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Swedish report Swedish report
by Euro Reporter
2011-03-29 09:25:49
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Sweden responds to EU criticism of wolf hunt

Sweden's environment minister on Monday said the country's wolf hunt was necessary to boost acceptance of the animal, in a response to a European Commission reprimand for allowing the cull. In January, the European Commission decided to open a formal infringement procedure action against Sweden for allowing the hunt of a protected species. It could lead to a case before the European Court of Justice, which can impose hefty fines on EU states that violate the bloc's rules.

"The aim of the government's wolf policy is for wolves to achieve the favourable conservation status that they currently lack," Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said. "This requires strong and controversial measures, and the different aspects of wolf policy cannot be considered in isolation, as the Commission tends to do," he added. The Swedish parliament decided in 2009 to keep wolf numbers at 210 animals, spread out in 20 packs, with 20 new pups per year.

Sweden argues that the hunt, which was reopened last year after a 46-year hiatus, is a way of strengthening the gene pool of its largely inbred wolf population, insisting that it will import wolves from Finland and Russia to replace the killed animals. The hunt also enjoys support in rural Sweden, where the small wolf stock has grown over the past three decades and sheep and reindeer have increasingly come under attack. Carlgren said Monday: "The wolf policy must enjoy support from those affected and be decided on in Sweden." Many environmental groups in Sweden have urged a halt to the hunt.


The “Mystery” of Child Poverty in Sweden

Håkan Juholt, the new leader of the Social Democratic party, gave his opening speech to the party congress where he outlined the future direction of policies. Juholts chief identified social problem and number one priority was child poverty. He stated: “We will not be a country where several hundred thousand children live in child-poverty. It is a shame for Sweden…It only belongs in [conservative leader] Reinfeldt’s Sweden, not in Social Democratic Sweden”.

Child poverty is measured by non-profit group “Rädda Barnen”, and is defined as either child in families who receive welfare (“socialbidrag”) because they are below the poverty norm defined by the state, or children in families who live below the poverty norm but for various reasons do not receive welfare. I would therefore have been counted among the sample of poor children between 1989-1999 when we lived on welfare. It is therefore a reasonable measure that approximates absolute child poverty (although welfare payments and these minimum norms increase slightly over time in real terms).

The standard critique of the right is that these measures are relative poverty which can give misleading results. For example with relative poverty the poverty rate could bizarrely rise even if when the real income of the poor increases, just as long as the real income of the rich increases even faster. However this critique is not valid here, since the measure is closer to absolute poverty. This is incidentally also true of the American poverty rate, which contrary to perception among many libertarians measures absolute poverty, not relative poverty. First, let’s note that child poverty has declined. In 1997 there were 432.000 poor children in Sweden, and in 2008 the number was 220.000 (so Juholt was technically wrong when he said “several” hundred thousand, but let’s not be picky). In percentage terms child poverty went from 22.3% to 11.5%. But Sweden has experienced rapid income growth in the last decade and a half. So why isn’t child poverty declining more? Surely it must be due to the heartless neo-liberal policies of the right!


Sweden set to send foreign prisoners home

The Swedish government is now set to investigate how the Swedish legislation can be amended to the EU directive. The government met last Thursday to decide to appoint a commission to adapt Swedish legislation to the EU directive, with the general rule being that citizens should serve their sentence in their country of nationality or residence.

"It is important that rehabilitation process takes place in the country in which one lives," Sweden's justice minister Beatrice Ask told Sveriges Television's Rapport news programme. The opportunity to serve a sentence in a home country already exists and last year 55 people were transferred from Sweden to other EU countries to serve out their time.

But the system is currently based on a set of voluntary rules and in the future it will be harder for the prisoner and the recipient country to refuse a transfer. Even if the new rules will mean that Swedes convicted of imprisonment in other countries will serve their penalties in Sweden, the pressure on Swedish prisons is expected to decline. Aside from custodial sentences the changes also apply to psychiatric care, community service and probation. The government inquiry is due to be completed by September 30th next year.

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