Prime Minster Löfven strongly concerned about future of EU
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (social democrats) has expressed his concern about the European Union. While looking into the new year, he also pictured Sweden’s role in the EU. The year 2017 could be crucial and unfortunate for the EU, the Prime Minister said, including his home country Sweden. In an interview, Löfven addressed the upcoming elections in key EU member states this year like France and Germany. He concluded that if things turned bad, it would have significant consequences for the European community and for Sweden.
Especially referring to the growing populism and nationalism in many European countries, PM Löfven warned about its far-reaching consequences. If the right-wing populist party National Front (FN) wins the presidential election in France, the union will probably face another referendum on EU membership in one of its member states. The euro-sceptic Marie Le Pen, who leads the party, promised such a referendum in case she wins the election in May. “We don’t want to see that coming”, Löfven said.
The situation is somewhat similar in the Netherlands, where the populist Geert Wilders and his party also gain ground and may get much more political power, Löfven pointed out. And not least in Germany that goes to the polls in September of 2017 as well, things may worsen if the right-wing populist party AfD (Alternative for Germany) wins many votes in the federal elections, what is also expected.
Given the wind of populism getting stronger, also due to the Brexit vote in the UK and the latest US elections, Löfven warned against growing right-wing nationalism in Europe. In such an atmosphere, the EU leaders plan to meet at the beginning of 2017 to discuss the problems of populism, its consequences as well as practical measures to be taken against that trend.
The Swedish Head of Government also referred to the United Nations, where Sweden will hold a non-permanent seat in the Security Council of the UN this year. This will bring more focus on Sweden’s foreign policy and, thus, on the EU as well. In any case, “we will work hard for equality and peacekeeping operations in the world”, Löfven added. “The EU must hold together and with that be represented with a strong voice in the UN.”
Sweden to reintroduce compulsory military service
Sweden has been discussing plans to re-introduce conscription for military service for some time. The security situation has worsened in the past years. This should not wonder given the Ukrainian conflict, the resulting annexation of Crimea by the Russian forces, repeated Russian provocations in the Baltic Sea, as for instance an unidentified submarine in the Stockholm waters in 2014, military stationary presence of Swedish forces on the island of Gotland for the first time in years period and military manoeuvres in Visby, the main city of Gotland, and even closer military cooperation with Finland. These are all clear signs of Sweden feeling the security pressures in the region.
The country has already been in an intensive exchange with NATO partners, working closely in a number of NATO programmes for security in Europe as for example the Partnership for Peace programme launched in 1994. However, as some polls showed recently, more and more citizens want Sweden to become a full member of the north Atlantic military alliance.
Just because Sweden has been loyal to its neutrality status
, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist talks more about conscription and recruitement for military forces rather than about full NATO membership. “I hope we find good ways of recruitment to defend our country”, he added. Sweden has not seen a military conflict on its territory in about two centuries. The conscription has ended eight years ago as it was considered not satisfactory to meet the needs of modern times and not helping the professional arm forces. As a report written by a former member of the Swedish parliament reveals, the conscription may most probably affect young men and women born after 1999. At first, about 4,000 young people will be called up to serve the country beginning from the year 2018 on. The plan just has to be approved by parliament.
New year brings legal changes to Sweden
Apart from the changing EU and its consequences for Sweden as well as the reintroduction of compulsory military service in the country, there will be more changes in 2017. Probably, the Nobel Committee will have to oversee its rules after the back and forth with last year’s Nobel Prize winner in literature Bob Dylan. The musician and writer took several weeks to respond and reply to the Nobel Committee’s decision, and even several weeks longer to inform the committee that he was not going to come to Sweden’s capital city Stockholm to receive the Price in person.
What’s more, as the Swedish Television SVT News reported, the government led Transport Administration will be forced to slow down the speed of many trains in 2017 due to, among others, bad quality of rails. In some cases, the speed will be slowed down from 160 to 70 kilometres per hour. Many connections will be affected.
To the things that will be changed in Sweden in 2017 belong also the Swedish wages and the work market. While wages will generally go up by a little more than 3 percent according to the Swedish business newspaper Privata Affärer, there will be at the same time more foreign born Swedish citizens out of work compared with past years. The Swedish Employment Agency predicts that six of ten unemployed in Sweden will be of foreign origin. The planned simplification of the working permit rules for work forces coming from outside of Sweden will most probably not change that trend.