Löfven: new system for minister's housing necessary
After another government minister was put under scrutiny for how he obtained his flat in Stockholm, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said on Wednesday that he would like a new system for ministers' housing in Stockholm.
Visibly annoyed, Löfven told reporters that the whole debate about ministers' housing was getting "ridiculous."
"Ministers should not have to already live in Stockholm or come from Stockholm in order to be a minister. It must be possible to come from other parts of the country. And then we need to get some kind of system that works. This is getting really silly," said Löfven, and claimed that "no-one has seen anything wrong" in how Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist obtained his flat.
Earlier on Wednesday, the anti-corruption unit of the Swedish prosecution authority had decided not open a preliminary investigation into the matter of Hultqvist's housing.
On Tuesday, Svenska Dagbladet newspaper reported that the minister rents an apartment from MHS-Bostäder, a military housing foundation whose rules state that it will only provide housing to employees of the Armed Forces and students at the National Defense University. Although Hultqvist has political responsibility for Sweden's defense, he is not employed by the military.
But on Wednesday, Gunnar Stetler, senior prosecutor at Sweden's national unit against corruption said there will be no criminal investigation into the situation. According to Stetler, there is no reason to suspect that a crime has been committed. He also said that he cannot see that it is unwarranted for the Armed Forces to provide for the housing needs of the Defense Minister.
Even so, Helena Sundén, who works at the Swedish Anti-Corruption Institute, told Swedish Radio, that cases in which no laws have been broken can still raise questions about appropriateness.
"Should you even get yourself into the situation in which a person looking in from the outside might wonder whether you've gotten the apartment in order for someone to be able to influence you?"
SvD reported that, unlike parliamentarians, ministers in Sweden do not have access to apartments. Instead ministers have a right to an accomodation allowance of SEK 12,400 per month, assuming they can find an apartment in or near central Stockholm, a city which is notorious for decades-long wait times for rentals.
Speaking with Radio Sweden Thorsten Cars, formerly a judge and the chairman of the Swedish Anti-Corruption Institute, said that given the recent media storms around Minister Hultqvist's and Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström's obtaining apartments, the government should consider buying residences for its ministers.
"There would be no such problems, and apart from that it would facilitate the minister's professional life so he or she can devote the time to the duties as a member of government instead of getting around and looking for an empty apartment," said Cars.