STOCKHOLM (AP) — Incoming Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Tuesday vowed to set the country on a new course on immigration, criminal justice and energy policy as he presented a center-right coalition government led by his conservative Moderate Party.
The new Cabinet consists of 24 ministers — 13 men and 11 women. Thirteen are Moderates, six Christian Democrats and five Liberals. The three center-right parties secured a majority in Parliament after the Sept. 11 elections with the help of the Sweden Democrats, a far-right party that has entered the political mainstream after years of being treated as a pariah by the other parties.
Moderate Party parliamentary leader Tobias Billstrom was appointed foreign minister while the head of Parliament’s defense committe, Pal Jonson, another Moderate, was tapped as defense minister.
Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch became energy minister, and 25-year-old Romina Pourmokhtari of the Liberals made history as Sweden’s youngest ever Cabinet minister, in charge of the climate and environment portfolio. Elisabeth Svantesson, the Moderate Party’s spokeswoman on economic policy, was appointed finance minister.
In a speech to Parliament, Kristersson promised a review of the penal code and expanded powers to police to fight criminal gangs that have grown more powerful and violent in recent years.
“No other country in all of Europe has the same trend of violence as Sweden: 53 fatal shootings so far this year, often outright executions,” he said. “The government now begins the biggest offensive in Swedish history against organized crime.”
He also promised a “paradigm shift” on immigration policy, marking a definite end to decades of liberal immigration policies that had started to tighten already under the previous Social Democratic government.
“Immigration to Sweden has been unsustainable,” resulting in poor integration, unemployment, insecurity and other problems, Kristersson said.
About 20% of Sweden’s 10 million residents are foreign-born, many of them refugees from war-torn countries including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
Attitudes toward immigration have hardened in Sweden in recent years, fueling the rise of the Sweden Democrats, which is supporting Kristersson’s government in exchange for a say on government policy.
Center-left opposition politicians have accused Kristersson’s coalition of shattering Sweden’s international reputation as a tolerant and welcoming nation.
On energy, Kristersson signaled an expansion of nuclear power, which previous Swedish governments had started to dismantle. He said Sweden’s goal on electricity production would change from “100% renewable” to “100% fossil-free,” which leaves room for nuclear energy.
The 58-year-old Moderate Party leader backs the bid by Sweden and neighboring Finland to join NATO, and said his government would stick to the previous government’s agreement with Turkey to withdraw support for Kurdish groups that Ankara accuses of terrorism. Turkey has made a crackdown on exiled Kurdish militants living in the Nordic countries a precondition of NATO membership.
“Together with Finland, Sweden will complete the accession to NATO,” Kristersson said.
The new government represents a sharp shift to the right for Sweden where the center-left Social Democrats had been in power for 8 years.
Later Tuesday, the new government was formally presented to King Carl XVI Gustaf. The duties of Sweden’s head of state are ceremonial and the monarch holds no political power.
___ Associated Press writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.
Karl Ritter, The Associated Press