Monday

26th Feb 2024

Opinion

Swedish EU presidency makes their far-right a pan-European threat

  • A street protest by hard-right Sweden Democrat supporters - while the party are not officially in government, they now yield considerable influence over policies (Photo: Wikimedia)
Listen to article

New year, new Swedish leadership in the European Council. And in 2023 political pariahs, once associated with violent racists and swastika-wearing Nazi sympathisers, are dangerously close to the helm.

Like many, I assumed that the Swedish Presidency would be an opportunity to make progress on some of the EU's most pressing challenges; climate, refugee policy, gender equality, rule of law and democracy. But my hopes were dashed when it became clear that Sweden would have a rightwing conservative government propped up by the far-right Sweden Democrats.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • MEP Malin Björk: 'With no mention of LGBTI+ rights or feminism in the programme and with far-right climate deniers whispering in their ears, many progressives are already writing Sweden's rotating EU presidency off' (Photo: GUE/NGL)

Mainstream conservatives, who once positioned themselves as the bulwark against right-wing extremism, have instead joined forces in a desperate attempt to gain power. While the Sweden Democrats are not officially in government, they now yield considerable influence over policies that affect us all.

This influence has already been made clear.

At a press conference in December, the migration minister Maria Malmer Stenergard announced plans to make it easier to revoke residence permits; at her side stood Henrik Vinge the deputy leader of the Sweden Democrats.

"We are now seeing a paradigm shift in Swedish refugee policy", the Sweden Democrats have proudly proclaimed.

The Swedish government also recently announced that it will cut the climate and environmental budget by 58 percent over three years and has dismantled the ministry for the environment, policies clearly inspired by the climate-denying Sweden Democrats

Back in the real world, some worrying statistics show how far Sweden has drifted from being a country once famed for its tolerance.

One-in-four children from a migrant background is racially abused or attacked because of the colour of their skin, where their parents are from, or for their religion. Afrophobia is now the most common motive among reported hate crimes. Hardly surprising when top Sweden Democrat politicians are exposed for sending racist images and texts in private messages about people of colour, Somalis, Muslims and the Holocaust.

Racism has been allowed to flourish both inside and outside the Riksdag.

On Tuesday (17January), in the European Parliament, the Swedish prime minister will outline his vision for the EU over the next six months.

My experience in politics has taught me to listen out for what is not being said, rather than to what is being said. With no mention of LGBTI+ rights or feminism in their programme and with far-right climate deniers whispering in their ears, many progressives are writing this council off and holding out for the Spanish presidency in the second half of the year.

In Sweden, Italy, Poland, Hungary and France we are seeing a sweeping normalisation of the far-right. While the 'cordon sanitaire' used to prevent cooperation with the far-right, enablers from centre-right and liberal parties in EU member states have lowered, stepped over or torn apart the cordon entirely.

And from Fidesz in Hungary to PiS in Poland, once in power, these parties seek to dismantle democracy and the rule of law. Sweden Democrats, vocal admirers of Hungary's Viktor Orbán, are no exception and have already made remarkable statements against Swedish public service media and court rulings.

But racist bluster and migrant scapegoating will only go so far.

Many of the very real challenges faced by Europeans stem from decades of failed neoliberal policies. Fighting climate change and providing decent housing, living standards and public services are the core demands of voters across the EU.

The Left is ready. We are used to standing up to conservative, racist, misogynistic and anti-LGBTQI forces. And we do it in solidarity with those outside parliaments, far beyond the negotiating rooms, together with all those with visions, dreams — and concrete alternatives — for another Sweden and a better Europe.

Author bio

Malin Björk is a Swedish MEP for The Left in the European Parliament.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

Why can't we stop marches glorifying Nazism on EU streets?

Every year, neo-Nazis come together to pay tribute to Nazi war criminals and their collaborators, from Benito Mussolini to Rudolf Hess, Ante Pavelić, Hristo Lukov, and of course Adolf Hitler, in events that have become rituals on the extreme-right calendar.

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

Latest News

  1. Angry farmers block Brussels again, urge fix to 'unfair' prices
  2. Luxembourg denies blind spot on Nato security vetting
  3. Record rate-profits sees EU banks give shareholders €120bn
  4. Why the EU silence on why Orban's €10bn was unblocked?
  5. Far-right MEPs least disciplined in following party line
  6. More farmers, Ukraine aid, Yulia Navalnaya in focus This WEEK
  7. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  8. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us