Three things you should know about Sweden’s new health minister

wikstromPhoto credit to Philip Mauritzson.

Stand aside, Sebastian Kurz.Sweden

The competition for top heartthrob among Europe’s national government ministers just got a lot tougher with the October 3 appointment of Gabriel Wikström, the 29-year-old minister for public health, health care and sports in Sweden’s new center-left government, whose dimpled smile, steely blue eyes and blond hair are sending Turks (and others) swooning on Twitter, and the young Social Democrat is quickly becoming a sensation far beyond Sweden’s borders:

The good-looking Wikström has become something of a sensation among Turkish teens since he was named as a minister in the new Swedish government headed by Prime Minister Stefan Loefven.


So who is Wikström? Why has he been appointed a minister? And beyond his smile and boyish good looks, what are the policy issues that he’ll face as a minister?

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Here are three points that tell you everything you need to know about Sweden’s newest export.

1. No one seems to know if he’s single.


According to the English-language The Local, Wikström hasn’t responded to press inquiries about his love life:

His personal life also remains a mystery. His press team did not respond to questions from The Local about whether or not he was single.


That’s incredible, considering that Aftonbladet, a Swedish tabloid, was able to report that football is his favorite sport.

2. He’s the former leader of the Social Democratic youth league.

Wikström got his start in Swedish politics as the national chair of the Sveriges Socialdemokratiska Ungdomsförbund (SSU, Swedish Social Democratic Youth League) between 2011 and his appointment as minister. He’s from Västerås, a medium-sized city in central Sweden, where he previously served on the city council.

It’s common for many of Europe’s longstanding political parties on both the left and the to have youth leagues — that’s exactly how Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s 27-year-old foreign minister got his precocious start in national politics for the center-right Austrian People’s Party.

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RELATED: Swedish election results

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While no single party won a majority after Sweden’s parliamentary elections last month, the center-left Sveriges socialdemokratiska arbetareparti (Swedish Social Democratic Party) emerged as the clear leader, paving the way for Sweden’s first center-left government in eight years, under the leadership of its new prime minister, Stefan Löfven, a former head of Sweden’s largest metalworkers union. Löfven and the Social Democrats have formed a minority coalition with the Miljöpartiet (Green Party), and they are expected to rely heavily on the far-left Vänsterpartiet (Left Party).


Löfven (pictured above, left, with Wikström) succeeded a largely well-regarded center-right coalition government headed by former prime minister Frederik Reinfeldt, who stepped down as prime minister after the election as well as leader of the center-right Moderata samlingspartiet (Moderate Party), the largest of Sweden’s four center-right parties.

The rise of the far-right, anti-immigrant Sverigedemokraterna (SD, Sweden Democrats), however, dominated global coverage of the elections.

3. As health minister, Wikström will be the focal point for coordinating the Swedish response to the growing Ebola crisis.


Though he has been outspoken chiefly on the issue of youth unemployment. While Sweden has weathered Europe’s economic travails more smoothly than other EU member-states, its youth unemployment rate is around 21%.

But as a minister, Wikström will be in charge of health policy and sports policy. Chiefly, that means his first high-profile issue in office will be to organize the Swedish response to the Ebola crisis. With health officials struggling in the United States, Spain and Germany to deal with patients arriving from Ebola-plagued Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea (including the secondary infections of health-care professionals in Madrid and in Dallas), all European governments are now struggling to prepare hospitals in the event of additional Ebola cases, while allaying the worst fears of their citizens.

As in many European countries, Sweden has a universal, publicly funded health care system funded by government taxation, and it’s generally ranked among the top health-care systems in the world. As minister, Wikström will be responsible for maintaining the quality of Swedish health care.

Other members of the new Löfven cabinet include foreign minister Margot Wallström, a former environmental European commissioner and vice president of the European Commission, finance minister Magdalena Andersson, the former director of the Swedish Tax Agency (a widely expected appointment) and deputy prime minister and environmental minister Åsa Romson, one of two co-spokespersons of the Green Party. Notably, the cabinet has gender parity — it includes 12 men and 12 women.

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