New Swedish Cabinet eyes euro

  • 2002-10-24

Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson presented his new Cabinet on Oct. 21, five weeks after general elections returned his Social Democrats to power as he eyes an upcoming referendum on the euro.

Persson's minority Cabinet consists of 22 ministers, including 10 women and eight new faces.

"The new organization of the government clearly reflects the Social Democrats' election campaign," Persson told a press conference.

He said European cooperation, economic growth, reduction of sick leave, integration of immigrants, the fight against drugs and promotion of gender equality would be priorities in the new government.

Persson, in power since 1996, kept a number of key ministers in their posts, including Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, Finance Minister Bosse Ringholm, Justice Minister Thomas Bodstroem, Culture Minister Marita Ulvskog and Education Minister Thomas Oestros.

But despite his strong advocacy of the single European currency, Persson chose to place two fierce opponents to the euro, long-serving Social Democrats Leif Pagrotsky and Margareta Winberg, in key posts.

Pagrotsky, until now the trade minister, was promoted to industry minister, keeping his current portfolio but with added responsibility for industry, energy and public companies.

And Winberg, previously agriculture minister, was made deputy prime minister and minister in charge of gender equality.

Sweden's largest daily Dagens Nyheter said in its online edition: "The government's 'yes' stance is decided, and these nominations must be interpreted as a signal from Persson to Social Democratic Party members that he takes euro opposition within the party seriously."

The party voted in March 2000 to support the euro by a 2-1 margin.

Sweden, like Denmark and Britain, is a member of the European Union but not a member of the euro zone. Persson has yet to set an exact date for a referendum, but it will be sometime in 2003.

One of the newcomers in the government is Sweden's current EU Ambassador Gunnar Lund, who will serve as deputy finance minister and negotiate Sweden's membership in the euro zone if Swedes vote to abandon their national currency.

Persson also promoted one of his most influential advisers, Paer Nuder, to the third-ranking post of policy coordination minister.

The new government has an average age of 45, with the youngest being 28-year-old Deputy Education Minister Lena Hallengren.