Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

"What the heck are you doing?" Sweden's prime minister asked on Tuesday (14 August), after up to 100 cars had been set on fire by young, masked men in several south-western Swedish cities during the night.

Social Democrat prime minister Stefan Lofven also called for more resources for the police and tougher criminal punishment during the first big TV debate among party leaders held on Tuesday evening.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The debate was organised by two of Sweden's largest newspapers, Expressen and Dagens Industri, some three weeks ahead of Sweden's general elections on 9 September.

It was transmitted live from Gothenburg, one of the cities hit hardest by the arson attacks the night before.

"The most important now is to show that society mobilises against crime. It is up to us, the politicians, the police, local authorities, companies and civil society organisations. We need to show that society is always stronger than the criminals," Lofven said.

"These people are limiting other people's freedom, and we won't tolerate it," he said.

Leader of the conservative opposition Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson, also appealed for more resources, more police officers to be trained, and higher salaries for the forces.

"We can not just say time and again that it is unacceptable and then in practice let it happen," he said.

Two men, aged 16 and 21, were arrested on Tuesday, suspected of arson and instigating riots, most likely organising it via social media, Swedish Television SVT reported. A third was arrested at an airport in Turkey after fleeing the country, according to Swedish police.

But it is not clear who was behind Monday's attacks - only that they could not have come at a more important time in order to influence the political debate.

Jimmie Akesson, leader of the anti-migrant and EU-sceptic Sweden Democrat party did not rule out that the assistance of other EU countries' police may be needed if Swedish police fail to stop the arson attacks on cars.

"If we do not manage to solve it ourselves, we must try to find all possible solutions to stop this development," he told Swedish daily Aftonbladet.

Akesson said it is about a "society that is torn apart because of unsuccessful integration and increased segregation".

"It's an attack on society. This issue needs to be resolved in depth. This government has had four years to solve the problems. They have not succeeded in anything. It's time to replace them," he said.

In June, the Sifo polling institute found 18.5 percent support for the Sweden Democrats, but support dropped to 16.8 percent in August.

The summer's extreme heat and forest fires appears to have taken the attention away from migration issues and focus more on climate issues, and lifted the environment to become the second-most important political issue among Swedish voters, according to a Demoskop survey.

Some 23 percent of voters still consider immigration to be the most important issue, but 16 percent have now come to view the environment as the most important, ahead of healthcare at 13 percent.

The drought and forest fires ironically may help Sweden's Green Party to keep its representation in parliament, as it has grown in support over summer from four percent in June to 5.6 percent in August, according to the latest SIFO institute poll, published by Svenska Dagbladet.

The electoral threshold in Sweden is four percent.

The Sweden Democrat's deny there is a link between climate change and the extreme summer temperatures.

Their party leader came under collective attack on the topic from other party leaders in Tuesday's TV debate. "It's embarrassing to have a climate-denier as a party leader," said Centre Party leader, Annie Loof , calling Akesson a "Trump clone".

But following Monday's arson attacks on cars the political focus has swung back to where it suits the Sweden Democrats.

Focus

Sweden fights back as foreign leaders make up bad news

Not only Donald Trump but also Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Hungary's Viktor Orban and Norway's Siv Jensen have been bashing Sweden over its once liberal migration policy in recent years.

Opinion

'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Swedes head to the polls in September in a national parliamentary election, while Bavarians vote in October in a state election. In both elections, voters' nativist sentiments may well help determine the outcome.

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us