The Mundus Brief: April

With Spring seemingly about to bloom, the month of April began slowly. The main news was business-related; particularly the emerging story about Spotify’s listing. Spotify continued to be the hottest tech story all month, and not just the company, with Time making Daniel Ek one of its ‘100 most influential people’. In preparation for the listing, the company made a number of business announcements, such as its major deal with Universal. Of course, Spotify is just the biggest success in the Nordic tech scene, and as The Nordic Web reported, Stockholm’s location as a go-to hub for successful tech start-ups continues to rise. 

Outside of the tech sector Volvo made the news, both for its Trump-related announcement of an intent to build cars in South Carolina and a move into electric cars in China. Cleantech also featured with the announcement by Orbital Systems, a low-waste shower company, that one of Skype’s founders had invested as part of a SEK 150 million capital raising. Still, this raising was dwarfed by the announcement from Northvolt that it was seeking to build Europe’s largest battery production plant in Sweden, at a total cost of USD 4 billion. This announcement will to continue to make the news for many months yet, not just because of the size of the potential investment, but also because the location is being contested by a number of Swedish municipalities that want to benefit from the jobs that it will bring, and because it plays into PM Löfven’s electoral strategy, positioning Sweden as a successful green innovator.

On 7 April, business as usual ceased, and business was relegated from the front pages by the terrible terrorist attack. Although it was a black day for Sweden, and with great personal tragedy for those caught up in it, the event itself did not come out of the blue. As Mundus covered in our news on 3 April, the police were expecting this sort of event and were requesting help from the military in the event of an attack, as they feared their resources were insufficient. As events turned out, the police and civil contingency agencies response to the actual attack was highly acclaimed; emergency services were on location within minutes, central Stockholm was locked down within an hour and the perpetrator was caught just a few hours later. In our latest Monthly Policy Review, Mundus presents an in-depth review of the Drottninggatan attack and its ramifications.
Even if the emergency response was deemed to be a success, this will not stop the political ramifications. In our analysis we highlight how immigration, crime, terrorism, policing and refugee integration have now been drawn together into a political maelstrom, for which all political parties need a response. Before the attack, the Sweden Democrats would have been named by many as the obvious winner of such an event. However, PM Löfven was observed to have reflected the mood of the nation, and hailed for his leadership in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Now, no political party can afford to allow itself to be seen as soft on either crime or terrorism, and even the Greens have profiled their support for ankle bracelets for individuals who are deemed a security risk. 

The Drottninggatan attack had an immediate effect on the budget. The police were allocated an additional SEK 700 million, which amongst other uses was to hire thousands more police personnel. Whilst many consider this a move in the right direction, it is not without criticism from experts in the field, who question whether it is possible to recruit and train at this rate. Mundus’ analysis of other budget details reflects the political focus of the Löfven government on increasing taxes and redistributing this money to pensioners and low income earners. In their responses, the Alliance parties used the budget to profile their own causes. The Centre Party wanted SEK 3 billion more spent on fighting crime, to employ more prosecutors expanding witness protection and strengthening the National Forensics Centre, and the Liberals want a billion more spent on schools.

Although defence may have been pushed off the front page by terrorism, it didn’t disappear as an issue altogether, and the charming island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea was the focus. Gotland was labelled an unsinkable ship by a visiting US General, and in a mysterious deal, a Hong Kong businessman bought an old submarine port in order for the Swedish military to use it for free. The reason for this is of course, Sweden’s deep suspicions about Russia. Although Russophobia is not unique to Swedes, and is easily understood by many Americans and British, Swedish views on Russia are actually an outlier in northern Europe, which is explored in the Mundus analysis, The Nordic - Russian relationship – A lengthy & complicated affair.

The final major story for April was Alliance politics. In April, a near daily stream of opinion polls pointed to the unprecedented fragmentation of Swedish politics. Shadowing the French elections, where neither established political party was able to get its candidate into the run-off polls, Sweden now faces the unusual situation where it is inconceivable that  either the Social Democrats or the Moderates can form a stable government in their own right after the next election. This was covered a month ago, in A Swedish political drama, where Mundus analysed the various possibilities for forming government in 2018. Another month on, and the disastrous poll results for the Moderates are taking their toll. As we say, Everbody’s talking about...the leader of the Alliance, and there is an open conversation about the future of Anna Kinberg Batra as leader of the Alliance. In moves which reflect Mundus’ favourite TV show, Borgen, even if Kinberg Batra remains as leader of the Moderate Party, that doesn’t mean that she will be the Prime Minister of an Alliance government forming in 2018!

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