Neo-Nazi group could be banned from Sweden’s annual politics festival

Politicians on the Swedish island of Gotland want to ban an extremist neo-Nazi group from next year's Almedalen Week, the country's annual politics festival.

Neo-Nazi group could be banned from Sweden's annual politics festival
Members of the NMR at Almedalen this year, where they handed out their publication Nordfront. Photo: Janerik Henriksson / TT

The neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) was granted permission to rent land in Visby during this year's edition of the event, for the first time. The Gotland municipality later made a U-turn and asked the police to stop the neo-Nazi group from attending, labelling their earlier decision a “mistake”.

However, the police granted the NRM permission to attend, citing Sweden's constitutional freedom of assembly.

Now Gotland's politicians want to stop the group from participating in the 2018 Almedalen Week, by referring to the Public Order Act.

“There is no other way. We will do everything we can, because we do not want them here. It is catastrophic for the Almedalen Week that [other] organizations and associations do not dare to come here,” the chairperson of the event's technical committee, Tommy Gardell, told TT.

According to Gardell, multiple groups decided not to attend the event after NMR's involvement this year, and he said the group's presence “limits freedom of expression for others”. What's more, some of the group's activists destroyed other organizations' flags and disrupted several parties' events by shouting slogans and slurs.

Gardell hopes that the municipality will be able to refuse to rent land to groups like the NMR on this basis, without going against the constitutional 'principal of objectivity' which states public authorities must treat everyone equally.

Authorities have been working on a plan to oust the NMR from next year's event since summer, but have come up against numerous obstacles. It is illegal to refuse to rent land to individual groups, and nor can the group be banned under anti-terror laws, so filing a municipal veto is the latest tactic.

Almedalen is organized by the eight parties that make up Sweden's parliament, but it is the Gotland region which rents out the land used by participating groups.

This summer, the NMR rented land close to the harbour in Visby, the island's medieval capital, but they were not part of the official programme, which is decided by the parliamentary parties.

While some groups boycotted the festival due to the NMR's presence, others protested the group at the event, including with an art installation which saw a pile of shoes left outside their tents, representing the genocide carried out by Nazis during the Holocaust.

READ ALSO: Diversity protesters march against neo-Nazis at Swedish politics week

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What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden's Christian Democrats on Monday presented an "abortion contract", which she wants all of Sweden's party leaders to sign. What's going on?

What's the Swedish Christian Democrats' abortion contract all about?

What’s happened? 

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden’s Christian Democrat party, called a press conference on Monday in which she presented a document that she called “an abortion contract”, which was essentially a pledge to safeguard the right of women in Sweden to have an abortion.  

“There is room for signatures from all eight party leaders,” she said. “I have already signed on behalf of the Christian Democrats.” 

What does the so-called “abortion contract” say? 

The document itself is fairly uncontroversial.

It states simply that Sweden’s law on abortion dates back to 1974, and that it grants women the right to an abortion up until the 18th week of pregnancy, with women seeking abortions later in their pregnancy required to get permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare. 

“Those of us who have signed this document support Sweden’s abortion legislation and promise to defend it if it comes under attack from forces both within our country and from outside,” the document reads.  

Why have the Christian Democrats produced it? 

The decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade, and so allow US states to ban abortion has aroused strong feelings in Sweden, as elsewhere, and Busch is seeking to send a strong signal to distance her own Christian party from the US religious right. 

Abortion has been a recurring issue within the Christian Democrats with several politicians and party members critical of abortion. 

Lars Adaktusson, a Christian Democrat MP, was found by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper to have voted against abortion 22 times when he was a member of the European parliament. 

The party has also in the past campaigned for the right of midwives and other medical professionals who are ethically opposed to abortion not to have to take part in the procedure. 

So why aren’t all the other party leaders signing the document? 

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats, and their Green Party allies, dismissed the contract as a political gimmick designed to help the Christian Democrats distance themselves from elements of their own party critical of abortion. 

“It would perhaps be good if Ebba Busch did some homework within her own party to check that there’s 100 percent support for Sweden’s abortion legislation,” Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, said. “That feels like a more important measure than writing contracts between party leaders and trying to solve it that way.”  

In a debate on Swedish television, Green Party leader Märta Stenevi argued that it would be much more significant if Busch’s own MPs and MEPs all signed the document. 

It wasn’t other party leaders who needed to show commitment to abortion legislation, but “her own MPs, MEPs, and not least her proposed government partners in the Sweden Democrats and even some within the Moderate Party”. 

She said it made her “very very worried” to see that the Christian Democrats needed such a contract. “That’s why I see all this more as a clear sign that we need to move forward with protecting the right to abortion in the constitution,” she said. 

How have the other right-wing parties reacted? 

The other right-wing parties have largely backed Busch, although it’s unclear if any other party leaders are willing to actually sign the document. 

Tobias Billström, the Moderates’ group parliamentary leader, retweeted a tweet from Johan Paccamonti, a Stockholm regional politician with the Moderate Party, which criticised the Social Democrats for not signing it, however. 

“It seems to be more important to blow up a pretend conflict than to sign the Christian Democrats’ contract or look at the issue of [including abortion rights in] the constitution, like the Moderates, Liberals and Centre Party want to,” Paccamonti wrote. 

The Liberal Party on Sunday proposed protecting abortion rights in the Swedish constitution, a proposal which has since been backed by the Moderate party and the Centre Party