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Swedish report
by Euro Reporter
2013-09-10 09:22:07
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Sweden to cut unemployment insurance costs in budget

Sweden's centre-right government said on Monday it would cut unemployment insurance for around 2.2 million people in its budget for 2014, looking to accelerate a sluggish economic recovery.

The government said the measure to equalize insurance costs for all workers would cost 2.8 billion crowns (US$421.4 million) next year, when the ruling coalition faces an election against an opposition that is well ahead in the polls.

It will also cut labour taxes for companies employing people under 23 and provide incentives for employers to take on and train workers up to 25 years old, measures costing 361 million crowns in 2014, the government said in statement. The full budget will be published on Sept 18.


Sweden opens doors to Syrian refugees

For Syrian refugees in Sweden, an announcement that they will be granted permanent residence is a blessing. Will other EU countries follow Sweden's example? And what about refugees who come therafter?  Sweden has become the first European Union country to send a positive signal to Syrians who have fled their country due to the ongoing civil war: permanent residency for those who have already made it into Sweden. The decision, says Anders Danielsson, the director-general of Sweden's Migration Board, stems from the EU's failure to act on growing numbers of refugees. "The conflict in Syria has heated up, to put it mildly," he said. "And we can assume that it's not going to be resolved in the foreseeable future." Since 2012, 14,700 Syrians have fled to Sweden. Eight thousand of them are to receive permanent residency. The remaining 6,700 - as well as subsequent arrivals - may follow. Danielsson knows the new rule may spur more Syrians to seek refuge in the Scandinavian country. And thpose refugees, too, are to benefit from the change in policy.

Permanent residency will offer Syrian refugees one thing above all else: security. But more important for the new arrivals is the legal right to bring family members to Sweden. For Anders Danielsson, the ability to reunite families ripped apart by war is at the fore of new policy. "That's perhaps the most important consequence for every individual - that one can be with one's family again, that family in Syria or anywhere else in the region can turn to a Swedish embassy." Human rights and refugee organizations have welcomed the decision by the Swedish immigration office. Karl Kopp, a European representative of German human rights NGO Pro Asyl, hopes that Sweden's liberal regulations can be implemented smoothly in practice. Refugees are often incapable of producing necessary documents and papers. Then again, how should they be able to, given the day-long trips that bring them to refugee camps and emergency shelters? In addition, foreign embassies and other offices are rarely open in the midst of a civil war.

"With all that chaos - especially with another military attack - we don't know how things are going to proceed in the country," Kopp told DW. "It's entirely possible that certain requirements are too high, and that people will fail to meet bureaucratic demands." Since news of the policy shift became known, more than 1,600 refugees have registered to have their families relocated to Sweden. In typical refugee cases, individuals need to pay for the upkeep of their family. Many Syrians don't have the means or living space to insure that. Whether these constraints should also apply to Syrian refugees is at this point unknown. "In spite of the approach, the humaneness could fail as a result of money," Kopp said.


Sweden sits on pipeline of intelligence 'gold'

A Swedish expert said it's "quite likely" Sweden helps the NSA tap intelligence information flowing through underwater cables in the Baltic Sea, adding Sweden's government leaders certainly know about the operations. "Sweden has had a privileged position in the international intelligence system since the 1940s due to its exceptionally high signals intelligence competence," Wilhelm Agrell, professor of intelligence analysis at Lund University, told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper. The comments made on Friday come after remarks made by investigative journalist Duncan Campbell on Thursday in front of a European Parliament committee that Sweden was one of the United States' most important partners in efforts to monitor internet communications across the globe. "A new organization has joined the "Five Eyes" and is seen as the largest cooperating partner to [the UK's] GCHQ outside the English-speaking countries – and that is Sweden," Campbell can be seen telling the committee in a video of the hearing, referring to the colloquial term used to refer to the US, UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Specifically, he pointed to the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment (Försvarets radioanstalt, FRA), explaining that the agency helped the US National Security Agency (NSA) and British GCHQ gain access to signals intelligence carried through fibre optic cables at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

According to Agrell, Sweden sits in a geo-strategically important position with respect to the international signals intelligence system by having the ability to access cables that carry data traffic between the east and west. "Sweden sits on a pipeline filled with golden eggs," he told DN. Speaking with the TT news agency, Agrell explained that it's not against the law for Sweden to provide the US and UK with access to the cables as such actions weren't prohibited in the controversial 2009 FRA-law that regulates the agency's intelligence gathering activities. "The Swedish debate about the FRA-law was about the privacy of Swedish citizens. International cooperation wasn't discussed. But there is backdoor in the FRA law; when it comes to international cooperation, more or less anything goes," he said. He added that it's improbable that the Swedish government is unaware of the intelligence sharing. "The government should know about this. I heard Carl Bidlt wavering when he was asked about it, but he can't waver," Agrell said.

When asked about whether Sweden gave the United States access to the Baltic Sea cables, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt avoiding confirming or denying the activities. "I'm not confirming anything, other than to say that Sweden, for a long time, throughout the post-war period, has cooperated with other countries and that we have a national security policy doctrine that says we should," he told TT. Some have criticized Reinfeldt for not pressing US President Barack Obama on NSA intelligence operations detailed in leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden, documents to which Campbell referred in his presentation to the European Parliament on Thursday. But Agrell said it was unfair to expect Reinfeldt to "put Obama up against the wall" over the issue.

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Get it off your chest
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Leah Sellers2013-09-10 15:53:34
Hello Euro-Reporter-
You've got to Love the Shining Swedes.

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