Social Democrats in Iberia and Scandinavia Try Opposite Strategies

Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2
Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2 (Governo da República Portuguesa/Clara Azevedo)

What is the future of European social democracy? Your answer to that question may depend on where you live.

If you’re in the Mediterranean, it’s cooperation with the far left. Social democrats in Portugal and Spain have come to power under deals with far-left parties. In both cases, unwieldy coalitions were greeted with skepticism, but now Prime Ministers António Costa and Pedro Sánchez are riding high in the polls.

In Greece, Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party has even supplanted the center-left altogether.

In Scandinavia, by contrast, social democrats are trying to win back working-class voters by taking a harder line on borders, crime and defense.

Both strategies appear to be working. Read more

Why Should Norwegians Emigrate to the United States?

View of the village of Reine, Norway
View of the village of Reine, Norway (Sandra Mode)

American president Donald Trump reportedly disparaged immigrants from Africa, El Salvador and Haiti on Thursday, asking his advisors, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

Trump then suggested that the United States should bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he had met a day earlier.

Much of the outrage has focused on Trump’s racism. It’s clear he would rather have more white than brown people in the country.

But here’s another question: What possible reason do Norwegians have to emigrate to the United States? Read more

Denmark’s Left Must Find Balance Between Nativists and Progressives

Government buildings in Copenhagen, Denmark, November 10, 2013
Government buildings in Copenhagen, Denmark, November 10, 2013 (Cat)

Denmark’s Social Democrats are eying cooperation with the nationalist People’s Party which they have shunned for years.

Under Mette Frederiksen, who took over the party leadership after its 2015 election defeat, the center-left has supported such far-right policies as a ban on prayer rooms in schools and universities.

The two parties, who are both in opposition to a liberal minority government, have also made common cause against raising the pension age.

Frederiksen argues she is defending the Danish welfare state from the challenges of globalization.

Her strategy is not too dissimilar from her Swedish counterpart’s. Stefan Löfven, the ruling Social Democratic Party leader in Stockholm, has taken a hard line on border control, crime and defense in a bid to stem working-class defections to the far right. Read more

Finland’s Brain Drain: When Talent Leaves a Small Country

View of Helsinki, Finland from the sea, May 13, 2010
View of Helsinki, Finland from the sea, May 13, 2010 (Aaronigma)

Young Finnish professionals are attracted to major European capitals. They move to Stockholm, Berlin and Amsterdam, as well as farther away. The sun shines in Dubai; the world’s top organizations and institutes are in New York and Washington. The occupations of these migrants are manifold: bankers, graphic designers, computer engineers, photographers and researchers, to name only a few.

They leave Finland because of poor employment opportunities and future prospects. This has been happening for a long time. Finns were moving to North America 100 years ago and to Sweden after World War II — in both cases because growing economies needed factory workers.

The difference with today’s migrants is they are better educated (PDF) and leaving a welfare state that ranks as one of the best places to live in the world according to most indices. The likelihood of them returning has nevertheless fallen sharply. Why? Read more

Sweden’s Social Democrats Take Risk with Hardline Policies

French president François Hollande and Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven attend a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28, 2016
French president François Hollande and Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven attend a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28, 2016 (PES)

Sweden’s Stefan Löfven is taking the fight to the far right. Politico reports that the prime minister and Social Democratic Party leader is implementing a hard line on border control, crime and defense.

With his tough stance, Löfven hopes to avoid the fate of sister parties elsewhere in Europe who have failed to convince voters that they are still relevant now that the welfare states they helped build are well-established.

Polls show the Swedish left down a few points. The nationalist Sweden Democrats have moved up.

Löfven’s party would still get nearly 30 percent support on its own and 40 percent in combination with its left-wing allies; a far cry from the dismal performance of center-left parties in France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

But like social democrats elsewhere, Sweden’s are losing their traditional, working-class supporters to the far right. Read more

The Case for Permanent Coalitions on the Left

Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven makes a speech in Stockholm, August 10, 2014
Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven makes a speech in Stockholm, August 10, 2014 (Socialdemokraterna/Anders Löwdin)

Social democratic parties in Europe should make permanent alliances with smaller parties to their left and right in order to keep their constituency united, argues a Dutch political scientist.

Joop van den Berg, formerly of Leiden University, writes that the traditional social democratic alliance, between workers and the intellectual middle class, is breaking down. The former are defecting to either populists on the far left (Die Linke in Germany, Podemos in Spain) or nationalists on the right (the Danish People’s Party, the Dutch Freedom Party). The latter are switching to Greens or centrist liberals in the middle.

One way to stem this, Van den Berg proposes, would be for social democrats to ally permanently with the other parties of the left. Then they would no longer need to fight on two fronts at once. Read more

Löfven Despairs at Swedes’ Gloom

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven gives a speech in Stockholm, December 19, 2015
Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven gives a speech in Stockholm, December 19, 2015 (Socialdemokraterna/Victor Svedberg)

Their economy is growing 4.5 percent this year and unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since the financial crisis yet Swedes are acting “as if everything is going in the wrong direction,” complains their prime minister, Stefan Löfven.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the Social Democrat insists that “all the numbers are going in the right direction, but the picture the public have is that the country is now going in the wrong direction.”

Recent surveys put his party and its left-wing allies almost 5 percentage points behind the right-wing opposition. Read more