The Corner

National Security & Defense

Some Second Thoughts in the Humanitarian Superpower

Sweden has taken considerable pride in the idea that is a ‘humanitarian superpower’, an idea that came to encompass extraordinarily generous asylum and immigration policies. These policies fueled the rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats, the only party prepared to challenge the stifling establishment consensus on the topic, a consensus taken to an extreme by the (former) Swedish prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, the man who led his governing center-right coalition to defeat last year.

As a reminder, here’s what he was saying a month or two after that defeat:

In an interview with the Danish Politiken daily, Reinfeldt once again categorically rejected any active cooperation with the Sweden Democrats. “There is no place for the Sweden Democrats on the ‘borgerlig’ (liberal/conservative) side of Swedish politics,” he said. Reinfeldt furthermore rejected the notion that Sweden offers a safehaven for more refugees than the country can cope with, saying that there is plenty of room in the Nordic countries for more human beings fleeing oppression and war.  ”What does the word “enough” mean? Sweden is full? The Nordic region is full? Are we too many people? We are 25 million people living in the North. I often fly over the Swedish countryside and I would advise others to do. There are endless fields and forests. There’s more space than you might imagine. Those who claim that the country is full, they should demonstrate where it is full.

I make no apology for repeating that quote. Its bone-headedness deserves to be remembered through the ages. 

In any event, that was then.

The Wall Street Journal:

STOCKHOLM—The Swedish government on Thursday will formally seek assistance from fellow European Union members to relocate some of the thousands of migrants entering the Nordic nation, reversing an open-door policy that has made it a magnet for asylum seekers. The government said it will ask that Sweden, which was, so far, on the receiving end of an EU burden-sharing program for asylum seekers, be allowed to benefit from it.

“The current situation is not sustainable; Sweden is not able to receive people in the way we used to,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said on Wednesday after meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk in Stockholm to discuss the migration crisis.

Mr. Tusk said he would back Sweden’s demand, but that it was up to the European Commission to decide.The request marks a stark departure from Sweden’s long-standing policy of providing generous support for asylum seekers, and comes amid a sharp rise in anti-immigrant sentiment as well as violent attacks targeting migrants. As Europe experiences the largest migration of people since the end of World War II, the EU has launched a plan to redistribute 160,000 refugees across member states. Most of the refugees will be moved from Greece and Italy, but 54,000 people haven’t been assigned to any country after Hungary opted out of the program following disagreements over quotas.

Mr. Löfven said Sweden ought to be a beneficiary from the redistribution plan, since it has received the most asylum-seekers relative to its population out of all EU countries….

Yes and no: . Sweden has, in some senses, acted as a magnet for immigration into the EU.  Asking other countries to absorb some of those it has attracted makes a good case for the argument that there ought to be a Swedish word for Chutzpah.


Feeling the growing pressure, the left-leaning minority government and four center-right opposition parties last month agreed to begin tightening immigration rules in an effort to reduce the inflow, including switching to temporary rather than permanent residency permits as the norm. The government said the decision to apply for a reallocation of migrants from Sweden was part of the deal with the opposition.

Meanwhile, across the Gulf of Bothnia, the populist Finns Party is finding that entering into government has come at a cost.


HELSINKI (Reuters) – Support for the Finns Party has continued to slide, an opinion poll showed on Wednesday, reflecting the uneasy position of the Eurosceptic, anti-immigration party in the centre-right coalition government amid recession and the refugee crisis.  The October-November poll for national broadcaster YLE showed 9.8 percent of respondents supported the Finns Party, headed by foreign minister Timo Soini, down from 10.7 percent a month earlier and 17.7 percent in the general election in April. Popularity of the coalition partners, the Centre Party and the National Coalition, was broadly unchanged at 21.7 percent and 18.3 percent, respectively. Opposition Social Democrats were at 20.7 percent, up from 16.5 percent in the election. The Finns party, known for its anti-bailout rhetoric, has faced condemnation from its voters for compromising on a new loan programme for Greece and over the government’s handling of the refugee crisis that has seen 25,000 asylum seekers arriving in Finland this year…


The Latest