Sylvi Listhaug.
File photo: Norway's immigration and integration minister, Sylvi Listhaug, who is visiting Sweden today. Credit: Henrik Montgomery / TT

Swedish minister snubs Norwegian colleague

Sweden's migration minister, Heléne Fritzon, has cancelled a meeting with her Norwegian counterpart, claiming that the aim of the minister's visit to Sweden is to spread a “misleading image” of the country.

Sylvi Listhaug of Fremskrittspartiet (The Progress Party) is visiting Sweden today, Tuesday, and according to Fritzon the visit is part of Fremskrittspartiet’s campaign ahead of Norway’s general election on September 11th.

"I don't want to be part of this election campaign," Fritzon, of Sweden’s Social Democrat Party, told news agency TT.

Listhaug, who is Norway's migration and integration minister, first found out about Fritzon's cancellation when she landed in Sweden on Tuesday. The meeting was apparently scheduled several weeks ago and Listhaug told reporters that she did not know why Fritzon no longer wants to meet her.

"You have to ask the minister what the reason is, but I know that unpredictable things can happen," Listhaug told Norwegian journalists while visiting the Stockholm Police's headquarters on Tuesday.

According to Listhaug, the purpose of her visit is to get an insight into how Sweden deals with integration in socio-economically disadvantaged areas. She is meeting National Police Chief Dan Eliasson to learn about the Swedish police's work and is also visiting the immigrant-dense suburb of Rinkeby in northern Stockholm.

According to Norwegian media, however, Listhaug is in Sweden as part of her election campaign and she has told Norwegian newspaper VG that the purpose of the visit is to investigate what happens when a country takes in a large number of asylum seekers.

Listhaug insisted, in the interview, that her visit is not meant to be a provocation. "I'm here to see how we should not do things in Norway," she said and claimed that "parallel societies" have emerged in Sweden where there are 60 "no-go zones" where integration has failed and where criminals are operating in lawless contexts.

However, Sweden's migration minister, Heléne Fritzon, disputed that description of Swedish integration and called it "pure nonsense".

In a response to VG, Fritzon wrote that in the past few days it has become clear that Listhaug's visit is part of the Norwegian election campaign.

"I would be happy to meet my Norwegian colleague after the election, but I don't want to be part of this campaign," Fritzon said in her statement.

After 40 years in opposition, Fremskrittspartiet formed a minority government together with the conservative Höyre party in 2013. Fremskrittspartiet advocates a stricter immigration policy.

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