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Sweden: country overview

26 July 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 30 January 2017

Sweden has the largest population among the Nordic countries and is the third-largest country in the European Union by surface area. Sweden joined the EU in 1995, but the public rejected the introduction of the euro in a 2003 referendum. The most important sectors of Sweden’s economy in 2015 were public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (24.0 %), industry (20.1 %) and wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (17.0 %). Sweden’s main export partners are Norway, Germany and the US, while its main import partners are Germany, Norway and the Netherlands.


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Capital: Stockholm

Geographical size: 438 574 km2

Population: 9 747 355 (2015)

Population as % of total EU: 1.9 % (2015)

Gross domestic product (GDP): EUR 444.235 billion (2015)

Official EU language(s): Swedish

Political system: parliamentary constitutional monarchy

EU member country since: 1 January 1995

Seats in the European Parliament: 20

Currency: Swedish krona SEK

Schengen area member? Yes, Schengen Area member since 25 March 2001.

Presidency of the Council: Sweden has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU twice: in 2001 and 2009.

Map of Sweden

Country overview

Sweden has the largest population of the Nordic countries. It is separated in the west from Norway by a range of mountains and shares the Gulf of Bothnia to the north of the Baltic Sea with Finland.

The southern part of the country is chiefly agricultural, with forests covering an increasing percentage of the land the further north one goes. Population density is also higher in southern Sweden, with many people living in the valley of Lake Mälaren and the Öresund region.

In 1971 the Riksdag became a single-chamber Parliament. Its 349 members are elected on the basis of proportional representation for a four-year term.

The country has at least 17 000 indigenous Samis among its population – a community that derives most of its income from reindeer. Sweden is also home to a small number of ethnic Finns.

Sweden exports cars, engineering products, steel, electronic devices, communications equipment and paper products.

Swedes played a pioneering role of the early days of cinema. Leading the way were Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström. Later on, directors like Ingmar Bergman and actresses such as Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman and Anita Ekberg made careers abroad. Swedish music is in many minds synonymous with the '70s pop group ABBA.

Swedish cuisine is known for its Smorgåsbord (a buffet of savoury delicacies), Baltic herring, pea soup and pancakes.

Economy overview

Sweden has achieved an enviable standard of living with its combination of free-market capitalism and extensive welfare benefits. Sweden remains outside the euro zone largely out of concern that joining the European Economic and Monetary Union would diminish the country's sovereignty over its welfare system. Timber, hydropower, and iron ore constitute the resource base of an economy heavily oriented toward foreign trade.

Economic growth slowed in 2013, as a result of continued economic weakness in Sweden's European trading partners; Sweden's economy experienced modest growth in 2014-15, with real GDP growth above 2%, but continues to struggle with deflationary pressure.

Useful links

Head of State: www.royalcourt.se

Head of Government: www.regeringen.se

Foreign Minister: www.ud.se

Parliament: www.riksdagen.se

Source: European Commission, CIA - World Factbook

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