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

Language tests for residence permits, strawberry shortage and budget passed. Here's Sweden's news on Thursday.

Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday
Photo: Jerker Andersson/

Government push for language requirement for residence permits

The ruling Social Democrats want to introduce language tests for those applying for permanent residence permits in Sweden, as well as a test on knowledge of Swedish society.

Migration Minister Anders Ygeman announced the measures in a press conference on Wednesday.

“We have far too many people in Sweden who lack the language skills and lack knowledge of Swedish society,” he told TT newswire at the press conference.

“If you want to live here, you need that.”

Those applying for permanent residency in Sweden have had to fulfil special requirements, such as being able to support themselves, since July 2021. Now, the government is proposing to tighten up these requirements futher.

Ygeman stated that the reason behind the proposal is not that fewer people will be granted residence permits, even though it may have that effect.

“Obviously if you set the bar this high, fewer people will be granted residence permits,” he said.

“But this is about people who want to live in Sweden knowing what is required of them.”

Swedish vocabulary: språkkrav – language requirement

Swedish parliament approves government’s budget

The government’s budget and controversial pensions agreement was passed by parliament after independent MP Amineh Kakabaveh, who held the deciding vote, chose to support it at the last minute.

The budget passed by 174 to 173 votes.

As a result, guaranteed pensions for pensioners on low or no incomes will increase by up to 800 kronor a month after tax from August.

Formally, a majority of MP’s voted no to the right-wing opposition’s budget, proposed by the Moderates, the Christian Democrats, the Liberals and the Sweden Democrats, meaning that the budget proposed by the government with the support of the Green Party, the Left Party and the Centre Party was approved.

The Moderates, the Christian Democrats, the Liberals and the Sweden Democrats are also in favour of raising pensions, but believe that the method for doing so set out in their budget would be more effective.

If the vote had been even on both sides, it could have been decided by drawing lots, giving each budget a 50 percent chance of being passed.

Finance Minister Mikael Damberg thanked the parties supporting the government’s budget in a press conference following the vote.

“I want to thank the parties who contributed to this: the Centre Party, the Left Party and the Green Party,” he said. “In total, a million pensioners will be affected by this proposal as soon as this autumn.”

Swedish vocabulary: vårändringsbudget – spring amendment budget

Swedish strawberry shortage pushing up prices before Midsummer

It’s unclear if there will be enough Swedish strawberries for Midsummer celebrations tomorrow, public broadcaster SVT reports.

After a disappointing spring and summer with bad weather for domestic strawberry production, wholesalers have had to order berries from other countries for the first time in years.

The shortage doesn’t just mean they’re harder to get hold of, but also that prices have been pushed up. In the last few days, a litre-sized punnet of berries has cost over 100 kronor in certain areas. Strawberries are usually sold by the litre or half-litre in Sweden.

“We’re doing everything we can, and we’re managing to fulfil most of our commitments,” Anders Svensson, the man responsible for strawberries at Finnerödja bär, told SVT.

“But prices are going to be high. Like everything right now, it’s also affecting strawberries.”

Swedish vocabulary: svenska jordgubbar – Swedish strawberries

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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