday evening, he said: “Everyone would like to have good [poll] numbers, but I will not let myself get disturbed by it.”

He also stressed that his country was experiencing strong economic growth and high investment and said he had not given up his much-debated goal of Sweden achieving the lowest unemployment rate in the EU by 2020.

“I see all the possibilities to maintain it. but it will require additional methods,” he argued.