The legislative process
The process from initiative to enacted law involves several steps. When the Government wants to introduce a new law, the procedure may, for example, be as follows:
A committee of inquiry is appointed to look into the preconditions for what the Government wants to implement. The committee is given terms of reference, specifying what it is to do. When the committee has completed its work, it writes a report which is published in the Swedish Government Official Reports series, (Statens Offentliga Utredningar, SOU). The report is referred to several agencies and bodies for consideration as well as to the Council on Legislation which monitors the legal aspects. The Government then drafts a proposal, a bill, to present to the Riksdag. The bill is dealt with by one of the parliamentary committees which gives its views. The Riksdag then votes on the bill and, if it is approved, a new law can be promulgated and published in the Swedish Code of Statutes, (Svensk författningssamling, SFS).
Each year, the Government lays some 200 bills before the Riksdag. Some of these contain proposals for new legislation, requiring extensive deliberation and debate before a vote can be taken. Others involve major or minor amendments to existing statutes or propose policy guidelines of various kinds.
A certain amount of legislation affecting Sweden is enacted by the European Union. Some of these laws apply directly in Sweden without prior sanction by the Riksdag. Others must be incorporated into existing Swedish legislation.
Sweden's fundamental laws, which make up the Constitution, hold an exceptional position in its legislation and cannot be amended as easily as other laws. The fundamental laws cover form of government and democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and order of succession to the throne. For a fundamental law to be amended, it is required that the same decision is taken by the Riksdag on two separate occasions. A parliamentary election must have taken place between the two decisions. The fundamental laws take precedence over all other statutes and no other law may contravene the Constitution.
Sweden has four fundamental laws:
- The 1974 Instrument of Government contains the basic principles of Sweden's form of government. It determines how the Government is to work, the fundamental freedoms and rights of the Swedish people and how elections to the Riksdag are to be implemented.
- The 1810 Act of Succession regulates who is to inherit the throne, that is to say who is to be Head of State - king or queen.
- The 1949 Freedom of the Press Act contains provisions on, among other things, the right to disseminate information in printed form and the principle of public access to official documents.
- The 1991 Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression regulates freedom of expression within radio, TV, films and new media of a similar nature.