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.

Ingves: currency intervention not first choice

Appearing before the Committee on Finance yesterday, Riksbank Governor Stefan Ingves tried to pour oil on troubled waters when he said a strong krona was unwelcome news in the current situation. Afterwards, he told the media that it would be helpful if the krona remained at current levels, in terms of bringing up inflation to the 2 per cent target.

Ingves also said the central bank was prepared to take further measures, although currency intervention was not his first choice.

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.

Major operators up in arms

Plans by the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) to ensure telecom service providers provide continuity of service in the event of a power outage have infuriated the industry. TeliaSonera claims that back-up solutions would cost the operator hundreds of millions of kronor to put in place, while estimates suggest that Tele2 would have to invest half a billion kronor to provide such resilience.

Employer organisation the Swedish IT and Telecom Industries estimates the industry would need to invest two billion kronor in order to meet the criteria.

35,000 affected by Norwegian strike

Late Tuesday evening, the airline Norwegian said it was cancelling all domestic flights in Sweden, Norway and Denmark because of the pilot strike. More than 35,000 passengers will be affected.

The airline has also cancelled all flights between the Scandinavian capitals. Some flights to European destinations may also be affected. Long-haul flights to the US and Thailand will operate as normal.

Norwegian has said it will lay off 800 flight attendants as of today, Wednesday.

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.