Year in review: The biggest stories from Sweden in 2018

Year in review: The biggest stories from Sweden in 2018
The Local looks back at the year's highs and lows in Sweden. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad / TT
As 2018 comes to an end, The Local's team looks back over ten stories that shaped the year, from the summer's wildfires to crime trends to that sword in a lake.

Sweden's struggle to crack down on gangs

Gang conflict has been an ongoing debate this year, particularly in the southern city of Malmö, with a series of tit-for-tat shootings and explosive blasts. Our Malmö correspondent wrote about how it feels to live in a city where gangland shootings are no longer confined to certain areas (Members).

Police in other areas are also facing evolving challenges when it comes to dealing with gang crime. In January, a man in his 60s died after an explosion at a Stockholm subway station, after he picked up what he thought was a toy, but turned out to be a hand grenade. We investigated why Swedish gangs are increasingly using these weapons, and what is being done to crack down on the worrying trend, as part of our series of long-reads.

A controversial assault ruling

The Local revealed in March that a Stockholm man had been acquitted of an alleged assault against his wife from 2015 because his guilt could not be proven. The ruling argued it was “not uncommon for women to falsely claim they have been assaulted” in order to get an apartment, and said the man appeared to come from a “good family, unlike hers”.

The case sparked debate across the country, put the spotlight on Sweden's use of lay judges, and was ultimately overturned by an appeals court in December. Read the full story here.

Swedish assault case thrown out because man 'seemed to come from a good family'

Solna District Court. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Man-free music festival

Huge events and structural changes took place this year in response to the #MeToo movement and reports of sexual assault in all parts of Swedish society. One of the reactions that was most widely reported internationally was a 'man-free' festival, organized after the cancellation one of Sweden's biggest music festivals due to multiple sexual assault reports.

“It felt important when so many people wanted it,” the festival's founder told The Local during the early stages of planning. “All men are not rapists, but almost all rapes are carried out by men. We want to create a free space, a cool festival where women can be without feeling worried. A festival is not the solution, but a reaction to the problem. The goal with the festival is that there shouldn't need to be separatist events.”

The Local also spoke to attendees at the festival when it took place in summer, with one commenting:  “We need to create a space where every human, regardless of their gender identity, feels safe.” However, Sweden's Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) ruled this month that describing the event as 'man-free' was discriminatory.

Unprecedented drought and wildfires

The summer saw scorching heat across the entire country, which had devastating effects on Swedish nature as wildfires raged even above the Arctic circle.

The Local spoke to drought-hit farmers, Swedes who were evacuated from their villages, the firefighters who fought the flames, and the volunteers doing what they could to help. 

The impact of the extreme heatwave will be felt for years to come, and has already cost the country billions. The damage to Sweden's forests was a huge blow not only financially but culturally too; we explored the vital role that woodland plays in Swedish lifestyle (Members). 

The impact of Sweden's summer heatwave is visible from space
Gotland seen from above in 2017, left, and 2018. Photo: Rymdstyrelsen/Google/Esa

Scandal hits the Nobel Prize-awarding Swedish Academy

The Swedish Academy, responsible for awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature, was rocked by mass resignations this year after a man with close links to the prestigious body was accused by multiple women of sexual assault.

Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault, found guilty of two rapes by an appeals court this winter, is married to a member of the Swedish Academy. The scandal, along with the internal rifts caused by disagreement over how to address it, prompted the institution to postpone this year's award and to update their statutes from 1786. Find all of our articles on the scandal here, and a summary of how the row started and what it means for Sweden here (Members).

A summer of football

It was a great year for Swedish football fans, who saw their national team not only play in a World Cup, but get all the way to the quarter-finals. They celebrated in style: one Russian town run out of beer as Swedes celebrated their first win in a World Cup match in 12 years, and the team's spirit shone throughout the tournament.

The euphoria was tainted by racist abuse targeting footballer Jimmy Durmaz, whose foul led to a loss against Germany. He denounced the racism in a powerful speech, in which his teammates stood behind him, and received support and solidarity from Sweden's Sports Minister who wore his jersey in parliament, and anti-racism campaigners at a huge demonstration in Stockholm.

READ ALSO: 'When Durmaz took us to the World Cup he was a hero, now he makes a mistake he's the other'

 Sweden top group and power into World Cup last 16 with dream win over Mexico
Sweden celebrating their win over Mexico. Photo: Martin Meissner/AP

The election

In September, Swedes went to the polls to vote in the general election, and we've closely followed the political situation both before and after the vote. We asked the major parties questions submitted by our readers, challenged misrepresentations of Swedish politics in international reports, and our team of reporters live-blogged the results as they came in.

In over 100 days since the election, little visible progress has been made, and we explored the factors that have led to political deadlock in a long-read for our Sweden in Focus series.

It's now clear Santa won't be bringing Sweden a new government for Christmas, but you can find all our reporting on the election and its aftermath here and check out our mammoth politics timeline to refresh your memory of all the twists and turns.

The Swedish teen who went on strike from school and just might change the world

“The more you read [about climate change], the more concerned you get,” Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg told The Local back in August. “It's obviously worrying, but I think that instead of worrying about something that can happen, you should try to change it as long as it's possible to make a change.”

That's exactly what she did, going on strike from school (but still keeping up with homework) to raise awareness of climate policy. Thunberg said she had expected to spend the days protesting alone, but was soon joined by other students, teachers and campaigners, and her initiative has inspired many more school strikes across the globe.

Since then, Greta has spoken at major climate events and criticized world leaders in a speech to the United Nations, earning her a place on Time's list of the world's most influential teenagers.

Meet the 15-year-old Swedish girl on strike from school for the climate
Greta with her sign, reading 'School strike for the climate'. Photo: Catherine Edwards/The Local

Why are foreign workers still being deported?

Throughout the year, we've been reporting on an issue that affects many of The Local's readers: Sweden's deportations of international workers. There has been progress, including a new fast-track option for many in the tech sector, but many professionals are still being told to leave Sweden over minor mistakes or errors committed by previous employers. Read some of their stories by clicking the links below

We also worked on a survey to find out the impact that the lengthy work permit renewal process is having on people's health, with respondents reporting symptoms such as stress, depression, high blood pressure, and burnout. And we took an in-depth look at why this is happening and what steps have been taken to solve the problem (Members).

A girl called Saga pulls a sword from a lake

This was a favourite story of the year for many of The Local's team, and we expect for readers too. An eight-year-old Swedish-American girl was playing in the lake by her family's summer house when she found a sword in the water's depths. A pre-Viking-era sword.

After The Local spoke to Saga Vanacek about her truly incredible experience, the story was reported across the globe, and many hailed her as the new Queen of Sweden. Who are we to disagree?

Photos: Andrew Vanecek

Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

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