AuthorJenny Julen Votinius
1 Introduction
1.1 Basic structure of the national legal system
The authority to enact laws is vested in the Swedish Parliament (the Riksdag). The
Government, however, has the power to issue decrees concerning less important matters.
To some extent this power stems directly from the Instrument of Government (1974:152),
one of Sweden’s four constitutional laws but the Government can also be granted authority
to issue decrees by means of acts of law passed by Parliament. Legal instruments relating
to the personal status of private subjects or the personal and economic relations between
private subjects that is, matters of civil law fall under th e exclusive competence of
Parliament and must thus be regulated by law.1 Employment legislation falls un der this
category. Neither local nor regional authorities have any legislative powers in this field.
As regards the law-making process, in Sweden the gr oundwork in the preparation of bills
is laid by commissions of inquiry, legal experts in the ministries, and Parliamentary
standing committees. Legislat ive initiative lies predominantly with the Government . Its
right to make legislative proposals to Parliament is guaranteed by the Constitution.2
Another alternative is that Parliament, on the basis of bills introduced by individual
members, requests that an inquiry should take place c oncerning legislation on a certain
issue. Swedish legislative commissions, likely to prepare any bill of importance, are
responsible for c arrying out detailed inquiries published in a special series known as
Swedish Government Reports (Statens offentliga utredningar, SOU). To a certain extent,
inquiries into matte rs of legislation are carried out at the ministry principally concerned,
with the assistance of the ministry's own officials.
The most important part of Parliament's legislative work is performed within standing
committees. The committees deal with the Government's bills and with Parliament
Members' bills containing various amendments. This results in a committ ee report. The
bill and the report a re subsequently dealt with at a plenary session of Parliament which,
after a debate, votes on the bill.
The Swedish law-making process th us generates a voluminous body of printed material
which is important in applying the legislation. Given the car e taken in these materials to
formulate the reasons and intent of the law, it becomes natural for the courts, the
authorities and individual lawyers to rely on them as important sources of interpretation.
Primary responsibility for the enforcement of legal rules devolves upon the courts and the
various administrative authorities. As in other European countries, the court system
occupies a special position. The difference between adjudicatory and administrative
authorities is less pronounced in Sweden than in most European countries, although there
is a clear borderline between the courts and the administrative agencies.
As for the general courts, Sweden has a three-tier hierarchy: the district courts (tingsrätt),
the courts of appeal (hovrätt), and the Supreme Court (Högsta dom stolen). As a general
principle it may be said that the general courts enforce civil law and criminal law
legislation. The Labour Court is a special court with the task of resolving labour disputes.
The national administration is conducted by t he Government and the various ministries
and is organised in a well-developed network of administrative authorities. The c entral
administrative agencies have a relatively independent position regulated in general by
instructions handed down by the Government. In the area of discrimination there is now
a ‘single’ Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, hereinafter DO) covering
not only gender discrimination but also other protected grounds such as ethnicity, religion,
sexual orientation, disability and age.
1 Article 2 of Chapter 8, Instrument of Government.
2 Article 3 in Chapter 4 of the Instrument of Government.

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