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Your questions: What can Malmö's Liberals do for internationals?

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Your questions: What can Malmö's Liberals do for internationals?
Roko Kursar believes the Liberal Party can make a significant impact in Malmö over the next four years. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Malmö's Liberals have gained significant power in the city since striking a coalition deal with the Social Democrats in November. The Local asked internationals living in the city what questions they'd like us to ask First Deputy Mayor Roko Kursar.


This article is available to Members of The Local. Read more Membership Exclusives here
Kursar's party now has the right to appoint four out of Malmö's nine municipal commissioners, giving it day-to-day control of schools, disability services, democracy, urban planning and design, and has also won Social Democrat backing for a full 56 of the 80 policy points in the Liberals' election manifesto.
It's an astonishing result for a party which won just 6 percent of the vote, but it's a reward the Liberals could afford to ask given the Social Democrats' desperate need of a majority. 
"I think it would be wrong to look at it through that perspective, because we had the final say," Kursar explains.  
"If you only have a fifth of what the Social Democrats have in votes, then why should you get almost half? It's because our first priority is to make sure that Liberal politics is implemented in the city, and we could not allow ourselves just to be a sidekick." 
But what does all this mean for internationals? We went on The Local's Living in Sweden Facebook group and the Expats in Malmö page and asked internationals what questions we should ask him. We then met him in his still largely unfurnished office in Malmö's municipal headquarters. 
Asnelm Ssebu: "Housing is a crisis in Sweden, do they have a concrete plan to solve it?"
Anna Schneider, 21, international student: "How can they let the big housing companies such as Stena and Heimstaden run the housing market? As an international student who's been on the 'boplatssyd' list for three years, housing in general is terrible." 
Roko Kursar: There's a policy we've been working on for the past three or four years, and that we got backing for in the negotiations with the Social Democrats, and it's something we call 'näringslivsförtur' [business priority]. When it comes to rentals, we have a joint queue in boplatssyd, so what we want to do is make sure that if you have got a job in Malmö, you will be able to skip the line over others who are not living in Malmö and are in the queue, but don't have an employment here. It's very important that people don't have to turn down a job here because they can't find housing. Of course it won't guarantee you housing when you apply, but it will shorten the time and that's very very important and very significant.
Beatrice Tonini, 38, senior lecturer: "Is there any plan to provide basic but thorough services in English, that is all the administration stuff, health etc? When you consult the Malmö Stad website, the information in English is so thin! 
Roko Kursar: I know, it's a catastrophe, because we only have one general page that is in English, and then when you get to all the other pages, it gives you the option to use Google Translate, and that's absolutely not OK. We're an international city, were very proud to be a cosmopolitan city, so for us it's very important that we step up when it comes to our international residents. I can tell you that I have raised the question and I have heard from the Social Democrats that they totally agree with me that this has to be done during this year. It's a job that needs to be done and rather quickly and I'll make sure it will be prioritized. 
Heidi LaGrasta, Visual Arts Executive: What is being done (or can be done) to prevent discrimination against hiring foreign born professionals?
Olivier Letellier, animator: What about faster personal numbers for foreigners coming with a job? (as fast as Denmark would be great) I'm good but some of my colleagues (highly specialized and experienced) are not. 
Roko Kursar: When it comes to personal numbers, it's not our responsibility. My wife came to Sweden five years ago from Croatia, and I know the frustration when you're waiting for your personal number. Where we can make it easier for expats to get employment is in our city organization, because we're the biggest employer in Malmö. One thing which we got into our budget is to trial a system of anonymized applications, so you wouldn't see the name, you wouldn't see that this is a foreigner, only their education and credentials. We will implement as a test balloon this year. We're the biggest employer so it's very important that we are in the forefront. 
Ana Maria, 32, mechanical engineer: Any plans or talks to improve the train services considering that Malmö is first choice of living for many people that work in smaller towns like Älmhult, or that work in Copenhagen?
Roko Kursar: Our biggest plan concerns the metro. Ten years ago our party said we need a metro, and now the Social Democrats want a metro too. The idea is that the tunnel from Copenhagen is going to continue into Malmö. So this year, we're going to make concrete plans on how we're going to take this to the next level, and look at plans on how that's going to work. Operationally, when it comes to out-of-city transportation, it's a regional question, but we do whatever we can to make sure that the infrastructure coming into Malmö is as good as possible. 
Richard Orange, The Local's Malmö reporter: There have been a number of high-profile gang shootings over the past few years. What can you do to make internationals feel more secure? 
Roko Kursar: One thing that was very that we got into the negotiations was municipal guards. A third of Malmö citizens said in answer to a survey that they didn't feel safe in our streets and squares, and that makes you less free. So we decided in the budget, after dialogue with the police, to establish municipal guards to patrol public areas. The idea is not to hire private guards because it's very important that our guards are well-informed and connected with social workers and schools. This would not be to replace the police, because we need more police as well. But the police need help and if we can do something to help them preventing crimes, it's very important that we do that.
This interview has been edited for concision and clarity. 


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