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Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

Find out what's going on in Sweden today with The Local's short roundup of the news in less than five minutes. Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson has said his party has shifted position over Nato membership.
Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson has said his party has shifted position over Nato membership. Photo: TT

Sweden Democrats ‘have switched position on Nato’: Åkesson

The populist Sweden Democrats have moved away from their anti-Nato stance and are now no longer rules out Sweden joining the security alliance, the party’s leader, Jimmie Åkesson, said in an interview on Friday morning. 

“This is a shift in position,” Åkesson said in an interview on the TV4 broadcaster. “We have [previously] had a negative stance towards Nato membership. We believe that non-alliance has been good for Sweden, and we still believe that. But now we are proposing that we should not rule out a Nato membership if the security situation worsens even more.” 

He said the change would be made formal when the party lays out its election platform over the weekend. 

Stockholm mulls renaming Russian embassy street over Ukraine

Stockholm’s city government has said it is open to renaming Gjörwellsgatan, where the Russian embassy is based, after a person or place from Ukraine, TV4 has reported. 

The youth wing of Sweden’s Christian Democrat party, and others, have called for naming the street Zelensky-gatan after the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

“The name preparation council is meeting on Monday for [one of its] regular meetings and then we are going to discuss these fantastic proposals which have come in,” Joakim Larsson, the city councillor in change of urban planning, told the broadcaster. 

Sweden faces increased risk of Russian retaliation: Swedish Armed Forces

Sweden’s support for Ukraine and participation in the coordinated international response to Russia’s invasion has increased the risk of retaliation, the Swedish Armed Forces said in the first of its new weekly press conferences.

“There is a range of possible Russian retaliatory actions which could be aimed at Sweden,” Lieutenant General Michael Claesson, the Swedish Armed Forces’ chief of operations, said. “[Some of the things] in the Russian toolbox include influence operations, discrediting important individuals, cyber-attacks, sabotage, and more.”

Claesson was speaking at the first of the Swedish Armed Forces’ new weekly press conferences on the security situation, which will be broadcast directly at 3pm every Thursday for so long as the Russian invasion is destabilising the region.

The press conferences will serve a similar function to the daily and then weekly press conferences that the Swedish Public Health Agency used to keep the population updated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Claesson said that the unexpectedly united response from the EU and from Nato had led to a heightened tone in Russian rhetoric and an increased risk of concrete retaliatory actions.

Sweden to boost defence budget to two percent of GDP

Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson on Thursday announced a plan to boost the country’s defence spending to two percent of GDP, with the extra funding to reach the armed forces “as soon as practically possible”.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Mikael Damberg, Sweden’s finance minister, and Peter Hultqvist, the country’s defence minister, she said that increasing the defence budget to two percent of Sweden’s GDP would require spending around 108 billion kronor every year. In 2021, Sweden’s defence budget was roughly 66 billion kronor.

“Sweden’s defence capabilities will be greatly increased,” she said. “The war in Europe is going to affect the Swedish people. We need to continue to strengthen Sweden’s defence capabilities.”

Spotify drops paying subscribers in Russia

Music streaming giant Spotify said on Thursday that its paid subscription service would no longer be available in Russia, as sanctions had made processing payments in the country impossible.

“Due to new restrictions introduced by major payment providers, payment processing is not currently possible for the majority of Premium users in Russia,” a Spotify spokesman told AFP.

Paid premium accounts “will be cancelled if a recurring payment fails and the account will then be automatically moved to our free service,” he said in a written statement.

The company said it had also “paused all advertising campaigns running in Russia.”

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Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

Nato, Nato, and more Nato: Find out what's going on in Sweden with The Local's roundup.

Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

Sweden’s defence minister: Nato decision to be taken today

Sweden’s government will meet later on Monday to take the historical decision to join Nato, the country’s defence minister Peter Hultqvist, has told state broadcaster SVT. 

“I can’t say exactly when the application will be sent in, but the decision is going to be taken today,” he said. 

Turkey have voiced their opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance.

Hultqvist said that Sweden was sending a group of civil servants to discuss Turkey’s objections to Swedish Nato membership — something Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday would not prevent Sweden joining the alliance. 

“We are going to a send a group of civil servants who are going to carry out a discussion and have a dialogue with Turkey, so then we’ll see how the issue can be solved and what the discussion is actually about. But the signals we’ve had from Nato are that there’s unanimity that both Sweden and Finland should join.” 

Swedish Vocab: avgör – to decide 

Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party backs Nato bid

Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party on Sunday said it was in favour of joining Nato, reversing its decades-long opposition and paving the way for the country to submit a membership application.

The turnaround comes amid soaring political and public support in Sweden for joining the Western military alliance after Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine.

The issue has divided Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s Social Democrats, with some party members expressing concern that the decision was being rushed through.

The party said on Sunday that if Sweden’s application were approved, it would work to express “unilateral reservations against the deployment of nuclear weapons and permanent bases on Swedish territory.”

Swedish vocab: att vara orolig – to be worried/concerned

Finland confirms it will apply to join Nato as Sweden set to follow

Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö confirmed on Sunday that his country would apply for Nato membership as Sweden’s ruling party was to hold a decisive meeting that could pave the way for a joint application.

The announcement came after Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Thursday they both favoured Nato membership, in a major policy shift prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Today, we, the president and the government’s foreign policy committee, have together decided that Finland … will apply for Nato membership,” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Sanna Marin in Helsinki on Sunday.

“I have great feelings, of course, this is an historic day. It started in the morning when I visited the memorial service to honour Finland’s fallen heroes”, Niinistö told reporters.

Niinistö said that the decision will secure Finland’s security policy and that it “does not disadvantage anyone”.

Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde said the decision would have “great significance” for Sweden.

Swedish vocab: betydelse – significance 

US in support of Sweden and Finland joining Nato

The State Department’s top diplomat for Europe, Karen Donfried, and President Joe Biden have reiterated US support for Sweden and Finland joining Nato, ahead of a meeting between Alliance foreign ministers in Berlin on Saturday.

In a phone call on Friday morning with Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, US President Joe Biden reiterated support for Nato’s open-door policy, the White House said. He had also stressed that Sweden and Finland had the right to decide their own future.

Donfried said on Friday: “The United States would support Finland or Sweden joining Nato should they choose to do so.” A formal membership application by the two countries would be “further evidence of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategic miscalculation,” she said.

Finland and Sweden are “valued Nato partners” and “thriving democracies,” Donfried said. Referring to remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the top diplomat said Turkey’s position must now be clarified. 

Swedish vocab: att stödja – to support