Germany, Sweden Urge Measures to Slow Immigration

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”

Swedish Right Pulls Out of Budget Deal with Löfven

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

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”

Mass Migration Causes Attitudes to Harden in Europe

Mass immigration into the European Union is threatening to overwhelm governments and calling into question member states’ commitment to free travel within the bloc.

The German interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, warned on Wednesday that unless other European countries agreed to take in more refugees, the lack of border controls within the Schengen Area would be unsustainable.

“In the long run, there won’t be any Schengen without Dublin,” he said, referring to the agreement signed in the Irish capital that requires refugees to claim asylum in the country they first arrive in. Some border states, including Greece and Italy, have been lax in enforcing the rule, allowing refugees to travel north and claim asylum there.

De Maizière reported that Germany expects 800,000 refugees will arrive in the country this year. “Germany cannot bear the strain if, as has been the case, around 40 percent of all asylum seekers to Europe come here,” he said.

107,500 migrants arrived in Europe in July alone, a record number. 37,500 of them applied for asylum in Germany. Read more “Mass Migration Causes Attitudes to Harden in Europe”

Sweden Cautions Against Two-Speed Europe

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”

A Tale of Two Submarines

The news of a suspected foreign submarine in Swedish waters attracted massive media coverage last year. The Swedish Navy, a shadow of its former self after more than a decade of budget cuts, launched an intelligence-gathering operation to secure evidence of the intrusion. In November, the navy presented what it considered to be concrete proof of an intrusion by a foreign submarine. This included sonar tracks and a photograph, both of which had been subjected to detailed technical analysis and were made public.

Last week, the Swedish Navy said that another suspected submarine sighting, in late October, had been dismissed after extensive investigation which found that the suspected vessel was in fact a “workboat.” This second observation was made a full week after the original intelligence-gathering operation concluded and was treated by Swedish defense as a separate event. Read more “A Tale of Two Submarines”

Sweden to Boost Defense, Remilitarize Gotland

Sweden will raise defense spending €680 million over the next five years and put troops back on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland, its defense minister announced on Thursday.

Peter Hultqvist said increased Russian military activity in and around the Baltic Sea was forcing the Scandinavian country’s armed forces to concentrate more on border defense than international operations.

“We are making it very clear that we are shifting toward a focus of the national operations,” he said. Read more “Sweden to Boost Defense, Remilitarize Gotland”

Finland, Sweden Announce Military Pact

Alarmed by Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, Finland and Sweden announced a new military cooperation agreement on Thursday that could see the two Scandinavian countries go to war together in the event of an attack.

Although the arrangement would seem to mimic the mutual defense charter of NATO, to which neither Finland nor Sweden belongs, Stockholm’s defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, said the cooperation was not a formal alliance.

“By planning for various crisis scenarios, we create preparations to use them in a given situation,” he told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Whether or not we end up implementing these proposals is a decision that has to be made at government level in that situation and then confirmed by the parliaments in the two countries.

Hultqvist’s Finnish counterpart, Carl Haglund, similarly told the TT news agency, “This gives us a concrete ability to work together, first and foremost in peacetime but also in times of crisis should we choose to.”

New forms of cooperation may include increased communication and shared military bases. Read more “Finland, Sweden Announce Military Pact”

Löfven Does Deal with Right, Cancels Snap Elections

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven has done a deal with opposition parties to keep his government in power and stave off snap elections that were otherwise due in March.

“Sweden has a tradition of solving difficult questions,” the Social Democratic Party leader said on Sunday.

“I am happy we have reached a deal that means that Sweden can be governed.” Read more “Löfven Does Deal with Right, Cancels Snap Elections”

Löfven Calls Snap Elections After Budget Defeated

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven has said early elections will be held in March after he failed to win the support of opposition parties for his spending plans.

Just two months into office, Löfven’s coalition with the Greens collapsed when the nationalist Sweden Democrats announced their intention to support the center-right Alliance’s budget proposal.

The Sweden Democrats won 13 percent support in September’s election and have since held the balance of power in parliament.

Löfven, the Social Democratic Party leader, made a last-ditch attempt on Tuesday to convince the Alliance to support him, but they refused.

Löfven was elected on a promise to reverse many of the economic and social policies enacted by the previous, right-wing government. Read more “Löfven Calls Snap Elections After Budget Defeated”