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Swedish PM promises to tackle segregation

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has announced a new government programme designed to combat segregation in Sweden.

Swedish PM promises to tackle segregation
Löfven speaking at the annual Almedalen politics meet-up. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

In his Tuesday speech at the annual Almedalen politics meet-up on Gotland, the Swedish PM warned that the country may be fractured if segregation is not tackled.

“There must be an end to the shootings, car burnings and drug trade,” he said.

“Religious extremist should not be able to gain power in the public sphere and decide where women can be, and how they dress.”

Löfven presented the ten-point government scheme before his speech. Running until 2025, it will receive 250 million kronor ($29.2 million) of government funding.

Among the points promised were a review of the punishments for attacks against police, as well as handing Sweden’s employment agency Arbetsförmedlingen the mission of increasing employment among foreign-born women.

Tens of millions of kronor per year will go to school initiatives in disadvantaged areas, while 14 million kronor ($1.6 million) will be directed towards supporting sports leaders.

Swedish police have identified 53 vulnerable residential areas, of which 15 are considered particularly vulnerable. The latter are characterized by parallel social structures, violent religious extremism, and a difficulty for police attempting to carry out their duties there.

The Prime Minister rejected suggestions that the programme would mostly consist of surveys and studies, saying that was “not a correct description” of the project.

Löfven also talked about the government investing 60 billion kronor ($7 billion) in “societal building” in the form of a larger programme first outlined last spring. That larger scheme includes sending 10 million kronor ($1.1 million) extra in grants to municipalities, as well as investment in schools, transportation and homes. Those investments are for the entirety of Sweden.

When asked by Swedish news agency TT how the money from the new program will be correctly directed towards the affected areas, Löfven said that there will be an agreement made between delegations and the municipalities in vulnerable areas over what should be done.

Political science professor Jonas Hinnfors said he was surprised to find Löfven’s programme vague and containing little money, while the government simultaneously depicts segregation as one of the great social challenges in Sweden.

“They are exposing themselves to the risk of receiving strong criticism for not doing much about a problem they are talking about in such strong terms,” he told TT.

The political scientist said he thinks the reform is fresh evidence of how difficult it is for the Social Democrats to allocate resources to projects considered “major reforms”.

Sweden’s opposition Alliance coalition criticized the scheme. Centre Party leader Annie Lööf described it as “meaningless”, calling for concrete initiatives and highlighting the Alliance proposal of hiring 2000 more police officers.

Moderate party secretary Tomas Tobé was surprised meanwhile that the possibility of tougher sentences for attacks against the police will first require investigation.

“It isn’t enough to investigate when stones are raining over the Swedish police,” he said.

For members

SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains how Sweden's parliamentary committees work – and the role the Sweden Democrats will play in them.

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

Hej,

The speaker of parliament has given Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative Moderates and the likely next prime minister of Sweden, October 12th as a deadline to conclude his government negotiations.

If Kristersson comes up with a viable proposal for a ruling coalition, the speaker will put that proposal to parliament within four days. Chances are Sweden will have its new right-wing government by mid-October.

What will that government look like? Most likely, it will consist of at least the Moderates and the Christian Democrats. Rumours have it Kristersson is hoping to bring the Liberals into the governmental fold, and it is unlikely that the far-right Sweden Democrats will be part of the government.

But anyone who thinks the latter means they will be left on the sidelines is mistaken. They will have demanded significant concessions in order to support Kristersson’s government (and especially to make way for the Liberals) from parliament, and judging from recent news, they got them.

In a joint press release last week, the right wing – the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats – said they had reached a deal on how to share responsibility for their parliamentary committees.

There are 15 committees in the Swedish parliament, seats on which are held by members of parliament, with larger parties getting more seats as well as more high-ranking roles such as chair and deputy chair.

The right wing is after this election entitled to 16 chair and deputy chair roles, and the Sweden Democrats will get half of those, the parties agreed. The key thing that many political pundits were keeping an eye on was which committees, as that tells us a lot about how far they got in their negotiations with the other right-wing parties. The answer: far.

The Sweden Democrats will get to chair the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour Market, and Industry and Trade Committees – all heavyweight committees. 

Their most high-profile appointment is Richard Jomshof, one of the most senior Sweden Democrats who in the run-up to the election gave an anti-Islam speech (not the first time). He will chair the Justice Committee.

The Moderates will chair the Finance and Social Insurance Committees (plus the EU Committee), the Christian Democrats will chair the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Liberals will chair the Education Committee.

On the other side, the left-wing parties will get to chair the Defence, Taxation, Constitution, Civil Affairs, Transport and Communications, Environment and Agriculture, and Cultural Affairs Committees.

So what exactly do the parliamentary committees do, and how much influence will the Sweden Democrats now have over legislation?

The votes of every member of the committees count equally (there are at least 15 members on every committee, representing the various parties from left to right), and the chair gets the final vote if there’s a tie. He or she also has influence over the committee’s agenda and over how meetings are directed, with the position also bringing prestige.

All government bills and proposals by members of parliament first go through one of the committees before they can be put to the main chamber for a vote. The committee adopts a position on the proposal and although the final decision rests with the 349 members of the main chamber, they usually vote for the committee’s position since the make-up of their members represent the parties in parliament.

Although chair positions give them a procedural advantage, the Sweden Democrats won’t have unlimited power over their committees, since as I said, the other parties have seats too and their votes count equally.

The main benefit for the Sweden Democrats is rather the soft power it gives them. The chair is the face of the parliamentary committee, and these senior roles will force the other parties to take them seriously.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that they’ll have enough seats on each committee that they will have a key kingmaker role where they can side either with the government or the opposition – giving them fairly significant negotiating power when it comes to future legislation.

In other news, the Swedish parliament last week re-elected the popular Andreas Norlén as speaker, it’s been taking much longer than usual to get a work permit (here’s why) and foreigners are calling for the Migration Agency to issue special visas to allow those affected by renewal delays to leave Sweden and return, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas, and households in Sweden are starting to feel the economic squeeze.

In the latest episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony is joined by Handelsbanken chief economist Johan Löf, as well as The Local’s Becky Waterton, Richard Orange and James Savage.

Many thanks to everyone who’s got in touch lately with your thoughts and feedback about Sweden Elects. I’m happy it’s useful to you. If you have any questions about Swedish politics, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Emma

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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