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Pirates of the Baltic

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Sweden starts to wind down about now, preparing for the short – but glorious – summer. So, not much excitement over the European elections here. The quality dailies carried some serious articles on them, of course, but that’s just the political class. A few party posters appeared, very late, all almost identical (just faces), and in pastel shades. Swedes have always been ambivalent, at best, about the EU, joining it very late (1995), resisting the euro, and endlessly carping about the way Brussels seems to want to interfere with their cherished customs, like the state liquor-store monopoly, snus (vile little cushions of tobacco you put between your bottom lip and your gum), paying immigrant workers decent wages, and – well – democracy generally. They also only have 18 seats in the European Parliament, down one from last time, which of course is proportional to their numbers, if not to their sense of self-regard.

The prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, said in a radio interview just before election day that he would understand if the turn-out was low, as the vote would have very little impact on people’s lives – and that’s from the government that takes over the presidency next month. His remarks could have been intended to keep the anti-Europeans away. The ploy may have worked. The vote was low, though at around 43 per cent not much lower than the European average. The explicitly anti-EU June List, the equivalent of Britain’s UKIP, lost all its three seats. The Left Party, old Communists, but the polite Swedish sort, and also anti-Europe (‘steadily, the EU defends corporate interests against the interests of consumers and workers’), dropped from two MEPs to one: Eva-Britt Svensson, who would go down well in Britain, incidentally; when first elected she insisted on drawing the same salary that she had been paid in her ‘ordinary’ job before. Brussels, of course, is even more of a gravy train than Westminster. The Social Democrats and Reinfeldt’s Conservative alliance – both pro-Europe, but rather nervously – held on to their leads in the poll. The Greens doubled their representation to two seats.

The big novelty, however, was the Pirate Party: mainly young people protesting against the copyright laws that prevent their downloading music from the internet buckshee. It may be a sign of our consumerist times that they managed to whip up enough votes to win a seat in the Parliament, and narrowly missed a second. It also seems very un-Swedish.

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