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Sweden-Hungary relations turn frosty as diplomatic row escalates

A diplomatic row over Budapest's new family policy heated up between Sweden and Hungary on Wednesday.

Sweden-Hungary relations turn frosty as diplomatic row escalates
Swedish Social Affairs Minister Annika Strandhäll. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Sweden said it had summoned Hungary's ambassador to the foreign ministry.

“The meeting will take place today … in Stockholm,” foreign ministry spokesperson Anton Dahlquist told AFP, refusing to disclose other details.

On February 12th, Sweden's Social Democratic Social Affairs Minister Annika Strandhäll wrote on Twitter that Prime Minister Viktor Orban's seven-point family planning policy “reeks of the 1930s” and that “what is happening in Hungary is alarming”.

“Now Orban wants to have more 'real' Hungarian children. This kind of policy will harm the autonomy for which women have struggled for decades,” Strandhäll said.

Several days later, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Sweden's ambassador had been summoned and informed that Strandhäll's comments were “unacceptable”.

“Hungary is spending money on families and Sweden is spending it on migrants,” Szijjarto said.

At the weekend, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen called Strandhäll a “poor sick creature” on television, remarks Strandhäll has refused to comment.

The new family policy laid out by Orban, who fiercely opposes immigration to Hungary from the Middle East and Africa, is aimed at stemming Hungary's plummeting population trend by giving young couples incentives to have children.

The new measures include interest-free housing and family-friendly car loans, and exempting women from income tax once they have their fourth child.

“This – not immigration – is the response of the Hungarian people,” Orban said.

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Five of Sweden’s political parties planned to evade party financing laws

Five of the eight political parties in the Swedish parliament discussed evading party financing laws with a businessman secretly working with journalists, a new investigation by broadcaster TV4 has found.

Five of Sweden's political parties planned to evade party financing laws

“There’s every reason to demand moral and political responsibility,” political scientist Jonas Hinnfors said of how Sweden’s society should react to the investigation’s findings. “It’s a threat to democracy.”

The new law on donations to political parties which came into force in 201  dictates that parties must declare all donations received from private individuals or businesses. Donators can remain anonymous, byt only as long as their donation does not exceed 24,150 kronor (€2,281). Larger donations must be declared along with the name of the donor.

The Kalla Fakta team which produced the documentary hired two businessmen to call each parliamentary party and ask how they could donate half a million kronor, while staying anonymous. The conversations were recorded and meetings filmed with a hidden camera.

Three parties – the Centre Party, the Left Party and the Green Party – said that it wasn’t possible for the donor to remain anonymous. 

But the other five parties – the Social Democrats, the Moderates, the Sweden Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals – suggested different ways of getting around the requirements.

Christian Democrat press secretary Peter Kullgren suggested splitting up donations and donating to individual candidates so that each donation remained under the legal limit.

Another method, proposed by Sweden Democrat head of finance Lena-Karin Lifvenhjelm, consisted of giving the money to another individual who would donate it under their name instead.

Magdalena Agrell, the Social Democrat’s head of finance, discussed finding someone else to act as a front in recorded telephone conversations.

The chairman and communications chief of the Social Democrat’s youth organisation, Diyar Cicek and Youbert Aziz, suggested that the businessman instead create a foundation to donate the money.

The Moderate Party’s ombudsman Patrik Haggren proposed that donations could be sent from different members of the businessman’s family in order to remain anonymous.

Lisa Flinth, who is responsible for leadership support in the Liberal Party, also proposed this method, providing the contact details of a middleman, the consultant Svend Dahl.

Dahl first proposed that his company send an invoice of half a million kronor to the businessman, but later suggested that the money be transferred to him to donate to the Liberals in his name, thereby avoiding having to pay tax.

“It’s important you keep yourself anonymous,” Dahl said in Kalla Fakta‘s recordings of conversations with the undercover businessman.

Dahl is a political scientist and has previously been head of media organisation Liberala Nyhetsbyrån.

Flinth was well aware of the fact that the method undermines the aim of the law, telling the businessman in a telephone conversation that it was very important that nothing could be traced back to the party.

“It could have serious consequences,” she said. “We don’t really have any margins when it comes to credibility.”

“If there was an article about this in the middle of a heated election campaign and we miss the threshold for getting in to parliament, I would never forgive myself,” she said.

Political scientist Jonas Hinnfors, who commented on the conversation for the Kalla Fakta team, said he was shocked after hearing it.

“They know what the point of the new legislation is,” he told Kalla Fakta. “Going against that is political dynamite.”

In a written comment on their website, the Liberals’ vice-party secretary Gustav Georgson stated that the party would not use Dahl’s consulting services again and that it “takes the statements made by Kalla Fakta seriously and will act forcefully to avoid similar situations happening again.”

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