The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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Swedish General Election 2002: Immigration and the EU
HITS: 1899 | 30-10-2002, 04:37 | Commentaire(s): (0) |
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The question of future inflows of people from EU accession-states likely to join the EU in 2004/05 was avoided in the campaign. From this Group’s experience and recent opinion polls in candidate countries like Poland or Slovakia, Sweden may expect a marked increase in arrivals from its neighbors across the Baltic. Up to 7 million Poles are expected to seek work in the existing EU states after Poland’s accession (regardless of any rules limiting free movement of labour which might be conditions of entry). Migration on this scale cannot help but be a socio-economic issue in the politics of the existing member states like Sweden.
Left-wing parties like the Marxist KPML (r), which has a strong municipal presence in Gothenburg also find themselves largely invisible in the established media even if they would share the established media’s revulsion at the Swedish Democrats’ views. On the question of immigration, the extra-Parliamentary left seems divided between those who see accepting an influx of foreigners and defending their right to maintain their own identity as an act of solidarity, and those who fear that wages and social conditions will be eroded by the import of a “reserve army of labour” as Marx himself might have characterized it.
The impact of Sweden’s membership of the EU on her traditional neutrality as well as her decades-old engagement with Third World development issues has been hardly discussed in the campaign. On 13th June, the outgoing Riksdag approved a bill which would transfer decision-making capacities to the EU if it is passed once more by the post-15th September Riksdag but this fundamental constitutional measure has been ignored in the campaign. What is important about this bill is that it is precisely Sweden’s attributes as a neutral state which would be abolished by a simple three-quarters vote in the Riksdag. Many Swedes seem to think that the EU and EC are synonymous and therefore do not see any issue in the bill’s transfer of decision-making powers to the Council of Ministers in Brussels. However, since the key aspect of the new EU is that it has a common security and foreign policy, it is not only the old EC’s economic, agricultural, social and environmental powers which will be decided by votes in the Council of Ministers but also questions of foreign and military engagement.
Unlike EC membership, EU membership carries with it a shared obligation to bear the burden of potential military engagements, enforcement of a common sanctions regime and other policies which are not compatible with neutrality. Swedes may well wish to renounce their traditional neutrality and play an active part in military confrontations along with their EU partners and the EU’s own allies like the United States, but such a major shift in fundamental policy deserves broader debate so that the public understands what is at stake.
Late on the evening of Wednesday, 4th September, Swedish TV’s Karavan broke the apparent taboo on European issues and carried a discussion about the EU. Although only one participant was clearly anti-federalist (with two others making criticisms of aspects of the EU), what was striking was the audience response. Whether comments from the panelists were for or against the EU, members of the studio audience were much more animated in their response. Cheers, boos, applause and even catcalls came from members of the audience who wished to support or take exception to comments by the different panelists.
This lively reaction to politicians discussing issues which had been largely ignored or dormant during the campaign was in marked contrast for instance to the respectful silence which had shrouded another Karavan discussion of unemployment which had been accompanied by short films about the cutbacks and closures in the city of Nordköpping. Swedes may be peculiarly polite and willing to listen to the other point of view, but it was striking how far the consensus among the panel went from the need for re-training for the unemployed to an acceptance of the consequences of global competitive forces.
It should also be mentioned that people spoken to by the group were disturbed by the complete silence in the election campaign on the subject of any future war against Iraq and its implications for Sweden.



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