Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson meets President Biden on US visit

US President Joe Biden on Thursday welcomed the leaders of Finland and Sweden in a strong show of support for their bids to join Nato in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson meets President Biden on US visit
US President Joe Biden (C) welcomes Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (L) and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to the White House in Washington, DC, on May 19, 2022. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP

To the pomp of a red carpet and military honor guard, Biden received Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto just days after they officially said they would seek to join the US-backed alliance.

The three leaders are expected to speak to reporters after talks in the Oval Office.

Sweden and Finland, while solidly Western, have historically kept a distance from Nato as part of longstanding policies aimed at avoiding angering Russia.

But the two nations both moved ahead amid shock over their giant neighbor’s invasion of Ukraine, which had unsuccessfully sought to join Nato.

Biden on Wednesday said he “strongly” supported the membership of Sweden and Finland in the alliance, which considers an attack on one member an attack on all.

“While their applications for Nato membership are being considered, the United States will work with Finland and Sweden to remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, and to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression,” he said in a statement.

US President Joe Biden welcomes Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (R) and Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto to the White House on May 19, 2022. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

In the United States it is up to the Senate to ratify treaties and there is wide support for the membership of Sweden and Finland, with votes likely before a Nato summit next month in Madrid.

But Turkey has voiced misgivings about the membership of the two countries, accusing them of supporting “terrorism” due to the presence of Kurdish militants.

All 30 current members of Nato would need to agree to the Swedish and Finnish bids.

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Sweden’s Social Democrats float idea of voting in a Moderate Speaker

Sweden's Social Democrats have said they would back a Moderate party candidate as the Speaker of the Riksdag parliament, in a move that seems calculated to complicate the right bloc's government negotiations.

Sweden's Social Democrats float idea of voting in a Moderate Speaker

“We would very much like for a broad agreement to be reached around the Speaker,” Sweden’s outgoing Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. “This is the second-highest ranking post in the kingdom and the highest elected position.” 

The Aftonbladet newspaper reported on Wednesday that the post of Speaker was a key part of the negotiations between the Moderate, Sweden Democrat, Christian Democrat and Liberal parties, with the Sweden Democrats presumably seeking to appoint a senior party figure to the post. 

As the vote is a secret ballot, the newspaper reported, there is concern in the negotiations that enough MPs from the Liberal Party, or even other parties, will break ranks and not vote for the agreed choice. 

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According to Dagens Nyheter, Andersson has already contacted Moderate Party leader to discuss the possibility of having a Moderate Party figure in the post. 

In the past, the Social Democrats have argued that the biggest party in the parliament should have the Speaker position, whereas the Moderates have historically argued that it should be the biggest party in the ruling bloc. 

Andersson said her party would be willing to “make an exception” to its principle. “We think there are arguments at this time, to have a Speaker who can be appointed with very broad support in the parliament. What’s important is that it’s someone who can bring people together, either a Social Democrat or a Moderate”. 

The outgoing Speaker, Andreas Norlén, is popular both within the parliament and outside it, given the steady way he has handled an unusually turbulent two terms.

“I can state that Andreas Norlén enjoys great respect, both in the parliament, and among the Swedish people,” she said. “He has handled his duties creditably and during a turbulent time, and a problematic parliamentary situation.” 

She said she was offering to discuss the issue with Kristersson to avoid the risk of a Sweden Democrat Speaker, something she said would be “problematic”. 

“This is a party whose whole rationale is to split rather than unite. This is also about the picture of Sweden overseas.”