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 “Sweden’s Social Democrats Take Risk with Hardline Policies”

Baltic States Have Most to Fear from Trump Victory

Estonian prime minister Taavi Rõivas and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen deliver a news conference in Brussels, April 3, 2014
Estonian prime minister Taavi Rõivas and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen deliver a news conference in Brussels, April 3, 2014 (NATO)

For Eastern Europe and the Baltic states in particular, a Donald Trump presidency could be disastrous. The Republican has created doubt about whether or not the United States would honor NATO’s collective defense clause, Article 5, under his leadership.

Hillary Clinton, the likely winner on Tuesday, will have to ease Eastern European anxieties while at the same time supporting a genuine European defense policy that is based on a considerable hike in budgets. Read more “Baltic States Have Most to Fear from Trump Victory”

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 “The Case for Permanent Coalitions on the Left”

Löfven Despairs at Swedes’ Gloom

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

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 “Löfven Despairs at Swedes’ Gloom”

Danes Set to Keep Opt-Out from European Justice Policy

Danish parliament Copenhagen
View of the Christiansborg Palace, seat of the Danish parliament, in Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

Europe’s ongoing migrant crisis and the recent terrorist attack in Paris could decide the outcome of a referendum in Denmark on Thursday where polls show “no” voters ahead at 38 percent.

34 percent of the Danes intend to vote “yes,” according to a Gallup survey, while 23 percent are undecided.

Should the Euroskeptics win this plebiscite — the eighth since Denmark decided to join the European Union in 1972 — it would be a sad irony: at stake is the very sort of cooperation that would mitigate the refugee crisis and enhance security cooperation. Read more “Danes Set to Keep Opt-Out from European Justice Policy”

Swedish Right Pulls Out of Budget Deal with Löfven

Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven gives a speech in Gothenburg, September 13, 2014
Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven gives a speech in Gothenburg, September 13, 2014 (Socialdemokraterna/Mattias Vepsä)

Sweden’s right-wing parties pulled out of a budget deal with the ruling Social Democrats on Friday, depriving Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of a majority and raising the specter of early elections.

Christian Democrat members, whose party is the smallest in the opposition Alliance, voted at a conference on Friday to abandon the pact with Löfven. The other conservative parties that most recently ruled Sweden from 2006 to 2014 followed suit this weekend.

They had propped up Löfven’s minority government since late last year when it failed to enact a budget of its own. Read more “Swedish Right Pulls Out of Budget Deal with Löfven”

Michael Pye’s History of the North Sea Disappoints

The Edge of the World cover
Michael Pye, The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe (2015)

In The Edge of the World, Michael Pye sets out to explain “how the North Sea made us who we are.” He at least succeeds in showing how, through the centuries, the lands around the North Sea were in constant communication with each other and influenced developments in law, science and trade, perhaps more than most historians assumed.

But he does so while tearing down a familiar narrative about the rise of capitalism in the region without volunteering an alternative interpretation.

Pye’s book is organized around themes: the invention of money, the writing of law, fashion, urbanization. The book as a whole covers centuries but most chapters deal with a much shorter time and dwell longer on the stories of individuals — whom we have to assume are representative of bigger trends — than they do on tying in events to produce something resembling a theory.

It’s interesting to learn how Roman law was rediscovered in Icelandic and Irish monasteries and then spread to other parts of Northern Europe. But why is this relevant? What is the meaning of this? Read more “Michael Pye’s History of the North Sea Disappoints”

Nordics Back Britain’s European Reform Efforts

David Cameron
British prime minister David Cameron in Riga, Latvia, February 28, 2013 (UK in Latvia)

Britain won support from Finland and Sweden on Monday for its efforts to reform its relationship with the European Union. But there is also misgiving in the region that the United Kingdom’s push for a looser affiliation with the continent could lead to a two-speed Europe that sees non-euro countries relegated to second-class status.

Alexander Stubb, Finland’s finance minister, said Britain was justified in demanding further liberalization, especially in services, as well as restrictions on welfare benefits for migrant workers.

“Our take is very simple: without the United Kingdom there is no European Union,” he said after consulting with his British counterpart, George Osborne, in Helsinki. Read more “Nordics Back Britain’s European Reform Efforts”

Sweden Cautions Against Two-Speed Europe

Stockholm Sweden
View of Stockholm, Sweden (Unsplash/Martin Bjork)

Deeper eurozone integration risks relegating non-euro countries like Sweden to the status of “second-class members of the European Union,” its finance minister, Magdalena Andersson, warned last week.

Writing in Stockholm’s Dagens Nyheter, Andersson warned against reduced influence for countries outside the eurozone if those countries that share the currency tighten their budget rules and pool economic governance.

“Ultimately, this may also affect the design of the EU single market which is so important for Sweden,” according to Andersson. Read more “Sweden Cautions Against Two-Speed Europe”

Denmark’s Liberals Take Office Without Allies

Copenhagen Denmark
View of the Frederik’s Church from Amalienborg Square in Copenhagen (iStock/Ruurd Dankloff)

Danish liberal party leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen was named prime minister on Sunday at the head of a minority government that has only 34 lawmakers in the Nordic country’s 179-seat parliament.

Rasmussen’s Venstre failed to form a coalition with other parties on the right, notably the Danish People’s Party that beat it into third place in an election two weeks ago.

“We are perfectly aware that we are a minority government that will have to work in cooperation,” Rasmussen told reporters as he left the royal palace in Copenhagen from a meeting with Queen Margrethe II. Read more “Denmark’s Liberals Take Office Without Allies”