(L-R) Sweden’s Minister for Infrastructure Tomas Eneroth, Minister for Migration, Helene Fritzon, Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist, Prime minister Stefan Lofven, Minister for Social Security Annika Strandhall and Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Morgan Johansson attend a press conference at Rosenbad, the Swedish government headquarters, in Stockholm on July 27, 2017 / AFP/Getty
Two ministers have left the government as it attempts to avoid falling entirely
The Swedish government has replaced two of its ministers as it attempts to avoid falling entirely amid a crisis involving a leak of the data of almost all of the country’s citizens.
The information from the country’s driving licence database was made available to IT contractors in other countries, who had not undergone security clearance checks, as part of an outsourcing deal.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has replaced two of his ministers in an attempt to stop any more dramatic fallout. But the opposition is seeking for the government to fall entirely and for the country to have an early election.
“I have to take responsibility for the country. It wouldn’t serve Sweden to throw the country into a political crisis,” Mr Lofven told a news conference, citing the many challenges Sweden and the European Union were facing, including Brexit.
The opposition Christian Democrats and far-right Swedish Democrats said, however, they would press ahead with a no confidence vote in Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist.
If they win that vote, it could yet bring down Mr Lofven’s minority left-green government and force him to resign or call an early election.
“I will handle that if and when it happens,” Mr Lofven said, referring to the confidence motion, saying the opposition should think hard about going ahead with it.
“It is important for the members of parliament that are going to push the button … that this is the responsibility they have taken upon themselves.”
The parties’ options are constrained by the fact that the nationalist, anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats have held the balance of power in parliament since 2010. Other parties refuse to work with them, but are unable to form majority governments without them.
The scandal involves the handling of data under a 2015 outsourcing deal between the Swedish Transport Agency and IBM Sweden. Mr Lofven admitted on Monday that his country and its citizens had been exposed to risks by potential leaks of sensitive information.
Among some of the details that could have been accessible outside Sweden were the registration numbers of most vehicles on land, air and sea in Sweden.
Whistleblowers have raised concerns that information about vehicles used by the armed forces and the police may have ended up in the wrong hands. The identities of some security and military personnel could also have been at risk, according to reports.
Magnus Hagevi, professor of political science at Linnaeus University, said the prime minister, in reshuffling his cabinet, had gone for a “middle option” to try and keep his government in place.
“What was unexpected was that Hultqvist remained in his position. That means this is not over in any way, we need to wait and see how the party leaders of the (opposition) Alliance will act,” he told Reuters.
The Swedish krona was unperturbed, trading largely unchanged against the euro after initially strengthening somewhat.
“Financial markets have taken this in their stride, and I think that will continue also going forward,” said Robert Bergqvist, SEB chief economist.
“The combination of a strong Swedish economy, a strong balance sheet, and the economic-political framework gives us protection against these political events. But there could possibly be somewhat more nervousness in the financial markets if problems around the state budget arise, so we need to keep an eye on that.”
Sweden has enjoyed an economic boom most countries in Europe would envy. Gross domestic product grew by 3.2 per cent last year and is predicted to grow by 2.4 per cent this year.
(BBG) As Sweden weighs the pros and cons of joining Europe’s banking union, the Nordic country says Italy’s decision to involve taxpayers isn’t encouraging.
After months of deliberations, Italy said in June it will tap state coffers to pay for the wind-down of Banca Popolare di Vicenza SpA and Veneto Banca SpA. Italy is also using a provision in Europe’s new resolution rules to channel public money into Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA.
Further north, those examples appear to fly in the face of Europe’s declared intention never again to let taxpayers foot the bill for bank failures. They also feed Nordic fears that Europe’s banking union will combine healthy and unhealthy financial systems in one melting pot. In Sweden, banks face some of the region’s strictest requirements on passing losses on to unsecured bondholders.
Dealing With Failure
Per Bolund, Sweden’s financial markets minister, says his country won’t join Europe’s banking union if it means being saddled with others’ failures to deal with non-performing loans in a timely fashion.
“There is a concern in Sweden that if we are joining, we would have to take responsibility for banks and financial sectors in other countries where perhaps we feel that the actors haven’t taken the responsibility we have in Sweden,” Bolund said in a phone interview. “There are quite substantial risks with non-performing loans in central, and above all, southern Europe.”
Bolund said Spain’s application of Europe’s Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive was a step in the right direction, but still left Sweden with concerns about Italy’s taxpayer-funded approach. He also cautioned against interpreting Sweden’s review of bank-union membership as a first step toward ditching the krona.
“This doesn’t mean that Sweden is re-evaluating its position toward euro membership,” Bolund said. “That is not a discussion that is on the table in Sweden at the moment.”
So far, only euro members are in the bank union, which uses a common approach to resolution and a single supervisory framework (under which the European Central Bank directly monitors the largest banks and national authorities supervise the rest of the industry.) The third pillar, a unified deposit guarantee scheme, has yet to be adopted.
Sweden’s government said this week it will review the merits of joining the banking union, in part to cope with risks stemming from Nordea Bank AB. The lender’s decision to turn its Nordic subsidiaries into branches has saddled Sweden with full regulatory responsibility for the region’s only global systemically important bank.
Nordea, which is considering moving its headquarters from Stockholm to either Helsinki or Copenhagen to look for a more hospitable regulatory environment, has said it would probably be better off inside the banking union. The bank said on Tuesday that its “ambition” is to make a decision “during summer.”
So far, Finland is the only Nordic member of Europe’s bank union. Denmark, like Sweden, is looking into membership. Sweden’s government plans to appoint a committee to review its options, with a final recommendation due in 2019. Bolund says joining would let Sweden share any potential risks stemming from Nordea with other bank-union members.
But he also says there need to be clear benefits to Swedish taxpayers, otherwise the country is “not interested” in joining. Bolund listed other hurdles, including uncertainty on how Europe will shape its deposit insurance scheme and country resolution funds.
“How will the banking union be able to cope with risks in the meantime: that is also a large question mark that will be evaluated,” he said.
Julian Assange spoke from the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on Friday.CreditAndy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency
LONDON — When Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, jumped bail and sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy five years ago to avoid a Swedish rape investigation, he was considered by many a hero of transparency, internet freedom and resistance to the secret state.
So when Sweden’s prosecutors announced on Friday that they were abandoning their attempt to extradite him, invalidating the warrant for his arrest, Mr. Assange proclaimed it a happy moment of vindication. “Today was an important victory,” he said.
But Mr. Assange, 45, who became a persistent problem for the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign over leaks of classified and embarrassing documents, still faces enormous legal problems — which he also acknowledged.
He could be arrested in London for other reasons — and may possibly risk extradition to the United States — if he left the sanctuary of Ecuador’s embassy. And his reputation is far different than when he entered it in 2012.
Mr. Assange is now seen by many, including some who once had admired him the most, as an accomplice of the Russian propagandists and Donald J. Trump supporters who had sought to malign Mrs. Clinton.
His advocacy of disclosure has become intertwined with politically motivated leaks and stolen information technology, used by states and criminals alike.
And his assertion on Friday that Sweden had cleared his name for a crime he has denied was disputed by Sweden’s chief prosecutor, Marianne Ny.
Sweden was dropping the inquiry, Ms. Ny said, because she simply saw no way forward and “we don’t make any statement of guilty or not.”
Should Mr. Assange enter Sweden before August 2020, when the statute of limitations expires for the last remaining allegation, of minor rape, she said, the investigation could be reopened.
His Swedish accuser, through her lawyer, decried the decision. “It is a scandal that a suspected rapist can escape justice and thereby avoid the courts,” the lawyer, Elisabeth Fritz, said in a statement to news agencies. “My client is shocked.”
Mr. Assange appeared on the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy to thank supporters, protest what he called his long “detention” and vowed continued struggle against any charges laid against him.
“The road is far from over,” he said, raising a clenched fist. “The war, the proper war, is just commencing,” he added, referring to legal battles with Britain and potentially the United States.
Most uncertain for Mr. Assange is whether the United States has issued a secret arrest and extradition warrant in connection with his assistance to Chelsea Manning, who was released from prison this week after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence, in stealing and revealing United States secrets.
Just last month, the Trump administration’s Justice Department was reported to be reconsidering whether to charge Mr. Assange.
On Friday, the British Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service said they would not comment on any possible extradition request. The Justice Department also declined to comment.
While he is unlikely to risk walking out of the Ecuadorean Embassy, at least for now, reporters thronged the street outside the embassy on Friday just in case. They blocked traffic near the Harrods department store and glimpsed Mr. Assange’s puzzled-looking cat staring from a window.
The British police said that he was still subject to arrest for jumping bail, a much less significant offense, and that they would scale down their expensive surveillance of him.
It is possible Mr. Assange could slip out in the night, but he would still be a wanted man.
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said Mr. Assange should not be charged on current evidence.
“The U.S. government has never shown that Assange did anything but publish leaked information,” he said. “It may not like what he leaked but, judging from the public evidence, he stands in the same position as countless journalists and should now not be threatened with arrest and extradition to the United States.”
But rumors persist, however unconfirmed, that the Americans are investigating whether Mr. Assange provided Ms. Manning technical help in committing the theft of secrets, which could be a foundation for prosecution, and whether he could be charged with conspiracy in the theft of Democratic Party emails by Russian hackers.
With Ecuador pressing Britain to allow Mr. Assange passage to Ecuador to receive political asylum there, according to the Ecuadorean foreign minister, Guillaume Long, British authorities may choose to be quietly rid of the troublesome Mr. Assange, who has been costly to surveil.
In a statement, Mr. Long said: “Given that the European arrest warrant no longer holds, Ecuador will now be intensifying its diplomatic efforts with the U.K. so that Julian Assange can gain safe passage, in order to enjoy his asylum in Ecuador.”
But Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks still pose a legal and political quandary for the Trump administration. He has closely overseen WikiLeaks even while living in the cramped quarters of the Ecuadorean Embassy, and has been increasingly seen as a direct conduit for Russian propaganda and cyberwarfare.
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During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly expressed glee at WikiLeaks’ release of confidential emails from the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Even after American officials said the emails had been given to WikiLeaks by hackers working for Russian intelligence, Mr. Trump read them aloud at rallies and declared, “I love WikiLeaks!” — infuriating American intelligence officials.
President Trump’s Justice Department has a different view.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggested last month that arresting Mr. Assange was “a priority” as part of a crackdown on leaks. The C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, said WikiLeaks was operating like “a hostile intelligence service” and that Mr. Assange was “a fraud.”
Mr. Trump equivocated when asked in a recent interview with The Associated Press whether he still supported Mr. Assange. “I don’t support or unsupport. It was just information,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the hacked emails.
Of the attorney general’s plan to have Mr. Assange arrested, the president said, “I am not involved in that decision, but if Jeff Sessions wants to do it, it’s O.K. with me.”
As a legal matter, whether to charge Mr. Assange or others associated with WikiLeaks is considered a conundrum. The Obama administration’s Justice Department presented evidence to a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., but was deterred because it proved difficult to distinguish what WikiLeaks had done with classified information from what The New York Times and many other mainstream news organizations do. Given the constitutionally protected freedom of the press, only government officials who leak classified information have been prosecuted, not journalists who publish it.
Further complicating matters, the decision may no longer be solely up to Mr. Trump or his subordinates. The appointment this week of the former F.B.I. director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election could include transferring responsibility for WikiLeaks to him, especially if there are separate charges of conspiracy with Russia to steal Democratic Party emails.
Ms. Manning has always insisted she acted alone. Mr. Assange, who had said that he would be willing to be extradited to the United States if Ms. Manning were released from prison, reneged on his promise.
“I’ve always been willing to go to the United States,” he said in an online news conference in January, “provided my rights are respected.”
Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who worked with Edward J. Snowden and is among those more ambivalent now about Mr. Assange, summarized the dilemma on Friday. Writing on The Intercept, he said: “The termination of the Swedish investigation is, in one sense, good news for Assange. But it is unlikely to change his inability to leave the embassy any time soon. If anything, given the apparent determination of the Trump administration to put him in a U.S. prison cell for the ‘crime’ of publishing documents, his freedom appears farther away than it has since 2010, when the Swedish case began.”
David Allen Green, a lawyer who has followed the Assange case, suggested on Twitter that Mr. Assange was in more jeopardy now, since Britain would act on any American extradition request without first sending Mr. Assange to Sweden.
Still, for Mr. Assange, it was a happy day. He posted a photograph of himself on Twitter smiling broadly, though later posted an angrier response: “Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.”
Mr. Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Per E. Samuelson, described it as a “day of victory” mixed with foreboding.
“The United States is chasing him,” he said. “They have made that clear.”
(BBC) Image copyrightAFPImage captionThe focus will now be on whether Mr Assange can leave the Ecuadoran embassy in London
Sweden’s director of public prosecutions has decided to drop the rape investigation into Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Marianne Ny filed a request to the Stockholm District Court to revoke his arrest warrant, apparently ending a seven-year stand-off.
Mr Assange, 45, has lived in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012, trying to avoid extradition.
He feared being extradited to the US if sent to Sweden.
He could face trial in the US over the leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in London said after the news was announced that it remained obliged to arrest Mr Assange should he leave the Ecuadoran embassy on a lesser charge of failing to surrender to a court.
‘Focus on UK’
A brief statement ahead of a press conference by the prosecutor later on Friday said: “Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange.”
Mr Assange has always denied the rape allegations against him, and was interviewed in the embassy in London six months ago in the presence of Swedish officials.
After the news was announced on Friday, Wikileaks tweeted that the “focus now moves to the UK”, saying the UK had “refused to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange”.
The Metropolitan Police Service in London issued a statement saying that its actions had been based on a response to a “European Arrest Warrant for an extremely serious offence”.
It went on: “Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence. The MPS will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence.”
The MPS said it would “not comment further on the operational plan”.
Last month, Mr Assange’s Swedish lawyer filed a new motion calling for his client’s arrest warrant to be lifted.
Mr Samuelsson told Agence France-Presse: “This implies that we can now demonstrate that the US has a will to take action… this is why we ask for the arrest warrant to be cancelled so that Julian Assange can fly to Ecuador and enjoy his political asylum.”
(JE) Tribunal sueco decidiu que as receita dos investimentos devem pagar impostos como salários.
O maior fundo de private equity na região nórdica diz que uma recente decisão fiscal sueca pode ser devastadora para os investimentos no país.
Thomas von Koch, sócio-gerente da EQT AB de Estocolmo, afirma-se em estado de choque após um tribunal sueco ter decidido que as receitas dos investimentos devem pagar impostos como salários, noticia a Bloomberg.
A decisão judicial afeta os rendimentos auferidos há uma década e pode dificultar a continuidade de algumas partes do setor no país, disse von Koch.
“As implicações para todo o sistema financeiro são imensas”, disse o diretor executivo da EQT numa entrevista, pouco depois da decisão ter sido anunciada. “Este é a maior avalanche que atingiu a indústria. Estamos chocados”.
The Swedish government has decided to reintroduce military conscription – a move backed by the country’s MPs.
The decision means that 4,000 men and women will be called up for service from 1 January 2018, a defence ministry spokeswoman told the BBC.
They will be selected from about 13,000 young people born in 1999, who will be asked to take psychological and physical tests, Marinette Radebo said.
Sweden, a neutral country, is worried about Russia’s Baltic military drills.
In September, a Swedish garrison was restored to Gotland, a big island lying between the Swedish mainland and the three ex-Soviet Baltic states.
Ms Radebo said the return to conscription was prompted by “the change in our neighbourhood… Russian military activity is one of the reasons”.
The conscripts will serve for nine to 12 months. The aim is to encourage them to become military professionals or to join the reserves.
“If we want full and trained military units, the voluntary system needs to be complemented by compulsory military service,” Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told Swedish public broadcaster SVT.
Sweden had military conscription until 2010, but previously only men were drafted.
Ms Radebo said that “70% of parliament is behind the decision to strengthen the military and co-operation with the countries around us”.
The closest co-operation is with Finland, she added.
Sweden and Finland are not in Nato, but co-operate closely with the alliance. Their Nordic neighbours Norway and Denmark are in Nato.
The Swedish recruitment system – a mixture of volunteers and conscripts – will be modelled on Norway’s, Ms Radebo said.
A Swedish government report on defence priorities for 2016-2020 says recruitment of reserve squad leaders, soldiers and sailors has “proved to be problematic”.
It details a range of measures to boost Swedish military capabilities, citing “the deteriorating security situation in Europe, particularly in light of the Russian aggression against Ukraine”. Deeper defence co-operation with Finland is “critical”, it says.
According to a 2015 research paper by Barbara Kunz of the IFRI Security Studies Center, Sweden has about 52,000 full-time military personnel – 20,000 of them permanent staff and most of the others Home Guard members.
European Union countries should avoid pitching individual agendas or risk undermining the bloc’s position in exit talks with the U.K., Sweden warned.
Sweden will largely avoid staking out its own position, cognizant of the fact that there are not 28 negotiators but two — the EU and the U.K., according to Swedish Enterprise and Innovation Minister Mikael Damberg.
“I don’t think it would be good for Europe if we had 27 positions,” he said in an interview in London on Friday. “So we should have one position.”
Europe’s nation states haven’t been short on opinions that sometimes make the union look less unified. Prime Minister Theresa May, who’s now working toward invoking the start of formal exit talks, has said the U.K. plans to quit the EU’s single market, to stop sending money to Brussels, to clamp down on immigration and to recapture law-making powers.
The EU looks set to take a tough negotiating position to ensure other countries aren’t tempted to follow the U.K. out of the bloc. Just last week, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said Britain should be charged about 60 billion euros ($63 billion) when it leaves the bloc.
Damberg also said the U.K. will probably have to pay up, even though Sweden wants to strike a “good deal.”
“But if you’re not a member of the club, you can’t have the benefits of the club,” he said. “So it will cost Great Britain to leave the European Union.”
Damberg did mention one “red line” for Sweden, though the point is more of a demand directed toward the EU.
“For us, it would be important to see that, post-Brexit, the European Union 27 doesn’t increase its spending,” he said. “We don’t want to see Sweden having to pay more to stay in the European Union. You have to kind of adjust your economy within the European Union, and that is a red line that we’re working quite hard at.”
Sweden has already warned the U.K. against becoming a corporate tax haven after an exit.
“If you’re into negotiations, you should have clear standpoints, and you shouldn’t be played off by your opponent,” he said.
(JN) A homóloga sueca de Mário Centeno queixou-se ao ministro português em Bruxelas da isenção de tributação oferecida aos reformados daquele país que se mudem para Portugal. Reformados suecos “devem olhar-se ao espelho” antes de decidir emigrar para evitar impostos, defende.
A ministra das Finanças sueca ter-se-á queixado ao ministro das Finanças português Mário Centeno das condições criadas para atrair para Portugal os aposentados com origem naquele país, nomeadamente isentando as suas reformas de impostos.
De acordo com o meio económico sueco Dina Pengar, a reclamação de Magdalena Andersson foi transmitida na terça-feira passada, durante a reunião de ministros europeus das Finanças e da Economia.
“Tive de ter uma conversa séria com o meu homólogo português sobre o assunto ontem à noite, onde lhe dei conta do incómodo que existe na Suécia na forma como funciona [o sistema],” afirmou Andersson, referindo-se ao facto de as autoridades portuguesas tentarem atrair reformados com pensões elevadas, isentando-os do pagamento de impostos.
“Se o objectivo é mudar-se para Portugal porque gosta de fado ou de vinho verde, ou quer um clima agradável, então deve poder fazê-lo. Mas se é para se mudarem só para evitar os impostos, então devem olhar-se ao espelho e ponderar se querem mesmo tomar essa decisão,” disse a ministra.
De acordo com a ministra, Mário Centeno terá revelado “alguma compreensão” em relação à queixa. A responsável, nas mesmas declarações, defendeu a necessidade de os reformados paguem impostos, se não na Suécia pelo menos em Portugal.
“O que é inaceitável é que as leis fiscais em Portugal permitam que não se paguem nenhuns impostos,” afirmou. Em declarações citadas pelo Dagens Industri, a ministra reforça a censura ao comportamento dos compatriotas, referindo que estes reformados com elevados rendimentos tiveram os filhos a estudar na escola pública, usaram os serviços públicos de saúde e devem regressar ao país de origem quando forem muito velhos.
Já em Janeiro, depois de a televisão SVT ter noticiado a opção de muitos suecos por Portugal, a responsável tinha criticado a atitude: “Acho que o rendimento deve ser taxado. Não devemos ter concorrência fiscal na União Europeia e o problema é o sistema que o Governo português escolheu. Acho que é mau”.
A SVT apontava o exemplo de uma pessoa que viva na Suécia, que ganhe 65 mil coroas suecas por mês (6.830 euros à cotação actual) e se reforme naquele país, pagará em impostos 184 mil coroas por ano (19.336 euros). Mas, se se mudar para Portugal, pagará apenas 34 mil coroas anuais (3.573 euros).
“Se tiver um rendimento tão elevado como este e escolher receber toda a pensão durante cinco anos enquanto vive em Portugal, o que é legal, vai poupar entre três e quatro milhões [de coroas, 315 mil a 420 mil euros] em impostos,” refere a SVT. A estação de televisão refere ainda que o número de suecos que optam por se estabelecer em Portugal aumentou de cerca de 100 pessoas por ano para 500 pessoas em 2015.
O regime fiscal dos residentes não habituais, criado em 2009, visa “atrair para Portugal profissionais não residentes qualificados em actividades de elevado valor acrescentado ou da propriedade intelectual, industrial ou know-how, bem como beneficiários de pensões obtidas no estrangeiro”.
No caso das pensões, os visados ficam isentos de impostos durante dez anos desde que “sejam tributados no outro Estado contratante, em conformidade com convenção para eliminar a dupla tributação celebrada por Portugal com esse Estado.”
O Negócios contactou o Ministério das Finanças mas, até ao momento, não foi possível obter resposta.
A day after falsely suggesting there was an immigration-related security incident in Sweden, President Donald Trump said on Sunday his comment was based on a television report he had seen.
Trump, who in his first weeks in office has tried to tighten U.S. borders sharply for national security reasons, told a rally on Saturday that Sweden was having serious problems with immigrants.
“You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden,” Trump said. “Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”
No incident occurred in Sweden and the country’s baffled government asked the U.S. State Department to explain.
“My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden,” Trump said in a tweet on Sunday.
Fox News, a U.S. channel that has been cited favorably by Trump, ran a report Friday about alleged migrant-related crime problems in the country.
A White House spokeswoman told reporters on Sunday that Trump had been referring generally to rising crime, not a specific incident in the Scandinavian country.
Sweden’s crime rate has fallen since 2005, official statistics show, even as it has taken in hundreds of thousands of immigrants from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq.
Trump’s comment confounded Stockholm. “We are trying to get clarity,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Catarina Axelsson said.
Sweden’s embassy in the United States repeated Trump’s tweet about having seen the Fox report, and added, “We look forward to informing the U.S. administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies.”
Trump has been widely criticized for making assertions with little or no supporting evidence.
He has said more than 3 million people voted fraudulently in the U.S. election, which officials say is false, and incorrectly stated that he won by the most decisive margin in decades.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom appeared to respond to Trump on Saturday by posting on Twitter an excerpt of a speech in which she said democracy and diplomacy “require us to respect science, facts and the media.”
Her predecessor was less circumspect.
“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter.
Other Swedes mocked Trump by posting pictures of reindeer, meatballs and people assembling IKEA furniture.
“#lastnightinsweden my son dropped his hotdog in the campfire. So sad!” Twitter user Adam Bergsveen wrote.
…A Chinese Volvo…Yes you read me right…A Volvo made in China…
(BBG) Volvo Car Group’s newest, fanciest car has a built-in refrigeration compartment, handmade crystal Orrefors glassware — and the hopes of China’s premium auto-manufacturing industry riding on it.
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Volvo Cars’ Chinese owner, unveiled upgraded versions of its S90 sedan, including the top-of-the range S90 Excellence, in Shanghai Wednesday. The executive vehicles will be made in Daqing, China’s oil capital, and represent the latest product of a reinvigorated research and development program that’s bolstered profit and helped drive record sales for the Swedish icon.
Eventually, production of the premium cars will move from Europe to China, where Geely is building a third factory, in Luqiao, for making both Volvos and mid-tier Lynk & Co.-brand cars, the company said in a statement. The changes are part of billionaire Li Shufu’s plan to make China a global manufacturing and export hub for its new range of cars.
“China will play an increasingly important part in our global manufacturing ambitions,” said Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo’s chief executive officer, in the statement. “Our factories here will deliver world-class products for export across the globe in coming years, contributing to our objective of selling up to 800,000 cars a year by 2020.”
One-third of Volvo’s global production will be out of China by 2020, Samuelsson said at the event to unveil the new model.
Geely bought Volvo in 2010 for $1.5 billion, about a third of the price Ford Motor Co. paid a decade earlier. Under Ford’s control, sales peaked in 2000 and started to fall from 2006. Volvo, known for safety after inventing the three-point seatbelt, made a $1.8 billion loss the year Li took it over.
The 89-year-old automaker returned to profitability in 2013, the year after industry veteran Samuelsson was appointed CEO. Last year, it became the first Western automaker to export a premium China-made car to the U.S., with the S60 Inscription.
Volvo is poised for another record year of sales and operating profit will “improve substantially” in 2016, Samuelsson, 65, said in a statement last Thursday. The new S90 goes into production this month, with the S90 Excellence following next year. Both will be on show at the 2016 Guangzhou Motor Show later this month.
‘Back from the Brink’
“Li Shufu managed to get Volvo back from the brink,” said Jochen Siebert, the Singapore-based managing director of JSC Automotive Consulting. “Geely has already gained much from the acquisition by getting world-class people on board and much more by getting technology for the next generation of cars.”
Since the takeover, Volvo has invested $11 billion through a loan from China Development Bank to modernize production and build plants in the U.S. and China, adding to Volvo’s sites in Gothenburg, Sweden, and in Ghent, Belgium. The first car wholly developed under Geely stewardship was the XC90 sport utility vehicle that’s helped to boost sales and profit margin since its 2014 release.
Since the ownership transfer, Volvo has been beefing up its presence in Europe and the U.S., while expanding in developing countries, such as China, now the manufacturer’s biggest market.
Nowhere are the change in Volvo’s fortunes more appreciated than in Gothenburg, where the company has its global headquarters, about 14,000 staff, and its historical ties are venerated in amuseum.
“Volvo could probably not have asked for a better owner,” said the city’s mayor, Ann-Sofie Hermansson, a former Volvo employee and union official, in an e-mail. “Geely has not just done impressive R&D investments, it has also had the ability to lift the knowhow and the creativity that exists at the company.”
At the time of the Geely takeover, the first of a premium global carmaker by a Chinese company, the auto industry was reeling from a slump in demand following the global financial crisis. Ford put Volvo on the block in 2008 to shed overseas luxury lines to focus on its namesake brand. Its Jaguar and Land Rover brands were sold the same year to India’s Tata Motors Ltd.
“For Volvo — as well as Jaguar Land Rover, it has paid off for them to get away from being part of a large company, running alongside mass producers as premium brands,” said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. They were “lucky to have investors that provided the capital to let them get on with what they were good at — develop cars — and not expect immediate returns.”
Under Geely, Volvo has pushed ahead with plans to renew its entire product lineup and expand into compact cars. Last year’s operating margin tripled to 4 percent as the XC90 helped offer an alternative to customers bored with buying another Audi Q5 and BMW X5. That puts Volvo about half-way to reaching a target of lifting its return on sales in line with other luxury carmakers, like BMW AG.
Sales last year reached a record 500,000, with hopes of hitting 800,000 by the end of the decade. That’s still dwarfed by BMW’s 1.9 million sales of its namesake brand last year, and shows the comparative advantage of bigger carmakers as they shoulder increased spending demands for electric and self-driving cars.
To help share some of the costs, Volvo in August teamed up with ride hailing company Uber Technologies Inc. in a $300 million pact to develop fully autonomous cars ready for the road by 2021. Its first all-electric model is set to hit showrooms in 2019, in line with other carmakers like Mercedes-Benz’s EQ coupe-style SUV.
The first carmaker to introduce side airbags, new Volvo cars feature driver assistance systems that help prevent collisions at intersections, keeping a car from turning into oncoming traffic. They also use radar and cameras to detect large animals, cyclists and pedestrians, and help drivers react.
Sofa on Wheels
The new S90 will be the most premium car ever made in China, Volvo said Wednesday.
“The first thing you notice in the S90 Excellence is that we have removed the front passenger seat and replaced it with what we call the Lounge Console, designed to meet the chauffeur-driven executive customers’ need to relax or work while on the move,” Thomas Ingenlath, the Swedish carmaker’s design chief, said in the statement.
Features include a full panoramic roof, foldout worktables, a heated and cooled cup holder, and a built-in entertainment system with a large display for work or entertainment purposes. In contrast, Geely, which is based in Hangzhou city, began as a private, budget automaker in 1997 under Li’s vision that a car is just a sofa on wheels.
“Under Geely, Volvo eventually gained much more independence and also R&D funds, and has come up with much more compelling car models in the recent years,” said Siebert at JSC Automotive. “They have managed to find a modus operandi, and now things are looking much better.”
After concluding the deal in 2010, Li said that he saw Volvo as a tiger that he vowed to set free back to the mountains. The heart of the tiger was in Sweden and Belgium, and its paws should extend across the world, he told reporters.
Under Volvo’s manufacturing plan announced Wednesday, vehicles will be made in three Chinese, two European and one American plant on either its Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) or Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platforms.
S40, LYNK & Co.
Berkeley County, South Carolina
“It’s absolutely impossible to grow in a country like China based on exports from Europe. It’s too expensive,” Samuelsson said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Shanghai. “You have to be here.”
(Bloomberg) — Sweden has requested information from EU about decision that Apple must pay back EUR13b to Ireland to see if part of that money should instead go to Sweden, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson tells Nyhetsbyraan Direkt.
* Says aggressive U.K. corporate tax cuts would make Brexit
* Says Swedish 2017 budget won’t include any more tax
increases than those already announced
(Independent) Stefan Loefven said a tax competition between EU states could make Brexit neogtiations more difficult.
Downing Street has asserted its right to set tax rates after an EU leader warned Britain against “aggressiveness” in slashing business levies during Brexit talks.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said it is up to each member state how they set their taxes, following the comments made by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven.
The exchange highlights a potential conflict point in EU negotiations, with Britain seeking to boost growth through lower corporate levies while also trying not to aggravate EU states concerned about a ‘tax war’.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has already said he is ready to bolster the British economy with corporate tax cuts and other measures if need be.
Little prospect of Brexit before 2020, says senior civil servant
But while Sweden’s previous centre-right government lowered corporate tax rates in successive moves to 22%, as the UK moved its down to the current 20%, Mr Loefven’s government is embarking on an investment programme.
The Downing Street spokeswoman said: “It’s a matter for member states to set tax policy.
“Since 2010 the Government has been taking forward measures to reduce corporation tax while in the European Union.”
Mr Loefven made his comments to Bloomberg after being asked how Brexit negotiations would proceed.
As he prepares to travel to Germany to meet Angela Merkel on Friday, he said the UK’s exit from the 28-nation bloc “shouldn’t take longer than necessary.”
But he went on: “If the UK wants some time to think about the situation, this will also give EU countries some time.
“On the other hand, you hear about plans in the UK to, for example, lower corporate taxes considerably. If they, during this time, begin that kind of race, that will of course make discussions more difficult.”
Mr Loefven added: “Aggressiveness from Britain in [tax] issues, that doesn’t improve the relationship.”
Theresa May has said Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would launch official Brexit negotiations, will not be triggered before the end of the year.
(BBG) The U.K. shouldn’t get to strike separate deals with countries in the European Union and will need to hold its talks to exit the 28-nation bloc only with the European Commission, Sweden said.
“There have been discussions, not least calls from various U.K corners, for separate agreements between the U.K. and different countries,” Swedish EU Minister Ann Linde said at a press briefing in Stockholm. “We want to counteract all such attempts; there shouldn’t be separate agreements but only with the EU as a whole.” The EU Commission should be the negotiator, she said.
Linde’s comments come as the new U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is gearing up to decide when to activate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would start two years of talks to leave the EU. May has said she won’t pull the trigger before the end of the year. This has been backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has also ruled out preliminary talks either “formally or informally.”
The Swedish minister, who before U.K. voters decided to leave the bloc at the end of June said there was “great bitterness” toward Britain, also urged patience to allow both
sides time to analyze the situation.
“It’s very important that the U.K. gets time for reflection and that one also lets EU institutions and member states prepare but the time allowed for that can’t be too long.” Linde said.
In terms of demands, Linde said that it’s important for the U.K. to realize that it can’t just choose what’s “positive for your own country and ignore the other things” such as the free
movement of people.
“The most important thing is to have a continued good relation with the U.K. in all areas and secondly, that we continue to have good trade with the U.K.,” she said.
(BBG) U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron got a taste of the sort of reaction that awaits him in Europe’s capitals if Britain votes to quit the European Union next week.
Sweden’s EU Minister, Ann Linde, slammed the British premier as an opportunist who has put the 28-nation bloc at risk for his own domestic political purposes, signaling that talks that would follow a Brexit vote are likely to be acrimonious.
“I don’t want to burn any bridges,” Linde told journalists Tuesday in Stockholm. But I’m hearing “great bitterness toward Great Britain.”
That rancor counters the optimism of that pro-Brexit economists and politicians in the U.K., who have said Britain would maintain access to the single European market and manage the departure from the EU without significant downside.
At the same time, neither the U.K. nor the EU is prepared for negotiations that would follow a vote to leave on June 23, according to Henri de Castries, chief executive officer of Axa SA, France’s largest insurer.
They will face “a true landscape of uncertainties,” de Castries said at a conference in Paris.
In Stockholm, Linde expressed concern that a Brexit vote could throw Sweden back to the debate of the early 1990s, when Swedes voted to join the 28-nation bloc.
Even if U.K. voters choose to remain in the referendum scheduled for next week, it’s likely to tempt other countries to press for their own advantages, Linde said. Sweden would be interested in treaty changes on workers’ rights, among other issues, she said.
“The whole process is bad,” Linde said. “Cameron has used Europe to solve domestic policy problems in a what I see as an irresponsible way.”
The pound and European stocks plunged on Tuesday with just nine days of campaigning left before the June 23 referendum. A series of new polls on Monday put “Leave” ahead, and the Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, backed a Brexit on its front page.
The Swedish minister said that the Nordic country would lose a key non-euro ally in Europe in the event of a U.K. exit. It would also probably boost domestic support for anti-EU parties such as the Left Party and the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, she said.
Support for the EU is “solid” among the ruling Social Democrats, she said.
(BBG) EQT Partners AB, the biggest private equity fund in the Nordic region, says it’s steering clear of Britain as the country prepares to hold a vote on its European Union membership.
“Our industry hates uncertainty and we haven’t opened a fund there since the vote was announced,” Thomas von Koch, EQT’s managing partner, said in an interview on Monday at the firm’s Stockholm headquarters. “The U.K. is on ice for us.”
Though most polls indicate the U.K. will probably stay in the EU after the June 23 vote, EQT is preparing for the worst, von Koch said. The fund doesn’t have any equity investments in Britain, but owns debt from U.K. companies through its credit fund, the 50-year-old managing partner said.
The threat of a so-called Brexit is already prompting some companies to shelve initial public offerings that would have targeted London. Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have warned Britain against leaving the EU amid concern an exit would cause financial shocks beyond the U.K.
Bloomberg’s latest poll of polls shows the “leave” camp at about 41 percent, compared with 48 percent for “remain,” but calculates an 82 percent probability the U.K. will still be an EU member after the June referendum.
Should Britons defy the polls and vote to leave, it’s worth noting that Ireland would suddenly become the last English-speaking country in the EU, von Koch said. Luxembourg would also stand to benefit, he said.
“I think the Irish and the Luxembourg people have the champagne cooling. They are clearly the winners,” von Koch said. “I sincerely believe it would be a very stupid decision for the Brits, because it’s going to hurt.”
Investors face a universe in which two — once unthinkable — events may become reality. One is Brexit, the other is a President Donald Trump, von Koch said. An ABC News/Washington Post poll published on Monday showed Trump getting 46 percent support, compared with 43 percent who would back Hillary Clinton.
“People are sitting on the bench, waiting to see if Brexit happens and Trump becomes president,” von Koch said. “It’s an interesting world that causes lots of uncertainty.”
The U.K. government issued its starkest warning yet about the dangers of a vote to leave the EU in next month’s referendum, saying it risks causing a yearlong recession, sparking a decline in the pound and costing the loss of about half a million jobs. The pound is already down about 5 percent against the euro this year.
Leaving behind the “noise” of the Brexit vote and the possibility of a Trump presidency, the underlying strength of Europe is “underestimated,” von Koch said. He held up France, Italy and Spain as countries that investors would do well to look at more closely.
EQT has raised about 29 billion euros ($32.5 billion) in capital spread over 18 funds since being founded in 1994. EQT invests in equity, infrastructure and credit. It is expected to soon start a technology growth fund to broaden its appeal to investors.
(JN – click to see) O banco central da Suécia garantiu estar disponível para recorrer a todos os instrumentos à disposição para impulsionar a inflação e evitar a apreciação da coroa sueca.
O banco central da Suécia cortou a taxa de juro de referência – que já estava abaixo de zero – e garantiu estar preparado para usar todos os instrumentos à disposição para impulsionar o crescimento dos preços e evitar a apreciação da coroa sueca.
A taxa de juro de referência desceu de -0,35% para -0,5%, um corte superior ao esperado pelos analistas. 10 dos 18 especialistas consultados pela Bloomberg antecipavam uma descida, mas apenas três um recuo desta dimensão.
O banco central do país nórdico, liderado por Stefan Ingves (na foto), garantiu também que as compras de títulos de dívida vão continuar como planeado nos primeiros seis meses deste ano.
“A incerteza em torno da evolução global ainda é elevada, com a inflação baixa e vários bancos centrais a prosseguirem uma política monetária mais expansionista. A política monetária sueca tem de estar de acordo. Caso contrário, a taxa de câmbio da coroa poderá subir a um ritmo mais rápido do que o previsto, o que poderá dificultar a subida da inflação e a sua estabilização em torno de 2%”, explica o Riksbank, o banco central da Suécia, num comunicado citado pela Bloomberg.
Os responsáveis do banco central lançaram estímulos sem precedentes durante o ano passado para salvar a economia da deflação e manter a divisa estável, na mesma linha que foi seguida pelo Banco Central Europeu (BCE).
Embora a economia sueca tenha crescido 3,9 % no terceiro trimestre de 2015 face ao mesmo período do ano anterior, a inflação desacelerou para 0,9% em Dezembro.
(FT) Sweden’s prime minister has condemned his country’s own version of the Cologne mass sexual assault allegations and alleged police cover-up, calling claims of similar events at a youth festival in Stockholm “a double betrayal” of women and a “big democratic problem”.
Swedish police promised an urgent investigation into the claims first reported by liberal newspaper Dagens Nyheter that a gang of youths — reportedly mostly from Afghanistan — groped and molested girls as young as 11 or 12 at the We Are Sthlm festival in both 2014 and 2015.
“We shall not close our eyes and look away. We need to deal with such a serious problem,” Stefan Lofven, Sweden’s centre-left prime minister, said on Monday.
The claims have not yet been confirmed. But as in Germany, where a mass sex assault allegedly took place in Cologne on New Year’s eve, a political storm has broken out in Sweden over the alleged cover-up. The Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party that in recent months has periodically topped opinion polls, has led the criticism.
Referring to the cover-up allegations, Peter Agren, who was in charge of policing at the festival, was reported by Dagens Nyheter as saying: “This is a sore point. We sometimes dare not to say how it is because we think it might play into the hands of the Sweden Democrats.”
Mattias Karlsson, head of the Sweden Democrats’ parliamentary group, called for Sweden’s police chief to resign.
Bjorn Soder, a senior Sweden Democrats MP, added: “It is a scandal without equal. This must be investigated immediately. Could this be something that happened at several locations in the country, that they do not bother to tell you certain things because it could ‘play into the hands of a particular party’?”
(BBG – click to see) Sweden’s decision to start imposing official border checks is leading to a rapid deterioration in relations with its neighbor to the south as Denmark warns the measures may have a ripple effect that bleeds deeper into Europe.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen used his New Year’s speech to warn that his government may now be forced to impose controls at the German border as Swedish efforts to stem the flow of Middle Eastern refugees exacerbate an already tense immigration situation. As of Monday, Sweden is checking the IDs of people crossing their border by bus, train or ferry.
“For the first time since the 1950s, one will now need an ID-card to cross” over to Sweden, Rasmussen said in the Jan. 1 speech. “This shows what’s at stake. And this can create a situation in which we will need to introduce border controls toward Germany, if we decide that’s what’s best for Denmark.” In a Facebook post on Monday, Rasmussen said the decision will create “difficulty and problems for the many people who every day commute” between the two countries, describing it as a “major step backwards.”
The spat marks a low point in Danish-Swedish relations after Prime Minister Stefan Loefven last year joined Germany in welcoming hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers fleeing persecution in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Sweden was then forced to backtrack on its generous policy, arguing that Europe’s failure to share the burden of absorbing refugees made its position untenable. About 80,000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden in October and November, roughly as many as entered the country in all of 2014.
Travelers headed for Sweden on Monday were met by manned controls at the train station at Copenhagen airport, the last stop before trains cross the Oeresund bridge to Malmoe, Sweden’s third-largest city. Each day, about 74,900 people cross the bridge, which connects Sweden to Denmark and is the longest road and rail link in Europe. Another 20,900 use the ferry between the towns of Elsinore and Helsingborg.
In the 1990s, the two countries wanted to create a cross-border business and urban area, which they estimated would more than justify the 30 billion-krone ($4.4 billion) cost of building the Oeresund bridge. The plan also received European Union funding, and has been held up as a prime example of economic integration across borders.
But the border checks, to which Norway has also resorted, are testing the Schengen agreement that was supposed to ensure passport-free travel across much of Europe. The influx of people fleeing war in the Middle East may pose an even bigger threat to Europe’s economy than the debt crisis from which it has only just emerged, Nobel economics laureate Angus Deaton said last month. The development “could certainly make the economic situation very much worse,” he said in an interview in Stockholm.
(NYT – click to see) Parishioners text tithes to their churches. Homeless street vendors carry mobile credit-card readers. Even the Abba Museum, despite being a shrine to the 1970s pop group that wrote “Money, Money, Money,” considers cash so last-century that it does not accept bills and coins.
Few places are tilting toward a cashless future as quickly as Sweden, which has become hooked on the convenience of paying by app and plastic.
This tech-forward country, home to the music streaming service Spotify and the maker of the Candy Crush mobile games, has been lured by the innovations that make digital payments easier. It is also a practical matter, as many of the country’s banks no longer accept or dispense cash.
At the Abba Museum, “we don’t want to be behind the times by taking cash while cash is dying out,” said Bjorn Ulvaeus, a former Abba member who has leveraged the band’s legacy into a sprawling business empire, including the museum.
The world’s 10 most cashless countries
Not everyone is cheering. Sweden’s embrace of electronic payments has alarmed consumer organizations and critics who warn of a rising threat to privacy and increased vulnerability to sophisticated Internet crimes. Last year, the number of electronic fraud cases surged to 140,000, more than double the amount a decade ago, according to Sweden’s Ministry of Justice.
Older adults and refugees in Sweden who use cash may be marginalized, critics say. And young people who use apps to pay for everything or take out loans via their mobile phones risk falling into debt.
“It might be trendy,” said Bjorn Eriksson, a former director of the Swedish police force and former president of Interpol. “But there are all sorts of risks when a society starts to go cashless.”
But advocates like Mr. Ulvaeus cite personal safety as a reason that countries should go cash-free. He switched to using only card and electronic payments after his son’s Stockholm apartment was burglarized twice several years ago.
“There was such a feeling of insecurity,” said Mr. Ulvaeus, who carries no cash at all. “It made me think: What would happen if this was a cashless society, and the robbers couldn’t sell what they stole?”
Bills and coins now represent just 2 percent of Sweden’s economy, compared with 7.7 percent in the United States and 10 percent in the euro area. This year, only about 20 percent of all consumer payments in Sweden have been made in cash, compared with an average of 75 percent in the rest of the world, according to Euromonitor International.
Cards are still king in Sweden — with nearly 2.4 billion credit and debittransactions in 2013, compared with 213 million 15 years earlier. But even plastic is facing competition, as a rising number of Swedes use apps for everyday commerce.
At more than half of the branches of the country’s biggest banks, including SEB, Swedbank, Nordea Bank and others, no cash is kept on hand, nor are cash deposits accepted. They say they are saving a significant amount on security by removing the incentive for bank robberies.
Last year, Swedish bank vaults held around 3.6 billion kronor in notes and coins, down from 8.7 billion in 2010, according to the Bank for International Settlements. Cash machines, which are controlled by a Swedish bank consortium, are being dismantled by the hundreds, especially in rural areas.
Mr. Eriksson, who now heads the Association of Swedish Private Security Companies, a lobbying group for firms providing security for cash transfers, accuses banks and credit card companies of trying to “price cash out of the market” to make way for cards and electronic payments, which generate fee income.
“I don’t think that’s something they should decide on their own,” he said. “Should they really be able to use their market force to turn Sweden into a cashless society?”
The government has not sought to stem the cashless tide. If anything, it has benefited from more efficient tax collection, because electronic transactions leave a trail; in countries like Greece and Italy, where cash is still heavily used, tax evasion remains a big problem.
Leif Trogen, an official at the Swedish Bankers’ Association, acknowledged that banks were earning substantial fee income from the cashless revolution. But because it costs money for banks and businesses to conduct commerce in cash, reducing its use makes financial sense, Mr. Trogen said.
Cash is certainly not dead. The Swedish central bank, the Riksbank, predicts it will decline fast but still be circulating in 20 years. Recently, the Riksbank issued newly redesigned coins and notes.
But for an increasing number of consumers, cash is no longer a habit.
At the University of Gothenburg, students said they almost exclusively used cards and electronic payments. “No one uses cash,” said Hannah Ek, 23. “I think our generation can live without it.”
The downside, she conceded, was that it was easy to spend without thinking. “I do spend more,” Ms. Ek said. “But if I had a 500 krona bill, I’d think twice about spending it all.” (Five hundred kronor is about $58.)
The shift has rippled through even the most unlikely corners of the Swedish economy.
Stefan Wikberg, 65, was homeless for four years after losing his job as an I.T. technician. He has a place to live now and sells magazines for Situation Stockholm, a charitable organization, and began using a mobile card reader to take payments, after noticing that almost no one carried cash.
“Now people can’t get away,” said Mr. Wikberg, who carries a sign saying he accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. “When they say, ‘I don’t have change,’ I tell them they can pay with card or even by SMS,” he said, referring to text messages. His sales have grown by 30 percent since he adopted the card reader two years ago.
At the Filadelfia Stockholm church, so few of the 1,000 parishioners now carry cash that the church had to adapt, said Soren Eskilsson, the executive pastor.
During a recent Sunday service, the church’s bank account number was projected onto a large screen. Worshipers pulled out cellphones and tithed through an app called Swish, a payment system set up by Sweden’s biggest banks that is fast becoming a rival to cards.
Other congregants lined up at a special “Kollektomat” card machine, where they could transfer funds to various church operations. Last year, out of 20 million kronor in tithes collected, more than 85 percent came in by card or digital payment.
“People give more money to the church now because it’s electronic and easy,” said Mr. Eskilsson, adding that the church saved on security costs by handling less cash.
Despite the convenience, even some who stand to gain from a cashless society see drawbacks.
“Sweden has always been at the forefront of technology, so it’s easy to embrace this,” said Jacob de Geer, a founder of iZettle, which makes a mobile-powered card reader.
“But Big Brother can watch exactly what you’re doing if you purchase things only electronically,” he said.
But for Mr. Ulvaeus, the music magnate, such concerns are overblown.
“Everything speaks in favor of a cashless society,” he said as he strolled past the Abba Museum to retrieve his car. “It’s a utopian thought, but we’re very close to it.”
He paused at a hot-dog stand for a snack. But when he was ready to pay, the card reader was broken.
“Sorry,” the vendor said. “You’ll have to use cash.”
(BBG – click to see) Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II has plunged support for Sweden’s Social Democrat-led bloc to its lowest level in more than two decades.
The governing coalition of Social Democrats and Greens has the joint backing of just 30 percent of the electorate, down from 34.3 percent in November, according to a poll published by Dagens Nyheter and Ipsos ahead of a parliamentary vote on border identification controls Thursday. Together with the Left Party, which supports the minority government in parliament, backing for the ruling bloc has fallen to 37.3 percent, the lowest level since 1991. Ipsos estimates its loss in support since the September 2014 election at 500,000 votes.
The government is having to rely on the backing of the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party in opposition, to push through parliament identification controls on buses, trains and ferries to Sweden.
Sweden has struggled to cope with a massive influx of asylum seekers in recent months. The number of asylum seekers to the Nordic country of 9.8 million people is expected to climb to as much as 170,000 this year, according to the country’s migration agency.
The record numbers have forced the government to tighten itsgenerous asylum policy, provoking tension within the ruling parties.
The nationalist Sweden Democrats are now polling at 18.9 percent, the highest level noted in an Ipsos poll, compared with 17.2 percent in November.