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Concern over economic effects of ID-checks

Published måndag 4 januari 2016 kl 16.18
"Growth is very dependent on there being no borders in the Öresund region"
(8:46 min)
Police on the platform of Malmö's Hyllie train station. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT.
Police on the platform of Malmö's Hyllie train station. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT.

There is concern in southern Sweden about the economic effects of the ID-checks. Local Moderate politicians warn that a Stockholm-centred government risks destroying decades of hard work to boost the region.

In a debate piece in the daily Dagens Nyheter, 25 Moderate Party politicians from all over Skåne say that the regional co-operation built up over the last few decades risk being destroyed by the measure to make transport companies responsible to carry out ID-checks on all people travelling to Sweden from Denmark.

"We are experiencing a forced divorce, pushed through by a Swedish capital that is not able to understand," they write. One of the authors is Carl Johan Sonesson, who is the Moderate Party's top representative in the regional council. He says the region spreads over two different countries, but in reality it is one city, made up of Copenhagen and Malmö.

"These ID-checks will be very devastating for the economic growth in this area, because a lot of people will get much delayed or even worse, maybe quit their work, because it is not suitable with those kind of delays if you are having children and need to pick up your kids from kindergarten," he told Radio Sweden.

"We have worked very hard with the integration of those two cities since the beginning of the 1990s. We have some barriers left, like different social security systems and so on, but most of the barriers we have got rid of. Now the government is setting up a completely new, even worse, barrier. I think this city will be divided into two cities and we will be back in time again to the beginning of the 90's, mentally," said Sonesson.

He says that if the government had understood anything about the region, they would have made sure that the IDs were not checked at Kastrup airport "one of the biggest airports of northern Europe". Instead, he would have liked to see ID-checks carried out by police on the trains while they were moving, or at Hyllie station on the Swedish side, where anyway many commuters get off to get their cars to get to other parts of Skåne.

"Now they have to get off in two places instead of one," he said.

An even better option, said Sonesson, would be if the Swedish government talked to the Danish government to establish joint controls on the Danish border to Germany. (This interview was carried out before the Danish Prime Minister announced that Denmark will introduce border checks to Germany).

Sonesson says he is disappointed that his own party voted in favour of the ID-checks in parliament, but he says at least the Moderate MPs tried to limit the measures to one month, with the possibility to extend them a month at the time after that. In the end, however, the government's proposal won the majority after the Sweden Democrats decided to vote in favour of it. Now the measures are in place for six months, with a possible extension for up to three years.

But it is not only local Moderates that are against the ID-checks carried out this way, also the Social Democrat Mayor of Malmö, Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, has her reservations.

"I assume this is a short-term solution. If it becomes long-term it actually risks smashing the region's attraction, for the companies that choose to establish in the Öresund region especially because we are a region that crosses a border, and because the labour market region here is so big, and for the openness and the closeness that this region has to the rest of Europe," she said.

In a longer interview with Swedish Radio, Infrastructure minister Anna Johansson explained that the reason for the new measures is to cut the number of people who apply for asylum in Sweden. Asked to specify how much the number of applicants needs to be reduced, she merely said:

"We need to cut the levels significantly to manage this. At the moment there are approximately 2,000 applicants per week. That is still many. But there is capacity in other western countries. Sweden cannot be the only country in the EU or in the west (that receives refugees) when this crisis hits," she said.

Pressed further Johansson replied:

"The ID-checks will be necessary until we reach a level of asylum applications that mean that we can offer them something more than some space - more than just existing in Sweden. We prefer not to see refugee camps in Sweden, we want that people are offered health care and housing like everybody else in the country," she said.

Responding to criticism regarding how legally sound it is to put bus drivers and security company personell in charge of deciding whether a photo ID is legal or not (or the transport company risks paying a fine of 50,000 SEK), Johansson said the rules are pretty clear.

"It has to be very clear that this is a non-valid ID-document in order for the fine to be applicable. And the Swedish Transport Agency has also been clear that - particularly initially when all these checks are new - they will give the companies the benefit of the doubt. Because it is clear that it takes a while before passengers as well as transporters get into the new routines," she said.

So what about the criticism regarding the economic effects for the region?

"We are aware that it becomes more difficult to commute in the Öresund region, but we believe that we need to wait and see a bit for the effects. We are talking about 20, up to 40 minutes delay for the commute in this region. It is clear that if this continues longer term it may have consequences, but we need to monitor how it works in practice," she said

Towards the end of the interview, Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson warned against over-playing the effects of the ID-checks for ordinary commuters.

"It may end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy if you start saying that there is a big wall and it is impossible to travel between Sweden and Denmark - that is of course not the case. So I think we need to give it a week or two, and we will see how it works in practice and we can evaluate it."

Addressing the individuals affected by a much longer commute, she said:

"I have understanding that people are annoyed and frustrated and worried about how this is going to be, but I hope that there is also an understanding that the government actually needs to take measures so that we can have a situation that we manage long-term."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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