Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Social Democrat parliamentary spokesperson Mikael Damberg. Photo: Scanpix
last debate before summer berak

Euro crisis and employment dominate debate

"We can be the best"
2:58 min

"Sweden will never be the biggest nor the cheapest, but we can be the best," said the Social Democrat parliamentary spokesperson Mikael Damberg, as he took to the floor for the first time since the party's leadership reshuffle. He focused on schools and education as key to Sweden's future competitiveness.

Party leader Stefan Lövfen is prevented from debating in parliament because he is not an MP, leaving the financial spokesperson to take on Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who is head of the centre-right Moderates, and other party leaders.

It is the last parliamentary debate before the summer recess and is considered key for parties to outline their policies for the coming year.

Reinfeldt kicked off proceedings talking about the European financial crisis and the situation in Greece and in Spain.

"Do the Swedish people want to pay more? Right now our EU fees are US$4.2 billion, that's almost as much as our foreign aid," he said. "These are the questions we need to find answers to."

Green Party spokesperson Åsa Romson discussed the euro, saying the 2003 referendum where Swedes voted no to joining the currency union was one reason state finances are healthy today.

Damberg of the Social Democrats instead brought the focus back to domestic policies.

He criticised the government for lowering the Value Added Tax on food served in restaurants, a move which was marketed as a way to increase employment in the sector as well as lowering prices as an incentive for customers to spend more.

Damberg questioned its efficiency. "Not even in the parliament canteen did we see lower food prices," he said.

"You chose the restaurants over schools," he said, adding that Sweden deserved a government that invested in the country for the long-haul.

Another topic picked up on the floor was unemployment.

Swede Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson quoted the prime minister's much-debated statement that employment was low among "ethnic Swedes in middle age" to put the focus on lack of jobs among non-European immigrants.

Reinfeldt replied that that observation did not lead the Moderates to the same conclusions as the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, who want to tighten requirements to move here.

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