Sweden’s Contemporary History Part III
Two cases that shook Swedish society in the early 2000s, and which sparked widespread debate, were the killing of Fadime Sahindal and the Knutby killings. Fadime was shot by his father in the presence of the family. The debate was about so-called honor killings and about failed integration policies in a country where the immigrant population had now passed 10%. In Knutby outside Uppsala, a pastor of the Pentecostal church received a life sentence for assisting in the murders of his wife and mistress’s ex-husband. The family’s nanny confessed to the killings, but was considered to have been under massive mental pressure and therefore sentenced to psychiatric treatment. A common denominator in the two cases was the need for more transparency and control of closed environments that live by their own norms.
In 2003, the Riksdag abolished the last survivors of noble privileges, and thus formally ended a 723 year old social order. The association of Sweden’s 603 noble families now has status in line with voluntary organizations. Following a parliamentary decision, “Swedish flag day” – June 6 – became national holiday from 2005.
Foreign policy during the Cold War
After 1945, Sweden refined its neutrality policy. The principle that Sweden should not form a political alliance with any superpower was firmly established under Foreign Minister Östen Undén (1945–62) for decades to come. Based on this assumption, Sweden joined the UN in 1946, participated in the Marshall Plan for the Reconstruction of Europe (OEEC / OECD) from 1947 and joined the Council of Europe in 1949.
In 1969, Olof Palme’s government recognized Northern Vietnam and launched an aid program for the country. The result was a sharp reaction in the United States. held his ambassador in Stockholm back for a while. Relations with the Soviet Union were also strained several times. In October 1981, a Soviet submarine landed far into the safety zone outside the Swedish navy’s main base at Karlskrona. Several times in the 1980s, reports of submarine violations of Swedish territorial waters were reported. Sweden and the Soviet Union also had hard negotiations on a divide in the Baltic Sea; an agreement was signed before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Parallel to the policy of neutrality, Sweden often acted as a mediator in international conflicts, and the country actively supported development and gained great confidence in the Third World.
Sweden’s international place since the 1990s
The new political situation after 1990 led to a reorientation of Swedish foreign policy. Sweden has actively participated in the Baltic Sea region, with the new Baltic States, where Sweden is about to recapture its historical role as regional superpower. The Swedish defense was substantially reduced in the years following the Cold War. NATO membership is not on the agenda, but Sweden has been involved in the development of EU defense and security policy bodies. Since 2002, Sweden has also contributed with a smaller force in the NATO-led international force in Afghanistan.
The Swedish government would not join the Common Market (EEC) in 1957 or 1972, but the country entered into a trade agreement with the EF 1972, after an attempt to establish economic cooperation in the Nordic countries (North Island) had stalled. In 1991 Sweden applied for membership in the EC (EU) and negotiated simultaneously with Austria, Finland and Norway. The most important negotiation cases for Sweden were the size of Sweden’s contribution to the EU, the establishment of a separate fund for Norrland and the agricultural negotiations. At the referendum on 18 November. In 1994, 52.3% voted yes, 46.9% voted no, while 0.8% were white. Sweden joined the EU from 1995.
The Swedish EU debate never reached the same intensity as in Norway, but the arguments and fronts did not differ. Among the political parties there were two important no-parties: the Environment Party and the Left Party. The Social Democrats were official for membership, but had a significant no-group, including the trade union movement failed to take a stand. The Center Party was also supporters, but with a no-majority of voters. The People’s Party and the Moderates were the clearest yes parties.
The attitude to EU membership followed roughly the same dividing lines as in Norway. The left side was skeptical, the right side positive to EU membership. The resistance increased further from the center one came, and the no-majority was greatest in the north and west; the largest in Jämtland (over 70%). The most striking thing about the Swedish EU debate was the lack of public involvement.
Sweden did not join the EU Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) from its inception in 1999, but decided to put the issue to the referendum. It was held in 2003, when 56.1% voted no and 41.8% agreed to exchange the krone with the euro. The political fronts, and the pattern of the electorate, had clear similarities with the EU vote in 1994 and thus with the Norwegian EU debate. For the Social Democrats, the euro was a prestige project, despite the fact that the party was divided into two evenly sized camps. The No-majority was described as Prime Minister Göran Persson’s biggest political defeat. The high turnout, approx. 80%, was partly linked to the murder of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh a few days in advance, which turned the debate over to the conditions of democracy.
In the European Parliament elections in 2004, Sweden had the lowest participation rate among the “old” EU countries, with 24.7%. The fact that every seventh vote went to the newly formed and EU-skeptical June List was also interpreted as a more general protest against the power elite. Unlike a number of other member states, Sweden – with cross-political agreement – decided not to hold a referendum on the EU’s constitutional treaty, but to decide the case in the Riksdag.