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Sweden Elects: Flag-waving, tougher laws and why is the King so upset?

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Sweden Elects: Flag-waving, tougher laws and why is the King so upset?
The King of Sweden made some controversial comments last week. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

In our weekly Sweden Elects newsletter, The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains the key events to keep an eye on in Swedish politics this week.



The new foreign minister’s trip to Ankara to try to win Turkey’s reluctant support for Sweden’s more and more slow-moving Nato application backfired on home turf, after a video emerged of him telling Turkish state media that he would try to ban flag-waving for terror organisations.

Why did it spark debate? I’ll try to recap briefly:

Sweden wants to join Nato but Turkey and Hungary are the only two countries that haven’t yet ratified its application, with Turkey demanding several favours from Sweden in return, including the extradition of people it accuses of being Kurdish terrorists.

This is not wholly uncontroversial. Both the former centre-left and the current right-wing government have been criticised for bending over backwards to accommodate Turkey, with critics concerned over potential restrictions on Swedish freedom of speech.


Foreign Minister Tobias Billström’s office initially tried to deny that he had promised any such ban on flag-waving, but a video sourced by Swedish newspaper ETC showed him telling the Anadolu Agency: “We will also later on, on the 7th of March, deliver a bill to parliament which means that we will create a new offence in the Swedish Criminal Act. That will make it an offence to promote or to propagate for terrorist activities on our territory. That could include such a thing as flag-waving for terrorist organisations.”

Billström’s press secretary tried to clarify the comments in an email to the Aftonbladet tabloid: “The new law does not ban the waving of flags, but when the law is to be applied, evidence of various kinds will be required to prove the participation in a terrorist organisation and a flag could come to matter in that respect. (…) The Justice Ministry will reveal more exactly what the new law will entail further down the line.”

A valid distinction or splitting hairs? The debate continues.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson also said, yesterday, that Turkey has made some demands that Sweden cannot accept. Read more here.

In other news

Kristersson met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris last week to discuss Sweden’s EU presidency. He said the discussion focused on the top priorities for the next six months, including the climate, economy and Ukraine.

“[The conversation was] open, reasoning, curious, but also, as is often the case, a clear, French stance,” Kristersson told the TT news agency after the meeting.

In the world of royal news, King Carl XVI Gustaf landed himself in hot water after he criticised a decades-old change to the constitution which meant his eldest daughter Victoria became heir to the throne at the age of three instead of his then seven-month-old son Carl Philip.


“Laws that work retroactively are tricky. It seems crazy. I still think so,” he told a new documentary by public broadcaster SVT (Sveriges sista kungar). “My son was born and then all of a sudden you changed it and he lost [his place in the order of succession].”

The King is a non-political figure and is according to tradition not supposed to voice an opinion on political questions, so for him to speak so candidly about a constitutional change was... frowned upon. Not to mention that Victoria is by far the most popular member of the royal family and probably the monarchy’s best chance of securing its survival.

The Royal Court later issued a statement, with the King stressing he supports both his daughter and female succession to the throne.

What's next?

Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer last week told the TT newswire that the government plans to put forward a series of bills in the coming years to crack down on criminals.

The first of these will be submitted in early 2023. One would give police the right to carry out secret surveillance of criminal networks to discover serious crimes, without having to formally start an investigation into a crime that’s already been committed. This proposal is based on an inquiry by the former Social Democrat government.

Other proposals to be put forward in January, also based on the work of the former government, would raise the minimum jail time for robbery from one year to a year and a half, and introduce a new penalty scale of up to three years in jail for narcotics sale.

Another thing worth paying attention to this week is the annual Folk och Försvar (“Society and Defence”) conference, which is under way at the Sälen ski resort. Expect more talk about defence in the Swedish media. Among those attending are Prime Minister Kristersson, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues after the Swedish election. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.


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