Country profile - Distinguishing factors (Sweden)

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Sweden is a sparsely populated country. Sweden has relatively small ministries and large government agencies charged with carrying out policies.
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Swedish Environmental Protection Agency
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Swedish Environmental Protection Agency
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Last updated
23 Sep 2011
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Swedish Environmental Protection Agency
Published: 23 Oct 2010 Modified: 28 Jun 2016 Feed synced: 23 Sep 2011 original
Key message

Sweden is a sparsely populated country. Sweden has relatively small ministries and large government agencies charged with carrying out policies.

a) What are the factors that distinguish your country from many others?

A hereditary monarchy, Sweden is a country with a non-federal structure and mixed economy. In 2009 Sweden celebrated 200 years of peace.

With its more than 440 000 square kilometers, Sweden is the third-largest country of the 27 EU Member States in terms of area. Sweden is a sparsely populated country; on average there are only 23 people per square kilometre (compared with about 125 in Denmark and 48 worldwide). About half of Sweden 's land area is covered with forest. There is also an abundance of lakes and watercourses. There are about 96 000 lakes more than one hectare in size and about 300 000 kilometres of brooks, streams and rivers. There have been extensive changes in land use since the 1920s, particularly in the agriculture sector.

See map showing population density on page 7 in this pdf:

Most people, almost 85 % of the population, live in towns and cities, which often are located along the coast. After World War II, large-scale immigration has taken place from other parts of Europe and in recent decades from other parts of the world as well. In 2008 there were 200 different nationalities represented in the population. Of the population, 14 % were originally born in a country other than Sweden. The largest group of those born abroad come from Finland.

Economic growth higher than average

Sweden's economic growth was significantly higher than the average for EU during the 1999–2009 period. Growth in Sweden was also somewhat higher than in USA during this period. Traditionally, the economy has been dependent on natural resources such as forests and ore, which continue to be of major importance, but information technology (IT) has become increasingly important.

 The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, statistics on growth (in Swedish) 

Since the country extends almost 1 600 kilometres from north to south, the arrival of spring unfolds for several months. Mean temperatures in January are about 0 centigrade in the southern-most part of Sweden and -16 centrigrade in the cold valleys in the far north. Sometimes winter temperatures there can drop below -40 degrees C. Mean temperatures in the entire country have increased by nearly 1 degree during the 1991–2005 period compared with 1961–1990. Studies are under way on how climate change is affecting nature and how the treeline in the mountains is moving higher up.

Environmental Governance

Within the government, the Ministry of the Environment is responsible for environmental policy. Unlike many countries, Sweden has relatively small ministries and large government agencies charged with carrying out policies.

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, established in 1967, is the national agency for environmental protection and nature conservation. Its key tasks are to c oordinate and promote the implementation of environmental policy as well as to provide expert knowledge to central government. This includes responsibility for monitoring, analysis and reporting on the state of the environment.

Other central environmental agencies are the Swedish Chemicals Agency and Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, but all agencies are responsible for environmental impacts in their fields. For example, Trafikverket (the Swedish Transport Administration) is responsible for road traffic noise.

The 290 municipalities have broad responsibility for the enforcement of environmental regulations at local level, especially waste management. The 21 county administrative boards have major roles to play in concrete work on trial, supervision and environmental monitoring. In addition to this there are special environmental courts, whose responsibilities include examination of permit applications for operations with impact on the environment.

Sweden's environmental efforts are based on 16 national environmental quality objectives. Environmental legislation is assembled in the Environmental Code and employs the precautionary approach as the basis for all provisions.


Population statistics

National accounts statistics

Quick facts about Sweden

How Sweden is governed

Ministry of the Environment

Environmental Objectives Portal

State of the Environment 

Environmental Sweden in brief

Sustainable procurement


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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