Sweden in the 1990's

Sweden in the 1990’s


In the nineties, Sweden tried to confirm its political and economic stability in view of the entry into the European Union (EU), sanctioned by the referendum of November 1994 and formalized starting from 1995. In September 1994, after four years of conservative rule, the Social Democrats had returned to lead the country; it was up to them to prepare him for the European appointment.

In August 1995 I. Carlsson, Social Democratic leader and prime minister in the years 1986 – 91 and 1994 – 96, announced the decision to leave his posts in the party and in the executive. In March 1996 he was replaced at the head of the Social Democratic Party and the Council of Ministers by G. Persson, former Minister of Finance, a supporter of a rigorous policy and the need for Sweden to join the European Economic and Monetary Union (UEM) by January 1999.

According to ehotelat, the work of the new prime minister essentially aimed at consolidating the budget, through an austerity line, accompanied by drastic cuts to the welfare state: already as a minister he had managed to significantly reduce the deficit (from 12 % of GDP in 1994 to 6 % in 1996); the final goal was to reach equilibrium by 1998. Despite the undoubted effectiveness (the deficit was in fact almost canceled within the foreseen deadline), the strategy adopted by Persson had as a price to pay the progressive downsizing of Swedish welfare: the heavy budget cuts made to the detriment of public services questioned a social model that until then had seemed unassailable. The recent entry of the Sweden into the EU and the prospect of its inclusion in the economic and monetary union program starting from 1999 contributed to making a plan for financial consolidation urgent. On the other hand, the surprising result of the European elections in September 1995 had to be taken into account(the first for St.), which had recorded a very disappointing result for the Social Democrats, strongly pro-European (only 28, 1 % of the vote, compared with 45, 3 % made to previous policies), compared with an unexpected success of the opponents of the Union, the Greens and the Left Party, which significantly improved the results of the 1994 policies. It therefore became a priority between the end of 1996 and the beginning of 1997, consider the pros and cons of a possible accession of the Sweden to the European Monetary Union: if an independent commission set up for the purpose urged caution, the Central Bank claimed the importance of participating in the project from its initial phase, in January 1999. Pressed by the unfavorable opinion of public opinion, disappointed by an experience that, two years after joining the EU, seemed to bring with it more costs than benefits, in June 1997 the government announced that Sweden would not take part in the first stage of the European Monetary Union.

Another crucial point in the political program of the Social Democratic government was the fate of the 12 nuclear power plants installed in the country, whose final closure, based on the results of the 1980 referendum, was scheduled for 2010. At 15 years later, however, considerations related to the costs and time required for the conversion to alternative forms of energy led to reopen the debate in February 1997 it was decided dismantling of the two reactors at the Barsebäck plant by 2001. The protests by the industrialists and the trade unions themselves, which emphasized the very high expenditure that would have entailed the closure of factories in perfect condition, renewed doubts about the opportunities, times and ways of a definitive abandonment of nuclear power. The question remained open, waiting to be addressed again after 2001. The solicitude shown in tackling the nuclear question was partially justified in the approach of the legislative elections, scheduled for September 1998. Persson had to deal with the results of an economic austerity policy that if on some fronts had produced excellent results, two capitals had left unsolved problems such as unemployment (reached in 1997 to ’11 %) and public debt: the sacrifices made in the name of Europe did not seem justified by the results. The outcome of the consultations confirmed the weakness of the majority party: the Social Democrats obtained only 131 seats (36.6 % of the votes), a good 30 fewer than in previous policies. Surprising was the success of the Left Party, which increased from 22 to 43 seats. Weakened by having suffered the worst electoral result in about seventy years, the Social Democrats nevertheless managed to form a coalition government with the Greens and the Left Party (October 1998), always under the leadership of Persson.

Between 1997 and 1998, Swedish public opinion was shocked by the re-emergence of a chilling past, which profoundly called into question the image of Sweden. It all began on January 20, 1997, when the liberal newspaper Dagens Nyheter denounced the purchase by Swedish banks between 1941 and 1944., of gold from Nazi looting. In the following November, the same newspaper brought to light the sins of Sweden towards the Jewish refugees, whose passports had been made recognizable by affixing a ‘J’. These revelations, combined with the repetition of neo-Nazi demonstrations and attacks, not always repressed firmly enough, strongly shook the Swedish national conscience. Even greater uproar caused, in August 1997, the publication (again in Dagens Nyheter) of two articles which demonstrated the forced sterilization perpetrated between 1935 and 1975 to the detriment of about 60. 000 people judged to be physically or mentally inferior. To the general horror, the Swedish government responded by announcing the creation of a commission of inquiry to investigate the incident and arrange for compensation to surviving victims in March 1999. Rather than rejecting such a deeply disturbing past, Sweden reacted by assuming responsibility for it: since 1997 the authorities worked to ensure that the pro-Nazi choice and the horrors of eugenic politics became a topic for analysis in school teaching.

In September 1999 the government announced a reduction in taxes and an increase in spending in the health, education and social services sectors, proceeding in the following months to a reduction in the military budget.

Sweden in the 1990's