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From immigration to the environment: Five things we learned about Sweden's new right-wing government

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By David Mac Dougall
Leaders of Sweden Democrats, Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals at the Parliament in Stockholm, Sweden, Friday Oct. 14, 2022.
Leaders of Sweden Democrats, Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals at the Parliament in Stockholm, Sweden, Friday Oct. 14, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo   -  

Sweden's new prime minister Ulf Kristersson was confirmed in a parliament vote on Monday 176-173, with MPs voting strictly along left-right party lines. 

Kristersson leads a formal three-party coalition with his Moderates joined by the the Christian Democrats and Liberals. 

But it's the far-right Sweden Democrats, the biggest of the four parties in terms of MPs, who will be a not-so-silent partner: technically outside the government, but holding the reigns of power in practice. 

The new government has released its 62-page policy agenda, so what have we learned about the direction Sweden will take? Here's our look at five key areas:

1. The Sweden Democrats hold a lot of cards

The whole relationship between the three parties which form the coalition government, and their partners, the Sweden Democrats, is underpinned by the agreement they've all signed. 

And it's clear that the far-right anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats hold a lot of power. They might not have cabinet minister jobs, but as the biggest party out of the four, they're outside the government in name only. 

"Parties that are not in government have full and equal influence on issues in the cooperation projects in the same way as the parties in government," the 'Tidö Agreement' — named after the castle where the negotiations took place — states in black and white. 

The Sweden Democrats' influence goes even deeper: they'll have a say in drafting any and all new laws, amendments to regulations and budget decisions. And they'll be able to place their own political operatives into government ministries to check up on the work of the other parties who hold ministries handling the seven core policy areas the government wants to tackle during its first year. 

There are also restrictions in the agreement on parties in the government working with parties outside the government, which pretty much puts an end to any notion of cross-party cooperation on some of the biggest issues facing the country. 

Ola Torkelsson/AP
Food and drink is distributed by volunteers to refugees that after arriving at the train station in Malmo, Sweden Thursday Sept. 10, 2015Ola Torkelsson/AP

2. Sweden is getting tougher on immigrants

The new Swedish 3+1 government is about to get much tougher on the Nordic nation's immigrant population and for people who want to come to Sweden in the future. 

Asylum-seekers can still show up and make a claim, but they'll be expected to stay only temporarily — and even then, only if they're refugees from countries "in the vicinity of Sweden." Regional authorities will also be able to launch their own campaigns to encourage migrants to go back home voluntarily.  

The new government wants to approve family reunification for asylum seekers only after two years of permanent residency, which means potentially a long wait for families separated by conflict before they can be together again.  

Anyone who wants to stay in Sweden longer "must take responsibility for becoming party of Swedish society", which means, at the very least, a requirement to learn the language before you can get citizenship, but it doesn't say how far this integration should go or how it will be tested. 

There's also a proposal that wants to make people from outside the EU subjected to DNA testing, with their genetic profiles "stored in searchable registers." 

3. Sweden's international profile is changing

The headline here is that Sweden will cut the number of quota refugees from 5,000 people per year to just 900. 

There are also plans to cut the country's international aid budget from 1% of GDP to 0.85%.

And as the country tightens its borders, the incoming government wants to be able to send Swedish border police to EU airports to do passport and identity checks at locations where there have historically been a high number of migrant or asylum passengers. 

If you're travelling to Sweden from another country, even from within the EU, the new right-wing coalition wants to reintroduce identity checks on buses, trains and ferries.

Johan Nilsson/AP
A police car parked outside a police station in Malmo, Sweden after it had been subjected to some kind of explosion Friday, Dec. 29, 2017.Johan Nilsson/AP

4. There's a crime crackdown coming

Sweden has seen a surge in violence related to crime gangs over the last few years, which is described in the agreement as "Sweden's main social problem" and which the parties have linked with immigration and integration and vowed to tackle.  

Unsurprisingly, they're getting tough on criminal activity with a range of proposals in the new government programme, including double penalties for members of crime gangs; tougher sentences for rape; making begging in the street a crime; promising more money for the police — and giving them stop-and-search powers in parts of the country designated as high crime zones.

"The aim is to increase security, prevent more young people from becoming involved in crime, investigate more crimes that lead to prosecution, and to combat serious organised crime," the agreement says. 

In particular, the new government wants to know how many foreign nationals are involved in organised crime gangs, making it an offence even to be a member of a gang and to be able to deport foreigners who are suspected of being gang members, even if they haven't been convicted in court. 

Mark Lennihan/AP2010
FILE: An electric plug charges a Smart Car electric drive vehicleMark Lennihan/AP2010

5. More tools to fight the climate crisis

The new government has plans to do more to tackle the climate crisis while sticking to Sweden's current commitments to carbon reduction. 

For starters, there's more money earmarked for nuclear, with €36 billion credit guarantees to build new nuclear power stations, and also rules to make it more difficult to shut down nuclear plants.

And to ensure the safety of electricity supply in the shorter term (and to keep prices low), the government will investigate whether it's viable to reopen two nuclear power stations in the south of the country which were closed over the last few years. 

There will be a price cap for energy bills, funded by the government, introduced by November, and the country's network of charging points for electric vehicles will be expanded.