STOCKHOLM (AP) – Sweden’s new Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson vowed Tuesday to set the country on a new course on immigration, criminal justice and energy policy as he unveiled 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. Three center-right parties secured a majority in parliament after the Sept. 11 election with the help of the Sweden Democrats, a far-right party that has entered the political mainstream after being treated as a pariah by other parties for years.
Moderate Party parliamentary leader Tobias Billstrom was named foreign minister, while the head of the parliamentary defense committee, Pal Jonson, another moderate, was named defense minister.
The leader of the Christian Democrats, Ebba Busch, became the minister of energy, and the 25-year-old Romina Pourmokhtari from the Liberals entered history as the youngest Swedish government minister ever, in charge of climate and environment. Elisabeth Svantesson, spokeswoman for the Moderate Party for economic policy, was appointed finance minister.
In a speech to parliament, Kristersson promised to overhaul the criminal code and extend powers to the police to fight gangs that have become 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 is now launching the biggest offensive in Swedish history against organized crime.”
He also promised a “paradigm shift” in immigration policy, marking a definitive end to decades of liberal immigration policy that had already begun to tighten under the previous Social Democratic government.
“Immigration to Sweden was unsustainable,” resulting in poor integration, unemployment, insecurity and other problems, Kristersson said.
About 20% of Sweden’s 10 million people were born abroad, many of them refugees from war-torn countries, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
Attitudes towards immigration have strengthened in Sweden in recent years, fueling the rise of the Sweden Democrats, who support Kristersson’s government in exchange for an opinion on government policy.
Center-left opposition politicians have accused Kristersson’s coalition of damaging Sweden’s international reputation as a tolerant and hospitable nation.
On the energy front, Kristersson signaled the expansion of nuclear power, which previous Swedish governments had begun to dismantle. He said Sweden’s electricity generation target would change from “100% renewable” to “100% fossil-free”, leaving room for nuclear power.
The 58-year-old leader of the Moderate Party supports efforts by Sweden and neighboring Finland to join NATO and said his government would stick to the previous government’s deal with Turkey to withdraw support for Kurdish groups Ankara accuses of terrorism. Turkey has set the destruction of exiled Kurdish militants living in the Nordic countries as a prerequisite for NATO membership.
“Together with Finland, Sweden will complete NATO accession,” Kristersson said.
The new government represents a sharp shift to the right for Sweden, where the center-left Social Democrats have been in power for 8 years.
Later on Tuesday, the new government was officially presented to King Carl XVI Gustaf. The duties of the Swedish head of state are ceremonial and the monarch has no political power.
___ Associated Press writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.