The talks on Sweden's future immigration policy, intended to pave the way for broad cross-party agreement, have ended in disarray.
The Sweden Democrats party leader Jimmie Åkesson announced that his party is leaving the talks and proceeding with its own proposal. Later, negotiations between the ruling Social Democrats and the Moderates, the largest opposition party, also broke down.
“The Social Democrats chose to listen to the green elephant in the room, the Green Party,” Moderates immigration spokeswoman Maria Malmer Stenergard told the newspaper Aftonbladet, referring to the Social Democrats' junior party that keeps pushing for a more lenient immigration policy and threatened to leave the government if not satisfied.
“We worked hard to reach an agreement but in the end it was clear that we are far too far apart. It is obvious that the Social Democrats are not able to stand up for their own politics, but instead run the Greens' errands and thus secure government power,” Stenergard said.
According to her, the parties failed to strike a deal about reducing volumes of immigration in general and family immigration in particular. “There they wanted to keep the current levels, which is completely impossible,” she explained.
The Green Party, currently the smallest in the parliament with barely 4.4 percent, accepted its its elevated role with pride.
“We are proud to be the green elephant in the room and thus stand for human values and for people who need help. We are proud to be able to stand for that policy even when other parties have failed,” the party's spokesman Per Bolund said.
Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, by contrast, blamed the Moderates, suggesting that they set more conditions and didn't accept any compromise. Löfven pledged to continue negotiations with “the parties that are interested”, which doesn't leave many options.
The national-conservative Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson said that the future of Sweden depends on two parties.
“The parties that really want a long-term sustainable immigration policy that creates opportunities to heal a divided society must depend on extreme parties such as the Environment Party and the Centre,” Åkesson said.
“The Swedish migration policy in the future cannot be based on social democratic fantasies,” Christian Democrats leader Ebba Busch Thor said.
According to analysts, including Jenny Madestam, associate professor of political science at Södertörn University, the Moderates and the Social Democrats are the biggest losers in the failed migration talks, while the Greens and the Sweden Democrats are the big winners.
According to Madestam, the Social Democrats had to show that they are prepared to introduce a more restrictive migration policy to stop voter flight to the Sweden Democrats, a situation that affects even the Moderates.
Political analyst Linn Mårdsta described the current situation as a tug-of-war between the parties.
“This is an issue that affects all policies and it has been doing this for several years. This is a fateful issue for the political game in Sweden,” Linn Mårdstam told Aftonbladet.
Following their worst electoral fiasco in a century, winning just 28.3 percent of the vote, and a several-months long government crisis amid a hung parliament, the Social Democrats have built a minority government with the Greens, relying on the support of the Liberals and the Centre, which historically belonged to the opposing bloc.
The Sweden Democrats were long alone in championing harsher immigration policies, but have in recent years got the company of the Christian Democrats and the Moderates, which appear to have reconsidered the “open your hearts” policy of the prime pinister Fredrik Renfeldt era.