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CITIZENSHIP

How united is Sweden’s next government on citizenship and residence permits?

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats have a raft of plans when it comes to reforming Sweden's immigration policy, but which policies are the other right-wing parties in their bloc likely to agree on?

How united is Sweden's next government on citizenship and residence permits?
Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Negotiations as to who will be in government are ongoing in the right-wing bloc, made up of the Sweden Democrats, the Moderates, the Christian Democrats, after their bloc won over the left-wing bloc in Sweden’s general election on September 11th.

The Sweden Democrats in particular have plans to introduce a range of strict immigration policies, such as making it harder to gain Swedish citizenship and abolishing permanent residency permits in favour of shorter temporary permits.

However, the other parties in their bloc have differing policy on all these issues, meaning that the Sweden Democrats will most likely have to compromise on their reform goals.

In some areas, the right-wing parties have shown an interest in moving in the same direction, although not going quite as far as the Sweden Democrats.

So, what areas do the right-wing parties agree on?

Changes to permanent residency permits

In general, the parties all seem to be in favour of making it more difficult to gain permanent residence permits, with the Sweden Democrats the only party in favour of abolishing them entirely.

The Liberals state that in the case of work permits, which are granted for two two-year periods, after which holders can apply for a permanent residence permit, that “there could be reasons for extending work permits by two years to a total of six years”.

The Christian Democrats are also in favour of making it more difficult to gain permanent residency permits, stating that if someone with a residence permit “integrates into Swedish society by learning the Swedish language, absorbing the Swedish culture and community, supporting themselves, proves their identity and passes a test of good conduct, they should be able to apply for and be granted a permanent residence permit”.

The Moderates are also in favour of changing rules regarding permanent residence permits, stating that “if you want permanent residency and want to become a Swedish citizen, it is therefore reasonable to learn Swedish”, adding that they want “basic knowledge” of the Swedish language to be a requirement for both permanent residency and citizenship.

The Sweden Democrats want to abolish permanent residence permits, arguing in a document on their website that “the institution of permanent residence permits clashes with the idea of increasing the value of citizenship”.

“Under the current rules, the difference between the two institutions is small, and in practice is nothing more than the right to vote,” the document says, arguing that “citizenship has become an upgraded version of a permanent residence permit.”

“In order to preserve the sanctity of citizenship, the right of foreigners to stay in Sweden should never be allowed to approach that of Swedish citizens,” it reads.

Changes to citizenship

The four parties in the right-wing bloc also seem to agree on the fact that it should be more difficult to get Swedish citizenship, with two parties proposing that immigrants must be in Sweden for longer than the current standard of five years (three years in some cases) in order to qualify for citizenship.

The Christian Democrats are in favour of introducing language and culture tests for citizenship, as well as exploring the possibility of refusing ciizenship to people who have committed serious or repeated crimes. They also want to be able to revoke citizenship to people who gained it “by fraudulent means”, such as through bribery, or for people with dual citizenship who have committed terror or war crimes.

The Liberals are also in favour of introducing language tests for citizenship, arguing that it “strengthens the status of citizenship and is an important symbol for the principle that everyone in society should be able to communicate with each other”.

They are also in favour of introducing a “society test”, which will be followed by a personal interview to “mark the personal commitment and familiarity with both language and the rights and obligations that citizenship entails”.

The Moderates also approve of introducing language and culture tests for citizenship, stating that “basic knowledge of society and Swedish should be required for citizenship”. In addition to this, they want to raise the time limit for qualifying for citizenship from five to eight years.

Finally, they also want to make it possible to revoke citizenship – in line with international law, so this would only be for those who would not be left stateless by such a decision – for those who have lied about their identity, provided fraudulent information or committed a serious crime, such as a terror crime.

The Sweden Democrats have the most restrictive plans for citizenship, wanting to raise the qualification period from five years to ten years, alongside “well-regulated requirements for citizenship applications,” such as “mastery of the Swedish language and knowledge of fundamental facts about Sweden, our society and our history, as well as current laws and rules, responsibilities as well as rights”, which “can and should be confirmed via testing before citizenship can be granted”.

The party also wants to require that prospective applicants include an “explanation that they have understood the responsibilities and duties citizenship entails” in their citizenship application.

They state that this could include “knowledge of Swedish culture, history, democratic and secularised societal model as well as convincingly professing respect for Western standards of human rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the equal value and rights of both sexes and respect for people with different sexual orientation”.

What does this mean?

It is hard to predict what could happen in the next four years if Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson is successful in forming a government with the support of these four parties. However, the right bloc appear to be united on two fronts: language and citizenship tests, and making it more difficult to gain permanent residency in Sweden.

What exact form these reforms will take are likely to become a lot clearer when the four parties announce a common government programme, probably over the next few weeks. 

Member comments

  1. Looks like, we will most likely see some proposals on tighter requirements for permanent residency and citizenship. Isn’t there a proposal already in place which is in inquiry stage till next May, which was posted by the last government regarding the mandatory language requirements for permanent residency? And a similar language test which was proposed to be implemented in Jan 2025. What will happen to these?

    It is also possible that the current proposal raised by last government for language requirements for PR will likely be approved in May or June 2023, right?

    As a non-EU citizen, my case for a getting a PR is getting worse day by day. I have already held RP/WP for 4 years (also completed my 44 months of stay) in Sweden last month. But during my Resident Permit extension which I applied in March 2022, unfortunately got it extended till April 2024 due to rule changes which happened on 1st June 2022. Because of this, now I have to wait till April 2024 to apply for PR. I would have also completed my 5 years of stay in Sweden by August 2023, which means I would have qualified for citizenship by then. Without a PR in place, citizenship is not possible. Now, with all these new proposals are in talks, all my PR and Citizenship wishes will look like a distant dream. Now, I have to say myself that I must wait for 2 more years for a PR by learning Svenska which I’m doing it now. 🙂 How pity me.. 🙂

  2. The language proposals seem reasonable. In France, when applying as a non EU citizen for a 10 year titre de sejour there is a language requirement, I believe that level is A2, or maybe B1. It is not so hard to achieve. If one is over the age of 65 it is not required. There are also integration classes. Citizenship requires more. The other SD proposals will likely crash against EU regs.

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For members

2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Why is Sweden’s parliamentary speaker election so important?

Sweden's parliamentary speaker is second only to the King in terms of formal rank. The prospect of a Sweden Democrat speaker taking over the role from popular Moderate Andreas Norlén has sparked debate. Here's why.

Why is Sweden's parliamentary speaker election so important?

On Monday, Sweden’s newly-elected parliament will elect a new speaker – talman in Swedish, but it’s still not clear who is likely to take over the post from Moderate Andreas Norlén, who has held the position since 2018.

How is a speaker candidate usually chosen?

There is no formal rule on how a speaker candidate is nominated, with the Social Democrats usually insisting the largest party supplies the speaker, and the Moderates arguing that the largest party in their bloc should provide the speaker.

Until now, that has meant that the Social Democrats believe the speaker should be a Social Democrat, and the Moderates believe the speaker should be a Moderate.

However, with the Sweden Democrats now the second-largest party in Sweden’s parliament, they have made claims on the speaker post, as they are now the largest party in their bloc, meaning under the Moderates’ rules, they should supply the speaker.

This has made the question of who should take over as the new speaker unusually charged.

Often – but not always, the speaker has been from the same party or bloc as the government. However, there are examples, such as in the case of Norlén, who has held the post despite there being a Social Democrat government for the last eight years, as there was a majority supporting him in parliament.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson sits down for a talk with Andreas Norlén, speaker of the Swedish parliament. Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT

How is the speaker elected?

The first time parliament meets after an election, members of parliament (MPs) decide which MP will become the parliamentary speaker and which three MPs will become the deputy speakers. These four speakers are elected in separate ballots, first the speaker, then the first deputy speaker, the second deputy speaker and the third deputy speaker.

The candidates are nominated by parliamentary party groups, after which a secret ballot is held where each MP votes anonymously. To be successful, a speaker candidate must secure a majority of votes – 175.

If no candidate secures a majority, another vote is held, where a candidate must still gain 175 or more votes to win.

If no candidate is successful, a third vote is held, where the candidate with the most votes is elected – they do not need a majority.

If the third vote ends in a tie between two candidates, lots are drawn to determine which candidate is elected speaker.

A speaker is elected for an entire election period – they cannot be removed by parliament during this period, and the role can only change hands after a new parliamentary election, which usually means that a speaker sits for four years at a time.

What does the speaker do?

The speaker – aside from being the second-highest ranking official in the country after the King – holds a prestigious position.

They do not have political influence and, if elected, must resign from their role as a member of parliament. But they have an important role to play in building a government, nominating Sweden’s new prime minister after an election and dismissing the prime minister if they lose a no-confidence vote.

Although there are checks on these powers – a new prime minister must be approved by parliament before they take power – a speaker could, theoretically, nominate four prime ministerial candidates to parliament in succession, knowing that each would lose a parliamentary vote, and thereby trigger a general election.

The speaker, currently Andreas Norlén (left) regularly welcomes foreign dignitaries alongside Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf. Here seen with King Carl Gustaf (left) and Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö (centre).
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The speaker could also theoretically refuse to nominate a prime ministerial candidate despite them being the leader of the largest bloc, although this has never happened in practice.

It is also impossible for parliament to remove a speaker once they are elected, unless a new parliamentary election is held and an entire new parliament is elected, meaning that if a speaker were to misuse their powers, it would be difficult for parliament to replace them.

The speaker is the main representative of parliament, leading and planning parliamentary activities. The speaker is chairman of meetings in the parliamentary chamber and is an official representative for Sweden at home and abroad.

Why would it be controversial if the Sweden Democrats supplied the speaker?

Electing a Sweden Democrat speaker would be a win for the far-right party, as a confirmation that the party has finally been accepted into the corridors of power.

According to a source at newspaper Aftonbladet, the four parties backing Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson to become Sweden’s next prime minister have already agreed on stricter migration and crime policies, as well as who should be voted in as speaker of the country’s parliament when the role goes up for a vote on Monday. 

Multiple parties in the left-wing bloc have objected to a Sweden Democrat supplying the speaker, with outgoing Social Democrat Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson stating that her party is willing to collaborate with the Moderates and reelect Andreas Norlén as Sweden’s speaker instead in order to avoid a Sweden Democrat taking on the role.

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”.

“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.”

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson has not responded to Andersson’s comments.

Sweden Democrat former deputy speaker Björn Söder (left) and party leader Jimmie Åkesson (right). Photo: Jessica Gow//TT

There are also some MPs in the Liberal Party – who have agreed to support a Moderate-led government alongside the Sweden Democrats – who have stated they will not approve a government with Sweden Democrat ministers, and may also vote against letting them have the role of speaker.

Sweden Democrat Björn Söder, who held the role of deputy speaker between 2014-18, is a possible candidate for the far-right party. Söder is a controversial figure, having previously stated that Jewish people and Sami are “not Swedes”, leading to calls that he is not suitable for a role as a representative for all of Sweden.

Söder has also previously likened homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, stating in an article on the Sweden Democrats’ official online news site that “these sexual aversions are not normal and will never be normal”.

A public petition against electing Björn Söder as parliament’s new speaker had over 65,000 signatures as of September 23rd.

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