Sweden Recent History Part 5

1994-95 Swedish entry into the EU

After a heated election campaign, 52% of voters voted in a referendum in November 94 for Sweden’s entry into the EU. The majority of political parties and corporate leaders were in favor of entry, while the left and the environmental movement were opposed. At the same time, the vote revealed significant regional differences. In the southern part of the country and in the cities, the population voted overwhelmingly, while the countryside and in the north were predominantly opposed. In the same year, Social Democracy regained power after three years of economic dissolution under the bourgeois government. But for the Social Democrats, the EU vote was a tough ordeal. The party was unable to form a common position on the membership and was divided during the election campaign. Sweden officially joined the EU on 1 January 95, and already in September the disillusionment was expressed in the elections to the European Parliament. The turnout was down 41% and the opposition parties got 30% of the vote – more than twice the amount of the previous year’s parliamentary elections.

According to smber, the country’s relationship with France was strained in the mid-95s when Sweden protested against the French nuclear test blasts in the Pacific. Meanwhile, the Social Democrats continued their policy of reducing the public deficit, raising taxes and reducing public spending. This gave the Social Democrats considerable reputation in the so-called “international financial markets”, while the social situation of the general population deteriorated. In March 96, Carlson withdrew from the Prime Minister’s post and handed it to his Finance Minister Göran Persson. He led a government of 11 women and 10 men.

From the Prime Minister’s post, Persson continued his work on reducing the budget deficit. At the same time, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 13%. In September, the government adopted a program for «labor market flexibility». The LO stated that the program was an attack on the safety of wage workers. Already by the May 1 demonstrations 4 months earlier, a large number of local LO departments had refused to join the Social Democrats in May 1 in protest of the Social Democrats’ wage-labor enemy policy. LO now criticized the government’s “sharp turn to the right” and threatened to withhold its annual subsidies to the party.

In January 1997, Persson transformed his government. Defense Minister Thage G. Peterson was replaced by Björn von Sydow and the government at the same time declared that the budget deficit would be completely removed in 98.

In August, it was revealed that around 60,000 people – most women – had been forcibly sterilized in the period 1935-76 as part of the Social Democratic government’s plan to prevent “less gifted people from reproducing”. The concept of “purity” of the Swedish race had been formulated as early as 1922 at the Institute of Race Biology at the University of Uppsala. The program had been launched at the same time as corresponding programs in i.a. Denmark and Germany. The government now decided to conduct a parliamentary inquiry into the abuses.

The Swedish economy was improving. Unemployment had fallen to 6.5% – the lowest in the previous 5 years – and at the end of the year, the government declared that it did not want to join the EU’s monetary union as the project was “very uncertain”.

In August 98, the government made an official apology to the Sami in Sweden for the “attacks they had been subjected to” over the years due to the Swedes’ colonization and expulsion of the original Sami population in northern Sweden.

The improvement in the country’s economic situation was the reason why the Social Democracy retained its power in the September 98 elections. But it was a weakened social democracy that had declined significantly – to 36.6% of the vote – and could only retain government power on votes from the Environment Party and the Left Party, both of which had progressed significantly. Social democracy, however, was not very happy with the cooperation. It believes that the two cooperative parties have political programs that differ significantly from the social democratic – i. on the issue of the EU.

In 2000, the Øresund Bridge, which connects Sweden with Denmark, was opened. The transport time from one country to another was thus reduced to 15 minutes. In the first half of 2001, Sweden held the presidency of the EU, and this culminated in June with the EU summit in Gothenburg. The meeting was met by 50,000 protesters, and although Prime Minister Persson had assured before the meeting that he was in favor of dialogue with the protesters, they were met by police provocations. Three years later, a Swedish court charged the Gothenburg police chief with all the responsibility for the provocations and for the protests to run smoothly.

Sweden Recent History 5