Prime Minister Erna Solberg set off a quarrel between Norway and Sweden after saying that she wants to see better cooperation with Swedish authorities in the fight against right-wing extremism. Ander Ygeman, Sweden’s energy and digitalization minister from Sweden’s Labour Party, said he welcomes more cooperation but criticized Solberg for also cooperating with Norway’s right-wing Progress Party.
“If you govern with the Progress Party and twice name Sylvi Listahaug (sic) as a minister, you should perhaps look at yourself in the mirror before crawling over the border,” Ygeman wrote on social media.
He was reacting to how Solberg had told newspaper Aftenposten that “when neo-Nazis march in Norwegian streets, both in Fredrikstad and in Kristiansand, you can hear a lot of Swedish. Their neo-Nazis also try to organize in neighboring countries.” She went on to say that Sweden “has had the biggest and most organized groups in the Nordic countries tied to this,” and “that’s why it’s important to create opposition to them (the neo-Nazi groups) in Norway.”
Ygeman quickly became a target of criticism himself, with the Progress Party’s Sylvi Listhaug, known for her anti-immigration rhetoric, lashing back on Facebook that “we won’t take any lecturing from Sweden! Clean up in your own country before you come pointing fingers at us.” Listhaug earlier prompted protests both in Sweden, which has taken in tens of thousands of refugees in recent years, and Norway, which strictly limits immigration, when she made a highly publicized “tour” of an area near Stockholm with a heavy concentration of immigrant residents. She has also claimed she doesn’t want “Swedish conditions” in Norway.
Other politicians called the online quarrel “pompous and embarrassing” on both sides of the border, while Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported that Ygeman was criticized by Sweden’s own Conservative Party for delivering “a slap in the face” to Solberg, leader of Norway’s Conservatives, after she’d “reached out a hand to cooperate against neo-Nazis.”
Solberg had no further comment herself, but her party colleague and Member of Parliament Henrik Asheim called the war of words “a hopeless derailment” of the extremism issue and right-wing terrorist threat that hit Norway once again over the weekend.