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”

Germany, Sweden Urge Measures to Slow Immigration

German lawmaker Ole Schröder, Swedish and Danish migration ministers Morgan Johansson and Inger Støjberg and European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos answer questions from reporters in Brussels, January 6
German lawmaker Ole Schröder, Swedish and Danish migration ministers Morgan Johansson and Inger Støjberg and European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos answer questions from reporters in Brussels, January 6 (European Commission)

Germany and Sweden called for measures to reduce immigration from the Middle East and North Africa into Europe on Wednesday days after the two reimposed border controls.

Morgan Johansson, the Swedish migration minister, urged other European Union countries to help “slow the highway that has now been introduced right through Europe via Greece, the Balkans, Austria, Germany and then up to the northern countries.”

Johansson said some 115,000 people have applied for asylum in his country in the last four months alone.

Last year, Sweden registered 160,000 asylum seekers, the highest per-capita ratio in the EU.

Speaking alongside Johansson in Brussels, Ole Schröder, a lawmaker for Germany’s ruling conservative party, said, “Our problem at the moment in Europe is that we do not have the functional border control system, especially at the Greek-Turkey border.”

Germany has seen the second-highest immigration rate in Europe relative to its population with up to a million people seeking asylum there last year. Read more “Germany, Sweden Urge Measures to Slow Immigration”

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”

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”

Bittersweet Victory for Denmark’s Right-Wing Bloc

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

Denmark’s right-wing parties eked out a one-seat majority in Thursday’s election, forcing the prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, to resign.

But the victory was bittersweet for liberal party leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen. His Venstre lost thirteen seats and was beaten into third place by the nationalist Danish People’s Party, which won 37 seats with 21 percent of the votes. Read more “Bittersweet Victory for Denmark’s Right-Wing Bloc”

Islanders Kingmakers in Danish Parliament

Danish parliament Copenhagen
Windows of the Christiansborg Palace, seat of the Danish parliament, in Copenhagen (iStock/Carsten Brandt)

Exit polls showed Denmark’s left- and right-wing blocs tied on Thursday night and suggested that deputies from the Faroe Islands and Greenland could be kingmakers in the Nordic country’s next parliament.

The poll, shown on TV2, gave Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s coalition 87 seats against 88 for the right-wing opposition.

Such an outcome would hand the balance of power in Denmark’s 179-seat unicameral Folketing to the four representatives of the autonomous Faroe Islands and Greenland. The latter have traditionally aligned with the left while the Faroese tend to split their two seats between the blocs. Read more “Islanders Kingmakers in Danish Parliament”