🇸🇪 Running out of time
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In today’s Riedia Sweden Morning Digest:
Falling food prices, Sweden's NATO membership chances, and the Swedes who stayed behind—stories from Ukraine.
– Viviana Levet, Julia Powanda, Carlos Lago
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Time running out for Swedish NATO membership
It's tight for Sweden to become a NATO member before the summit in Vilnius in July.
Sweden's NATO application hangs largely on the outcome of the Turkish election, and with it looking like the election will likely head into a runoff, it's looking less likely that Sweden will be a full NATO member by the NATO summit in Lithuania on July 11-12.
Not much is expected to happen on the ratification front until the presidential election is over.
If Erdogan and his AKP alliance win, the question is how soon after the election they are ready to take the next step.
So far, Erdogan has been completely indifferent. A common explanation for his resistance is that he wants to act tough against the West to score points in the election campaign.
Others believe that it is mainly a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States to buy new fighter jets. Türkiye itself says that they want to see concrete results in Sweden regarding measures against the PKK and other groups considered a threat to the country's security.
Recently, the Swedish parliament voted in favor of a new terrorist law, which will enter into force on June 1st. Erdogan's spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, saw it as a step forward and also announced a new trilateral meeting between Türkiye, Sweden, and Finland in June.
Some assessors believe that the Turkish government could use the new law as a reason if it wants to agree to Sweden's NATO application in July. Paul Levin, Director of the Institute for Turkish Studies at Stockholm University, does not rule out that the new law could be enough. But he does not think that is the case in Ankara.
The opposition, led by Kilicdaroglu, has expressed positive views on ratifying Sweden. The question is just how soon it can happen.
The opposition consists of six very different parties, so a change of power can be complicated and take time. In such a situation, the ratification of Sweden's membership is hardly a priority.
by Maria Davidsson/TT | edited by Riedia
🥒 Food prices decrease for the first time since 2021
Food prices decreased in April compared to the previous month. It was the first time that food prices had fallen in a single month since autumn 2021.
The new price figures from Statistics Sweden (SCB) show that food prices, including non-alcoholic beverages, decreased by 1.2 percent in April compared to March. The last time prices fell in a single month was in November 2021.
"Since then, prices have risen by over 25 percent before now turning downwards," said Carl Mårtensson, price statistician at SCB, according to a press release.
Greenery brings prices down
The prices of vegetables and fruit have recorded the biggest drop this April, down by 5.4 and 3.9 percent, respectively, since March.
Among individual items, cucumbers, for example, have become 31 percent cheaper in a month. Over the course of a year, cucumber prices have dropped by five percent.
The tone regarding food prices has been high this spring, which may have played a role.
"I think the debate has played a very big role. Some raw material prices have fallen, but our perception is that these price reductions were a little further in time. Instead, the debate and focus on food have prompted many retailers to bring forward price reductions that were already in the pipeline," says Carl Nilsson, a macroeconomist at Swedbank.
However, there is no expectation for this price fall to continue. Ulf Mazur, CEO and founder of the food price tracker Matpriskollen, says he does not see falling raw material prices or stabilizing energy prices having an impact yet.
"This is still an initiative by the food chains," he said. "But I don't see any further price drops, although it's a bit early to say," says Mazur about May prices so far.
Even though there was a trend reversal in April, food items are much more expensive than a year ago. Still, food prices are the main culprit when it comes to inflation. In a year, food prices have risen by 17.5 percent.
by Olle Lindström/TT, Tobias Österberg/TT | edited by Riedia
🚗 Swedish cars are getting older
The Swedish car fleet is getting older. Since 2021, the average age of vehicles has increased by a whole year, according to a survey.
"People choose to hold on to their money now," says Martin Fransson, CEO of the car sales site Wayke.
In two years, the average age has increased from 10.4 years to 11.4 years for passenger cars in Sweden, according to statistics compiled by several players in the automotive industry using data from, among others, the Swedish Transport Agency.
According to Martin Fransson, CEO of Wayke, the outdated car fleet is due to several factors.
"First and foremost, there are many other holes to plug money into for people right now. For example, mortgage rates are going up, so buying a new car has to wait," he says.
Martin Fransson also points to the weak krona, fewer scrapped cars, and a higher propensity for repairs as additional explanations. During the first quarter of the year, the lowest number of cars was scrapped since the corresponding period in 2009, according to the Swedish Transport Agency.
"More and more people are choosing to repair their cars at the workshop, but then many newer cars are also being exported, as car dealers are getting very good prices for them right now. The currency effect alone, that we have a weak krona, makes it very attractive to buy a car in Sweden."
Interest rates affect
Martin Fransson describes the development as a trend reversal, as the average age of passenger cars previously decreased over a period.
"We have a fleet that has become newer and newer every year. What has driven this development has been a leasing trend and of course the climate bonus. Now we no longer have a climate bonus and interest rates are higher, which has made private leasing less attractive," he says.
Behind the statistics are, in addition to Wayke, the vehicle analysis company Vroom and the National Association of Motor Dealers.
by TT | edited by Riedia
🇺🇦 Swedes who stayed in Ukraine
Air raid alarms, missile attacks, and a drastically changed daily life. But also a sense of community and connection.
Meet three Swedes who have chosen to stay in war-torn Ukraine.
In Bucha, which became notorious for war crimes and devastation last year, lies the headquarters of the truck manufacturer Scania. The daily life of Ukraine manager Håkan Jyde there is characterized by security planning and admiration for the resilience of the Ukrainians.
"We have become very close here. You really see what people are capable of."
Jyde's memories of the outbreak of war are vivid. Schools had started closing and embassies were flying out personnel when the 50-year-old realized he had to evacuate his family, "I drove to the office in the morning and told them we had to leave… our thought back then was that we'd be back in a week or two," he says.
He set up a temporary office in Riga and spent a lot of work trying to evacuate employees with families. A few months after the outbreak of war, he decided to return. The sight that greeted him in Bucha outside Kyiv was staggering.
The area was captured by the Russians at the beginning of March 2022. When the invasion forces were driven away a few weeks later, a reign of terror was revealed with hundreds of civilian casualties, torture, and rape.
"Our employees live to a large extent in this area. There was enormous destruction. Pure evil," Jyde says gravely. The Scania plant had also been occupied.
"The Russians had mined parts of the facility. We were helped to remove the mines, so step by step we could return. You can repair cars even with bullet holes in the walls."
Håkan Jyde has stayed in Ukraine and worked, but without his family on site. The truck industry feels more important than ever, he thinks. "When a society falls into complete crisis, transport, and logistics are crucial."
"Never an option to go"
Rabab Bassam works for the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR. She has had the opportunity to leave the war-torn country but wants to stay in Ukraine until the turn of the year, at least. Despite air raid warnings and rocket attacks, everyday life has slowly taken over. The work is intense, but there is time for friends, cozy evenings at home, and walks in the city.
"The presence of UN and UNHCR and their humanitarian work is crucial. I can contribute with my small part. For me, it was never an option not to go," she says.
by Anna Karolina Eriksson/TT | edited by Riedia
What else is happening in Sweden?
📉 Sweden's economy is predicted to suffer a recession of 0.5% this year, according to the EU Commission's spring forecast. While still at the bottom of the EU's estimates for economic development in 2023, the figure represents an improvement on the winter forecast of minus 0.8% in February. The EU Commission has upgraded its forecast for Ireland, which is expected to see growth of 5.5%, while overall growth figures for the EU have been revised upwards for 2023.
💼 Six out of ten unemployed individuals in Sweden do not receive unemployment benefits, according to a report from the Akademikernas unemployment fund. The lowest proportion is among job seekers aged 18-24 at just 13%. The main reason for not receiving benefits is not meeting the criteria, particularly the requirement of working for at least six months with 60 hours worked per calendar month.
🎧 The Nordic Museum in Stockholm will offer an audio guide in Ukrainian for its main exhibition, following a collaboration with Ukraine's embassy and culture center in Stockholm. The initiative to create Ukrainian audio guides for museums worldwide was launched in 2020 by Ukraine's First Lady, Olena Zelenska, to assist millions of Ukrainians who have been displaced by Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. To date, 62 Ukrainian audio guides have been introduced in museums in 39 countries.
What is happening in the world?
🪖 Britain has announced plans to deliver hundreds of drones to Ukraine, in addition to the Storm Shadow cruise missiles recently sent to Kyiv. The announcement comes ahead of a meeting between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Germany has also pledged a record-breaking aid package of military equipment worth around SEK 31 billion to Ukraine, while French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to provide various armored combat vehicles to several battalions in the country.
🗳️ Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and challenger Kemal Kiliçdaroglu are preparing for a potential second round of elections , as the current leader has failed to secure a majority with just over 91.9% of votes counted in the presidential election. If no candidate wins over 50% of the vote, a second round of voting will be held on 28th May. Kiliçdaroglu has claimed that vote counting has been manipulated and delayed in areas where the opposition is strong.
🇹🇭 The opposition party Phak Kao Klai ("New Future") has claimed victory in Thailand's parliamentary election and leader Pita Limjaroenrat has announced he is in talks with five other parties about forming a new government . The party's focus on democratic reforms and criticisms of the monarchy has given it appeal among young voters. However, the result is not solely decisive, as the prime minister will be elected via a joint sitting of the country's parliament and senate in July, and the senate members have been appointed by the military junta.
🎮 EU regulators have approved Microsoft's $69bn bid for Activision Blizzard, which would be the biggest deal in gaming history. However, the deal still requires approval from regulatory bodies in the UK, EU, and US. Microsoft is offering 10-year free licensing deals to address competition concerns and promise fair market competition.
👩💼 Elon Musk appoints Linda Yaccarino as new CEO of Twitter . She will oversee business operations and aims to transform the platform into an all-in-one app. Musk remains as executive chairman and CTO. Yaccarino, formerly head of advertising at NBCUniversal, brings experience from major media companies.
✈️ Brazilian electric plane maker Eve Holding Inc (controlled by Embraer) has successfully conducted wind tunnel testing for its flying car prototype. The electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle (eVTOL) aims to be a flying taxi and is expected to start commercial operations in 2026. Wind tunnel tests are crucial for certification and future production. Eve plans to select equipment suppliers, build a full-scale prototype, and conduct additional testing.
🎤 Swedish singer Sarah Klang will be touring her home country this November with five stops in Uppsala , Stockholm , Örebro , Malmö , and Gothenburg . Klang's latest album "Virgo" won a Grammy award last year, and she will be releasing a new album soon. She will also perform in Copenhagen and Oslo during her European tour this fall.
🎭 Are you an artistic person? Interested in the performing arts? The StrangeSpaces might be for you! Its organizer, Teater Pi, focusses on multilingual acting and offers free access to their shows and workshops. You can explore the program here and check out some of their upcoming events. From May 19th to the 21st they will be in Norrbotten , from May 23rd to the 26th they will be in Stockholm , and from May 30th to June 3rd they will be in Skåne and Malmö . Get your tickets here!
Discover Sweden - Invention
🚲 Cycling in style
Seen cyclists wearing something around their necks? Well, that's actually a Swedish invention!
Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin invented the Hövding helmet in Malmö after they noticed a lack of safety protection options for cyclists.
The helmet is different than traditional helmets in that it is basically a wearable airbag. Safety testing done at Stanford University even concluded that the Hövding offers better protection than traditional helmets.
by Julia Powanda/Riedia
Made with 💛 in Stockholm
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