Election Q&A: the Green Party

Green Party MP Bodil Ceballos answers some questions from The Local about the party's stance on a few key issues.

The Local: What is this election about? What is the key question facing Swedish voters?

Bodil Ceballos: The most important issue is climate change. We want votes from voters to be based on not only what they keep in their pocket at the end of the month, but what they get at the end of four years. For us, it’s important to make people think about the future and not only their own finances in the short-term.

It is also important to talk about jobs. We agree with our Red-Green partners, the Social Democrats and Left Party, that those who earn 40,000 kronor and more a month can pay more taxes. It is either a system based on egoism or a system based on solidarity.

TL: What does your party propose to do about these issues?

BC: What we will try to do is mix the climate with jobs so we can work on both at the same time. We want to invest heavily in infrastructure for buses, trains and insulating old buildings that use too much energy, to and build a network of alternative fuels that reaches the whole country.

We also want to invest in letting people buy organically and locally produced products through favourable policies for small enterprises.

We want to raise taxes on what is bad for the environment and make things that are better for the environment cheaper. We want to make fossil fuels more expensive than ethanol and biogas so people can choose what is less expensive over fossil fuels.

We also want to create as many jobs as possible by lowering emissions. We want to restore homes from the 1960s and 1970s that are badly insulated and use mostly electricity. Insulating houses can create a lot of jobs and will result in more money in people’s pockets.

We will also work to reduce fossil fuels for heating and use more alternative energies which will also create more new jobs. We also want to push for the construction of new rail lines to encourage people to take the train instead of driving their cars.

We will also invest in the public sector to hire more teachers, care workers and hospital staff.

TL: What does your party see as the key to helping non-Swedes successfully establish themselves in Sweden?

BC: We propose immigrants find a job while studying Swedish. We learn Swedish in very different ways. Traditionally, it has been learn first, then find a job. For some people, it is good, but others learn on the job.

More flexibility is needed to get the best support. In some municipalities, it is already like that, like in my own [Gävleborg county north of Uppsala]. We give immigrants the opportunity to work and study at the same time.

TL: What do you say to foreign students who come here to study, but find it hard to find a job?

BC: It is very important to get people from other countries to stay after they study here. There will be a big need for immigration into the country in the future. This is an opportunity for us to make them feel welcome in the country.

No one has thought of the difficulty of getting foreign students work, no party has. Swedish students get loans. We don’t want our own students to have to work at the same time and to instead dedicate their time to studying.

What we don’t want are student fees that the government will impose on foreign students. We want to eliminate the fees.

Foreign students need a work permit to find a job obviously and that is an issue we’ve brought up. However, even if they get a work permit, it is difficult for young people to find jobs in general in Sweden right now, so we want to try make it easier for all of them by using taxes that employers pay to help those who are out of work.

TL: What is your party’s top foreign policy issue?

BC: On climate change, there was no agreement in Copenhagen and they are working hard to reach an agreement in Cancun. We are coming together to call on countries to diminish emissions and discuss adaptation and mitigation. We want a better climate for our children in the future.

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Bishop’s sermon at the opening of the Riksdag

Stockholm bishop Eva Brunne's sermon addressing racism at the opening of Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, on Tuesday has been the topic of intense discussion. Here is the full text of her words in English.

Bishop's sermon at the opening of the Riksdag

Editor’s Note: The speech was delivered to the assembled members of parliament, the King, Queen and other dignitaries in Stockholm Cathedral on Tuesday, October 5th.

During the speech, the leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats and his 19 parliamentary colleagues stood up and left the church in protest at the subject matter addressed by the bishop.

Åkesson later apologised to the King, but claimed that Brunne’s reference to anti-racism demonstrations held across Sweden the night before left the Sweden Democrats with no choice but to leave.

Brunne later explained that the speech was not specifically directed against any particular party but reflected an interpretation of modern events and developments using the gospel.

Here is the speech, translated in full:

(Texts: The Wisdom of Solomon 7:15-22, I Thessalonians 5:16-24 , Luke 19:37-40)

Congratulations on your mandate. Congratulations to you who have been chosen with confidence. Almost 85 percent, or slightly more than six million people, consider you to be the best equipped to shape a positive present and sound future for us all. It is a great thing to be carried by such a confidence. And the task is given to you collectively. Not for each and every individual. Once chosen you are part of a context where your combined efforts are worth more than the will of each and every individual. After all, is that not how democracy works? It is about raising your gaze from your own interests and put to the public good. To take in Bastuträsk, Tomelilla, Göteborg, Grästorp, Husum and Visby. Politics, in one sense, is taken to mean living together in a city. Then it is also about raising one’s gaze still further, because we do not live only within ourselves. Our task and our responsibility is greater than the borders of the nation. There is a world which needs us – our solidarity, our money and not least our eyes and our voices.

There is much that is demanded of you, but do not lose heart. We are behind you, we who have given you your mandate, to speak on our behalf. Because is that not how democracy works?

We have to listen to the gospel. It was not the Swedish Riksdag that Paul was adressing, but a group of people in the city of Thessaloniki. To them he said: We exhort you to value those who have the heaviest burden among you, those at the fore. Show them respect and appreciation. And he continued with the advice: Don’t quench the Spirit, test all things, and hold firmly to that which is good. These are words also for all of us who have voted, and for all you who have been elected with trust.

Salomon in his wisdom neither wrote of the Swedish Riksdag, but the words could also be addressed to you: God is the guide of wisdom. God leads us on the correct path. For both we and our words are in his hands, as are all understanding and professional skill. Wisdom – she who with her craft has shaped everything. Words of mercy more than of demand. Everything does not rest on myself, nor my party.

When Jesus approached Jerusalem and the disciples allowed their happiness to be heard, a group of farisees asked if Jesus could silence his disciples. One wonders why they could not address the disciples directly. They were, after all, adult human beings. And the answer they received was thus: if these remain silent, the stones will cry out.

What was it that they had experienced on their way. Yes, among other things, a blind man was cured and could live his life fully and whole. And then the meeting with the despised tax collector Zachaeus. He who climbed the tree to be able to see, but perhaps also to hide. To the blind man, Jesus said: What do you want me to do for you? To Zachaeus he said: Come down from the tree, I want to visit your home. The meeting, face to face and eye to eye, in conversation, which made a lifelong impact on the the blind man and Zachaeus. This was what the disciples had experienced. The massive change for the two people. This was why they could not keep their joy to themselves. And if they had been silenced, then the stones would have cried out over the importance of this great change. The transformation which literally became of decisive importance.

It is these changes for people which are a large part of your mission. And in that you should never move far away from us who gave you your mandate that we are unable to you meet face to face, that you never cease from calling someone down from the tree and saying: I want to talk with you. To hear someone’s cry and say: What do you want me to do for you?

We who believe in people’s dignity and equal value, regardless of the country in which we are born, regardless of which gender or age we have, regardless of how our sexuality is expressed, we believe and hope that you continue to have the ability to say: I want to talk to you, and the enduring desire to ask the question: What can I do for you? And feel the great pleasure in the change that this can achieve.

Yesterday evening thousands of people gathered in Stockholm and in various parts of the country to make their voices heard. To call out their disgust at that which divides people. The racism which says that you don’t have as much worth as I do; that you shouldn’t have the same rights as me; aren’t worthy of living in freedom, and that is the only reason – that we happen to born in different parts of our world – that is not worthy of a democracy like ours to differentiate between people. It is not possible for people of faith to differentiate between people. Here it is not sufficient to give a couple of hundred people a mandate to speak on our behalf. Here we have a joint mission. And if anyone remains quiet or is silenced in the fight for human value, then we have to see to it that the stones also cry out. We do this with the help of God.

We have much to do. Cunning, courage and care are required. Feel joy in the mission. Feel the gravity of the mission. Feel the mandate from us. Test all things, and hold firmly to that which is good. Don’t differentiate between people. Feel the grace to rest in the God who created us.

With that in mind, we continue the present, towards the future.

Eva Brunne

Bishop in the diocese of Stockholm

Translation by The Local