The far-right Sweden Democrats are cranking up pressure on the government, namely over immigration and wind energy, as the country currently holding the EU Council presidency could face a serious political crisis and even possible government collapse.
While the Sweden Democrats are not part of the ruling coalition – which includes the Moderates, Liberals and Christian Democrats – they offered to lend their support in exchange for the government implementing policies, namely on migration.
Last week, SD leader in the Swedish parliament Mattias Karlsson declared that the government must not support the current version of the Migration Pact voted on by the European Parliament – else, he will “find it difficult to see how the basis for our cooperation can be maintained”, de facto threatening the government with a political crisis.
He was quickly backed by SD party leader Jimmie Åkesson who expressed many disagreements with the Swedish government in an interview with Aftonbladet on Thursday.
The SD leader said that when the government agreement is fulfilled – and basically follows SD’s line on immigration – Sweden will have “the most, or second most, restrictive migration policy in the EU”.
In addition to the demand for reduced immigration, SD wants Sweden to introduce transit centres for asylum seekers and insist on repatriation, for example, through so-called “repatriation offices”.
Åkesson insisted that his party does not want a common system for distributing asylum seekers, which the Union has worked on for many years.
“The highest priority right now is to achieve the EU’s minimum level of asylum legislation and asylum-related immigration,” said Åkesson.
The party leader also said he is “frustrated that it takes time. We have to start cleaning up after Stefan Löfven, Magdalena Andersson and Fredrik Reinfeldt,” said Åkesson referring to the last three Swedish prime ministers.
Different climate goals
Climate is another thorny issue alongside migration, as all parties have different views.
Earlier this month, the Liberal Climate and Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari clearly expressed the difference of opinion. “Just read the Sweden Democrats’ climate policy views.” she said, adding that they were ”far apart”.
At the same time, Åkesson made it clear that his party will not agree to an expansion of wind power – which the government has favoured – arguing on Thursday that wind turbines are “not needed “.
“Our ambition is that we need plannable power. We don’t need more weather-dependent power. If we build even more wind power, we will have to burn even more oil when there is no wind, which is a very bad emissions policy.”, he added.
Another issue that divides SD and the government is to what extent the number of biofuels that must be blended into petrol and diesel, currently set at 30%, should be changed.
“We are negotiating the reduction obligation right now. I will receive a report later this week on how the negotiations have gone. Then we will see where we end up. But our starting point is zero,” said Åkesson.
Confident government, until when ?
Despite the clear differences in key areas, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson insisted that there is no political crisis on the horizon, especially not immigration.
“The government’s overall position is very clear in the coalition agreement. We will reduce immigration to Sweden, which is very important. We will never contribute to any European solutions that increase immigration to Sweden,” he said in the wake of SD’s declarations.
Regarding the far-right party’s position on energy production, Kristersson clearly stated that the government will follow its line.
“The government’s line is very clear. We will gather comprehensive support for building new nuclear power, and we will gather broad support for building more wind power where it fits and works”, he said.
Despite the government’s position on wind energy, the opposition strongly criticises its energy and climate policy, which it sees as being influenced by the far-right’s low climate goals. It also criticised the government for the increase in greenhouse gas emissions since Kristersson has been in power.
According to Kristersson, however, the cooperation with SD is generally working well, and it is the media “over-dramatising” their threat to a government crisis.
But without the support of the far-right party, the ruling coalition would no longer have a parliamentary majority, which could prevent the government from pursuing its legislative agenda two months before Sweden is no longer at the helm of the six-month rotating EU presidency.
Contacted by EURACTIV, the European Commission did not wish to comment on political debates in the member states nor “engage in speculation” as to how it would react if the Swedish government falls before its EU presidency stint ends.
(Charles Szumski | EURACTIV.com)
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