Baylan promises end to controversy

Nuclear power has been politically controversial in Sweden since the 1970s, but Energy Minister Ibrahim Baylan (S) is now hoping to bring an end to the dispute, and get all sides to agree on how best to meet the country’s future energy needs.

In a directive, the minister has charged the newly appointed Energy Commission to present ways to ensure a steady supply of power to the grid, as more and more electricity is generated from renewable sources that are dependent on weather conditions. The Commission has until 1 January 2017 to present its proposals so that a cross-party agreement can be reached ahead of the 2018 general election.

The government’s vision is that Sweden should have an energy system that is 100 per cent renewable by 2050, but Ibrahim Baylan has deliberately not stated this in the Commission’s directive.

“We want to create the best possible conditions for the talks, so we cannot begin by saying what the outcome will be,” he says, stressing the need to provide industry with long-term solutions.

The centre-right parties promise to be constructive, but the Moderates and the Liberal Party are already calling on the government not to propose raising taxes on nuclear power capacity in the spring budget.

Lars Hjälmared, the Moderate spokesman on energy policy, says his party would be concerned, were the government to unilaterally change the game rules, and that the right thing to do would be for the Commission to discuss the matter.

Russia blames war in Ukraine on Sweden

In a SvD debate piece published online at the weekend, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström criticised Russia’s occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea, stating that the policies currently pursued by Moscow pose the most serious challenge to European peace since the Cold War.

“I am greatly concerned over development in Russia,” wrote Wallström, who wants to see a united Europe to meet the threat from Russia. “We must stand up for what is right in all our dealings with Russia and we should not allow the slightest provocation or insult,” she continued.

On Sunday, the Russian embassy in Stockholm responded to the criticism on Facebook.

“It is unfortunate that the article by the honourable minister in SvD’s online version of 6 March has a one-sided character. It lacks the most important thing – the cause that gave rise to the events in Ukraine. Namely, the West’s will – not least Sweden’s as the initiator of the EU’s Eastern Partnership – to push Kiev towards the European Union. The main tool proved to be a coup d’état, a violent shift of power, which pushed Ukraine into the abyss of civil war.

It is unclear as to who has written the post, which was also uploaded onto the embassy’s Twitter account. However, the post quickly spread among defence experts in social media.

“Russia’s attitude to Ukraine’s autonomy can not be more clearly illustrated,” tweeted defence critic Annika N Christensen.

Govt plans to force operators to co-operate

IT Minister Mehmet Kaplan’s dream is that 90 per cent of Swedish households will have 100 Mbit/s access by 2020. Estimates suggest his plans could cost up to 40 billion kronor to realise.

In a move to reduce the cost, Kaplan proposes that broadband operators should be bound by law to open up their infrastructure to competitors wishing to expand in the same region.

Kaplan also proposes that the Swedish Post and Telecom Agency be given the powers to decide disputes regarding cables and land.

His plans will now be circulated for comment, after which the minister hopes the legislation will come into force on 1 July 2016.

Kristersson opposes removal of target

Ulf Kristersson, the Moderates’ spokesman on economic policy, is against the government’s plans to remove the budget surplus target of 1% over a business cycle, saying such a move would impair Sweden’s ability to pursue an active fiscal policy during a financial crisis. He also warns that a deficit could build up very quickly, if the target is abolished.

Abolition of surplus target long awaited

Swedish economists have welcomed the centre-left government’s plans to remove the country’s budget surplus target and replace it with a balanced budget target to free up money for important investments in education, infrastructure and the like. However, SEB chief economist Robert Bergvist warns that greater financial discipline will need to be imposed during such a transition, otherwise there is an overhanging risk of an operating deficit.

Five-years for crimes against international law

A 28-year-old Syrian man accused of crimes against international law has been sentenced to five years in jail, and is now only the third person ever in Sweden to be convicted of war crimes. “Overall we are pleased with the ruling. We find that the court has made the same judgment as we have,” says Hanna Lemoine, prosecutor, and described the case as one with several difficulties.
The critical evidence was a film of a brutal beating (see SPR 26 February, Midday Ed.) that took place in Syria in 2012 and was uploaded to social media. Hans Brun, researcher into terrorism at Kind’s College, now hopes that the ruling will have importance in the future. “Then the major problem is those who return to Sweden from war zones and who cannot be convicted. Parliament and the government must consider this issue appropriately.” [ for-folkrattsbrott-i-syrien_4363965.svd Accessed 2015-02-27 08.53]

Löfven and Merkel agree on refugee issue

During their meeting in Berlin yesterday Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed that they shared common interests in terms of migration and integration, and said they would now call for a fairer distribution of the refugee burden in the European Union. The two heads of government also discussed the crisis in Ukraine and relations with Russia, agreeing that diplomacy must be given a chance to succeed. However, neither rule out the possibility of new sanctions, if the truce is broken.

(SvD I: 10, DN I: 16)

Demonstration against anti-Semitism

Some two hundred people gathered on Raoul Wallenberg square in Stockholm on Saturday to demonstrate against violence and hatred after the terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who had been invited to speak at the demonstration, said Sweden must never accept that hatred be allowed to take over people’s lives.

Since the two terror attacks the Swedish Security Service and the police have been in closer contact with Jewish communities in Sweden, and Home Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman has also pledged more funding to raise security around Jewish buildings and institutions.

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