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

Deciding budget vote, gas supply warning and Sweden Democrats oust member over abuse comments. Here's Sweden's news on Wednesday.

Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday
Independent MP Amineh Kakabaveh. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Kakabaveh has deciding vote in today’s budget vote

Sweden’s parliament is due to vote on the second spring amendment budget today, and it’s not yet clear whether the budget will be passed.

The budget includes a raise to pensions; the opposition Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats are in favour of raising pensions, but are opposed to the details of the government’s proposal.

In order to pass their budget, the government needs the support of 175 MPs. They currently have the support of the governing Social Democrats, as well as the Left Party, Green Party and the Centre Party, a total of 174 MPs. This means that the final deciding vote will come from Amineh Kakabaveh, a political independent who was previously an MP for the Left Party.

Kakabaveh is Kurdish and has previously said she won’t support the budget unless the government confirms they will not export weapons to Turkey. Finance Minister Mikael Damberg said last week that he has not negotiated with Kakabaveh. On Wednesday morning, Kakabaveh told public broadcaster SVT that she still hadn’t made up her mind, and would decide on-the-spot whether to vote in favour of the budget or against.

If the budget vote is a tie, the parliamentary speaker will draw lots, meaning there will be a 50/50 chance of the opposition’s or the government’s budget winning.

Swedish vocabulary: politisk vilde – independent MP (literally: “politically savage” or “politically wild”)

Sweden issues ‘early warning’ on Russian gas supply

The Swedish Energy Agency on Tuesday declared a first level “early warning” over fears that gas supplies may be impacted due to reductions in energy imports from Russia following the war in Ukraine.

The announcement, which concerned western Sweden, follows a similar declaration by Denmark on Monday evening.

“Sweden and Denmark have a common gas market and a joint balancing zone where the Danish supply situation is of great importance for the Swedish one,” the agency said in a statement.

“Therefore the Energy Agency in Sweden has decided to mirror Denmark’s decision on a crisis level,” it added. The European Union has established a system to allow member states to flag up impending energy supply difficulties using three ascending levels of alerts — beginning with “early warning”, followed by “alert”, then “emergency”.

The system allows for mutual assistance from other EU countries, but could also mean a start to rationing supplies.

Sweden’s Energy Agency meanwhile noted that “the supply situation of gas in Sweden is still robust,” and that stockpiles in Sweden, Denmark and Europe are “well stocked ahead of the autumn.”

Swedish vocabulary: Energimyndigheten – energy agency

Sweden Democrats move to oust local politician after abuse comments

In a debate on women’s shelters and violence against women, a local politician from the far-right Sweden Democrats sparked outrage after asking “what has the woman done for a man to beat her?”, before complaining about the lack of men’s shelters.

Håkan Lerstorp, a municipal politician in Trelleborg, Skåne, opened his statement by saying “of course, it’s sad that women are abused”.

“But, my thought is, and I want you to think about this too sometimes: What has the woman done for a man to beat her? That’s an important thought,” Lerstorp continued.

Following the controversial comments, the populist opposition party Sweden Democrats moved to exclude the municipal politician from the party and distance themselves from the statement.

Party colleague Mathias Andersson, also taking part in the debate, immediately distanced himself and the party from Lerstorp’s comments.

“I can only apologise for what we just heard,” Andersson said. “It is not something my party believes. No matter what someone does, no one deserves to be hit, ever. Woman, man, child – no one deserves to be hit.”

Swedish vocabulary: kvinnovåld, våld mot kvinnor – violence against women

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

Parties call for compulsory pre-schools, insulating homes, and state paying energy costs, plus Biden signs Nato bid: find out what's going on in Sweden with The Local's roundup.

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

US President Biden signs ratification of Finnish and Swedish Nato bids

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed US ratification of bids by Finland and Sweden to enter Nato, taking expansion of the Western alliance in response to Russia’s Ukraine invasion one step closer.

Biden said the two northern European countries would become “strong, reliable highly capable new allies” by making the “sacred commitment” to
mutual defense in the US-led transatlantic alliance. 

Earlier this month, the Senate voted 95-1 in favor of the Nordic states’ accession, making the United States the 23rd of the 30 Nato countries to give formal endorsement. Unanimous support is needed for new membership.

Biden, who has made restoring traditional US alliances a cornerstone of his administration after Donald Trump’s move to upend ties around the world,
praised Nato as “the foundation of American security.”

“The United States is committed to the transatlantic alliance.”

Biden also praised Finland and Sweden, saying both have “strong democratic institutions, strong militaries and strong and transparent economies” that would now bolster Nato.

Swedish vocab: att undertecka – to sign 

Liberal party calls for compulsory kindergarten for toddlers with poor Swedish

The Liberal Party has called for children between the ages of two and five who are considered to have a low level of Swedish to be forced to attend pre-school or dagis, as the party announced its election manifesto on Tuesday. 

Liberal leader Johan Pehrson said that all children who do not already attend pre-schools would be required to have their language ability assessed by their local primary health centre, and then be sent to special “language pre-schools” to speed up language development, if they have poor Swedish.

In the manifesto, the party reiterated its calls for 1,000 new special teachers, better conditions for teachers, and more order in the classroom. 

Swedish vocab: en plikt – a duty 

Green Party: government should pay to insulate homes 

Sweden’s green party is proposing that Sweden’s government pay 80 percent of the costs of installing air or groundwater heat pumps, and improving ventilation and isolation in people’s homes, as a way of reducing their energy costs this coming winter. 

“The long-term solution for keeping down energy costs is for the state to help households reduce energy use now as much as possible,” he said. “If you succeed in putting in place these measures, then they won’t only have an impact this winter but in many future winters to come.” 

Swedish vocab: åtgärder – measures 

Sweden’s Moderates call for state to foot private energy bills

The opposition Moderate Party has proposed that the government contribute towards households’ electricity bills this winter, as electricity prices are expected to rise.

The party is proposing a system of “high-cost protection” or högkostnadsskydd similar to that found in Norway, where the state will commit to covering a percentage of all costs over a certain figure.

It is not yet clear how the system would work, but the Moderates’ finance spokesperson, Elisabeth Svantesson, said it the government should set a price threshold, above which the government would shoulder the majority of any extra cost.

“You could expect the state to pay for 75 percent of the cost of everything over one krona per kilowatt hour,” she suggested, adding that a one krona threshold would cut around 6,000 kronor off the energy bill of an average family in Norrland.

“We can’t completely protect the consumer, but we can make it easier,” she said. “No one should be forced to leave their home this winter because of an electricity bill.”

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is open to the suggestion, stating that her party would “study the proposal very carefully”.

Swedish vocab: högkostnadsskydd – high cost protection 

Swedish PM: Moderate Party’s property tax warnings ‘completely absurd’

In a long interview broadcast on Swedish state radio broadcaster SR, Andersson stressed that her party had no plans to bring back the property tax abolished by the Moderate-led government back in 2008.

“We are not going to campaign on the back of a property tax, have no plans to do it, and have shown over the last eight years that we are not doing it,” she said. “It is completely absurd that the Moderates are running their campaign about this for the third or fourth time in a row. They were cranking this out in 2014, 2018 and now in 2022, and we have not brought back the property tax.”

When pushed by the interviewer, however, Andersson refused to absolutely rule out making any changes to Sweden’s system of property taxation.

“If I start to draw red lines, I will risk creating an even more locked situation after the election,” she said. “But there’s no question over what I believe. If you don’t want to bring back property tax, you should vote for the Social Democrats.”

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation LO, is in favour of bringing back the property tax, which it describes as “one of the best taxes”, as is the Left Party.

Swedish vocab: att lova – to promise