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

Calls for a Nato referendum, a possible interest rate hike, and the threat of a Russian disinformation campaign. Here's what's happening in Sweden on Thursday.

Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday
Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar is now calling for a referendum on Nato membership. Photo: Paul Wennerholm/TT

Will interest rates go up this morning?

At 9:30am this morning, the Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, will give an announcement on whether interest rates will go up or not.

The situation has not been this uncertain for a long time. In the last two years, the Riksbank’s interest rate announcements have mostly been about the bank’s representatives altering their own interest rate prognosis for the next year or so. But now, with rising inflation, the situation has changed.

The question is now not whether the Riksbank will increase interest rates, but how quickly.

Economists from banks Swedbank and SBAB’s expect the Riksbank to increase the key interest rate by 0.25 percentage points from zero percent, where it stands today.

“It would be extremely odd if they didn’t increase it on Thursday,” SBAB’s head economist Robert Boije told Sweden’s TT newswire on Wednesday, pointing out the fact that Riksbank representatives have given clear indications that it’s time to increase interest. “Why wait?” he asked.

However, Alexandra Stråberg, the head economist at Länsförsäkringar bank didn’t agree, pointing to low GDP growth and a weaker labour market as good reasons to wait.

“We believe that developments in the economy during the last few months mean that the Riksbank will wait and decide not to change key interest rates this week. Sweden is currently in a period with high inflation and weak growth,” she wrote in a comment to TT.

SEB bank’s economists also believe that interest rates will stay the same, but the situation is uncertain.

Swedish vocabulary: styrränta – key interest rates

Left Party demands referendum on Nato membership

The Left Party is demanding that a referendum be held on whether Sweden should join Nato or not.

“This needs to happen with very broad support, it’s a very, very big issue which needs to be addressed by voters. If the Swedish people decide they want to join Nato, of course we will accept that,” Nooshi Dadgostar, leader of the Left Party, told Sweden’s public radio broadcaster SR

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, no party has spoken out in favour of a Swedish Nato membership being decided by referendum, until now. One of the reasons for this is the concern over a possible Russian campaign to influence any such vote.

The Left Party are against Sweden joining Nato.

Swedish vocabulary: folkomröstning – referendum

‘Russia may seek to influence Sweden’s Nato debate’, security police warn

Sweden’s Säpo security police have warned that Russia is likely in coming weeks and months to make a concerted effort to influence the debate over Sweden joining the Nato security alliance.

“Russia could at the current time realise that it has a limited window of time in which it can influence Sweden’s positioning on the Nato issue,” Säpo’s chief, Charlotte von Essen, said in a press release.

“How such a Russian influence campaign might look is hard to predict, but it could take place in many different arena simultaneously, in order to influence the media, public opinion, and decision-makers.”

Von Essen made her statement as she met with the heads of the Finnish and Norwegian security services in Helsinki.

The newly formed Swedish Psychological Defence Agency last month said there was no sign of an active Russian influence campaign in Sweden, going so far as to say that the country’s international propaganda operation seemed to have stopped functioning properly.

Swedish vocabulary: påverka – influence

Trials begin for disgraced trachea implant surgeon

Paolo Macchiarini, an Italian doctor who made headlines for pioneering windpipe surgery, went on trial in Sweden yesterday, charged with assault for performing the experimental procedure.

Paolo Macchiarini won praise in 2011 after claiming to have performed the world’s first synthetic trachea transplants using stem cells while he was a surgeon at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute.

The procedure was hailed as a breakthrough in regenerative medicine. But allegations soon emerged that the risky procedure had been carried out on at least one person who had not been critically ill at the time of the operation.

The 63-year-old appeared in court in a blue suit Wednesday, where he listened to translated audio as prosecutors listed the charges of “aggravated assault” against three patients.

The Karolinska Institute has confirmed that the three individuals have since died, but did not directly link the deaths to the operations.

“Macchiarini has carried out the surgery with complete disregard for science and tried experience,” prosecutor Karin Lundstrom-Kron told the court.

As prosecutors presented their case they referenced both external and internal reviews of the case, including one published in 2016 by physician Kjell Asplund, who argued that Macchiarini should never have been employed by Karolinska in the first place.

Here’s the full story on the trial so far.

Swedish vocabulary: rättegång – trial

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For members


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