Parliament opens: new laws and new minister
In opening the Fall Session of the Swedish Parliament, or Riksdag, Tuesday Swedish Prime Minister announced his government's expected fifth cut in income taxes for those with jobs, but also unexpectedly announced a change in his cabinet.
Most of the proposed legislation in the Statement of Government Policy was already known, announced by the goverment in press releases and op-ed articles in recent weeks.
What was not known were two cabinet changes. Gunilla Carlsson is being replaced as Minister for Development Assistance by Hillevi Engström, while Engström is being succeeded as Labor Market Minister by Elisabeth Svantesson.
Reinfeldt also announced that unemployment insurance fees would be made equal for all wage-earners, a reversal of one of his government's first reforms from when it took power seven years ago.
One year to next year's elections, Prime Minister Reinfeldt began by noting how well Sweden's situation is and taking up the suffering in Syria. He also referred to American President Barack Obama's recent visit to Sweden.
Reinfeldt also underlined the importance of a united European Union, the advantages of EU membership for Sweden, and the need for more reforms in EU financial policies.
The Statement of Government Policy reads:
"Sweden is to be a good country in which to live - a country with full employment, a good environment and shared welfare with high-quality schools and health and social care. Sweden is to be characterised by cohesion, stability and opportunities for each individual to shape their own day-to-day life."
In announcing the fifth income tax cut, which over covers those with jobs and excludes students, pensioners, and those on sickness benefits, Reinfeldt criticised the opposition for rejecting the proposal to raise the minimum level for paying national income tax, which critics say would only benefit the wealthy.
Reinfeldt's four party center-right coalition does not hold a majority in parliament, and needs the help of the opposition to put through most legislation.
Reinfeldt called an improvement in the reading skills of students, and the imposition of manditory summer school for some of those failing to pass required courses.
On Syria Reinfeldt strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons and told parliament “those reponsible must be made to answer”. He continued that a solution to the crisis must be sought throught the United Nations.
The prime minister also announced new initiatives for the disabled, those who have newly arrived in this country, and pensioners.
The first major parliamentary business, following Fredrik Reinfeldt's speech this afternoon, will be the autumn budget, to be presented by Finance Minister Anders Borg on Wednesday morning.
In his royal speech opening the session, King Carl XVI Gustaf commented that last year he and Queen Silvia attended the UN climate conference in Rio de Janeiro, 40 years after the Stockholm Conference. King Carl Gustaf noted that he could see much remains to be done in this area.
But the king also noted that there is more freedom in the world today than when he ascended to the throne forty years ago.