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

Swedish hospital report to shed light on healthcare crisis, court decision in historic spy case, and the debate about Turkey continues. Here's Sweden's latest news.

Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday
A courtroom drawing from Sweden's largest spy trial ever. Photo: Anders Humlebo/TT

Hospital report to shed light on healthcare crisis

The Swedish Healthcare Inspectorate (IVO) is set to present the first part of an in-depth probe into the strained situation at Swedish hospitals on Thursday.

Some of the things we know so far, as reported this morning by Swedish news agency TT, are:

IVO investigated 27 hospitals with emergency departments last year and criticised at least 26 of them over issues such as staff and bed shortages (its conclusions about the 27th hospital, Oskarshamn, will only become public later today).

Swedish regions need more nurses, but also biomedical analysts, specialist doctors and psychologists. Staff shortages put patient safety at risk, IVO has previously said.

In December, the director-general of IVO told medical magazine Läkartidningen: “The situation is very serious. We have situations where patients spend several days on the emergency wards, in corridors or units where they don’t have the right expertise.”

Swedish vocabulary: a hospital – ett sjukhus

Court to pronounce verdict in historic Swedish spy case

Two Swedish-Iranian brothers who were charged in Sweden last year with “aggravated espionage” for allegedly passing information to Russia’s GRU military intelligence service between 2011 and 2021 are set to receive the court’s verdict on Thursday.

One of them is a former intelligence official who has been employed by Sweden’s security police Säpo, the Swedish Armed Forces and their intelligence service.

It has been described as potentially the most serious spy case in Swedish history.

The brothers deny the allegations.

Swedish vocabulary: a verdict – en dom

‘Islamist dictator’: Swedish far-right leader rejects further concessions to Turkey

Jimmie Åkesson, the leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats, in an interview with Dagens Nyheter slammed Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as an ‘Islamist dictator’, as the former maintains his objections to ratifying Sweden’s Nato application.

There are limits on how far the country would go to appease Turkey to secure its Nato membership “…because it is ultimately an anti-democratic system and a dictator we are dealing with,” Åkesson told the newspaper.

Åkesson also questioned whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who prides himself on having never lost a national election over 20 years of rule, could be called democratically elected. Click here to read an English summary of the interview.

Swedish vocabulary: a limit – en gräns

Sweden’s new Centre Party leader to give up Turkish citizenship

Swedish-Turkish citizen Muharrem Demirok, the soon-to-be leader of Sweden’s Centre Party, will renounce his Turkish nationality because of his new role, said the party.

Aftonbladet columnist Peter Kadhammar was first to report that Demirok would be renouncing his Turkish citizenship, in a column questioning Sweden’s “weirdly carefree attitude to dual citizenships”. Read The Local’s Nordic editor’s thoughts about the emerging debate about dual citizenship in Sweden in our other article HERE.

Demirok, a former deputy mayor of the city of Linköping in central Sweden, was elected to the Swedish parliament in 2022 and is expected to be voted in as leader of the Centre Party at the party’s congress in February, taking over from Annie Lööf.

He has family ties to Turkey and became a Swedish citizen at the age of 21.

Demirok is not the only senior politician who has dual citizenship. Business and Energy Minister Ebba Busch, leader of the Christian Democrats, is Swedish-Norwegian.

Swedish vocabulary: renounce – avsäga sig

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

When will key interest rates drop, how large will your pay rise be this year, changes to residence permits for rejected asylum seekers and new Nato news. Here's Sweden's news on Friday.

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

SBAB bank predicts key interest rates will drop in November

A new interest rate prognosis from SBAB bank predicts that Sweden’s central bank will hike key interest rates substantially in April, but will be able to lower them again as early as November.

In the new report, state-owned SBAB bank believes that the central bank will raise key interest rates by 0.5 percentage points to a total of 3.5 percent.

Unlike many other banks, SBAB does not believe that the central bank will raise rates at the following meeting this summer, rather that rates will remain the same from April until November, after which they will drop by 0.25 percentage points to 3.25 percent.

“We believe that we will soon see underlying inflation and not least food prices dropping back,” chief economist Robert Boije told TT newswire.

It further predicts that the average interest rate on mortgages could hit a peak of 4.8 percent in the autumn, and that the drop in key interest rates in November will be the first of many, leading to a key interest rate of 2 percent by 2024.

Swedish vocabulary: styrränta – key interest rates, snittränta – average interest rate

Decision time for Swedish pay rises

At the end of this month, many salary agreements on the Swedish labour market will run out, meaning that unions and employers have been working hard throughout the winter to come to a new agreement.

Over the past 25 years, salary negotiations in industry have had knock-on effects for the rest of the labour market, with pay rises in the industrial sector setting the bar for how high pay rises will be across the board, which other branches usually follow.

The industrial unions and their corresponding employer groups have now had a first offer from the mediators, the so-called Impartial Chairmen (Opo). This afternoon, they are expected to answer, although the first answer is usually a ‘no’ from the unions, before a better offer is made within a week.

The unions have called for a 4.4 percent payrise in a one-year deal, with a higher bonus for those earning under 27,000 kronor a month, plus extra hikes on the lowest salaries. Employers have offered 2 percent plus a one-time 3,000 kronor bonus.

Historically, the final deal usually ends up at around three quarters of the original demands of the unions, which would be around 3.3 percent.ey are still supporting them.

Swedish vocabulary: facket – union, löneökningar – pay rises

Court ruling tightens residency rules for Sweden’s ‘high school law’

Rejected asylum seekers hoping to stay in Sweden under the so-called high school law will now have to have signed a job contract before their temporary residency runs out, following a court judgement.

The law, brought in by the former Social Democrat and Green Party coalition, was recently described as a “half-amnesty” by Mikael Ribbenvik, the outgoing head of the Migration Agency. 

Under the law, asylum seekers who have completed upper secondary school education can be given permanent residency if they show they can support themselves. 

Previously it was enough to be able to support yourself at the point when the Migration Agency handles your case. 

But after a judgment from the Migration Court of Appeal, the Migration Agency now believes that the applicant must have started their job before their temporary residency expires. 

Swedish vocabulary: gymnasielagen – high school law

Swedish PM to seek explanation from Hungary on Nato delay

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Thursday he would seek an explanation from Hungary about why it is delaying its parliament’s ratification of Sweden’s Nato bid but not Finland’s.

“I’m going to ask why they are now separating Sweden from Finland. These are signals we have not received before, so I’m absolutely going to raise this with (Hungarian prime minister Viktor) Orbán today,” Kristersson told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio.

Orbán and Kristersson both attended an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party has said parliament will ratify Finland’s bid on March 27th, but “will decide on the case of Sweden later”.

On Thursday, Orbán’s chief-of-staff Gergely Gulyás told reporters there was “a serious chance” the Swedish bid would be ratified during the ongoing parliamentary session which runs until June 15.

Swedish vocabulary: Ungern – Hungary

Sweden Democrats threatens government crisis over biofuels obligation

The far-right Sweden Democrats are threatening to push Sweden’s three-party ruling coalition into a political crisis as they fail to reach agreement over how drastically to cut the country’s biofuels obligation, a key part in its plan to reduce emissions.

The party is claiming that a pledge in the Tidö Agreement calling for the biofuels obligation, or reduktionsplikt, to be cut to the “lowest EU level”, should mean that the amount of biofuels that must be blended into petrol and diesel and Sweden should be cut to close to zero, rather than to about half the current share, as suggested by ongoing EU negotiations. 

“We are being tough in the negotiations because of the power we have as the biggest party in this bloc,” Oscar Sjöstedt, the party’s finance spokesperson told TV4. “There is going to be a change at the end of the year that is going to be pretty significant and substantial, that I’m 99.9 percent certain about, otherwise we will have a government crisis.” 

The Liberal Party is pushing for a much less severe reduction, perhaps to a little more than half the current level, where 30.5 percent of all petrol and diesel must be biofuel. 

Swedish vocabulary: reduktionsplikt – biofuels obligation