Thanks to highly innovative technology solutions, transparency, early reformation of regulated industries (e.g. telecom, power distribution, postal services, health care), competitiveness and equality, Nordic countries have managed to keep one step ahead of their European neighbours in many aspects of business.
For years, the Nordic countries have led in the Global Innovation Index, the Corruption Perception Index and the Global Gender Gap Index. Sweden is a leading spender on Research and Development, having invested 3.41% of their GDP in 2012, which is twice as much as the UK.
According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2015, Sweden is the 11th out of 189 economies on the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rank.
Sweden is a very attractive country for foreign investments. Strong international trade ties, a highly skilled and efficient workforce, low corporate tax rates and an absence of bureaucracy are some of the many advantages that make the country very attractive for investors.
To many, the country is an unexploited market. Purchasing power per capita is higher than both of Germany and France. The Swedish market is easily the largest in Scandinavia and is an essential constituent of the European Union marketplace.
There are generally no restrictions on foreign investment or foreign shareholders. The business region of Gothenburg and Malmö are two key strategic areas for operations, both being innovative areas showing constant business growth and development, focusing on entrepreneurship and developing business concepts.
Companies in Sweden only pay national corporate tax based on their annual income: the corporate tax is 22 %. The normal rate of the Value Added Tax known in Swedish as ”moms” is however 25 % (source: World Bank ‘Doing Business’ Report 2015).
The legal system of the Nordics
The Nordic legal systems can be classed as a branch of the civil law family, although some scholars put them in their own category, distinct from civil law, common law and other types of legal system. Roman law has had less influence in the region than in Continental Europe and the Nordic states do not have codes unlike countries like France and Germany.
There has been a tradition of legislative unification, or cooperation, in the Nordic region since the 19th century. Norway, Denmark and Sweden began the process and Finland became involved later; Iceland has participated to a lesser extent in the drafting of uniform laws, but has often enacted the laws agreed on by the other four states. The work continues under the aegis of the Nordic Council, which was established in 1952.
Denmark, Finland and Sweden are members of the European Union. Iceland applied to join the EU in 2009 and accession negotiations have been in progress since July 2010. Both Norway and Iceland apply a large proportion of EU laws, since they are members of the European Economic Area (EEA).
Doing legal business in Sweden
The legal profession
A party in court does not have to be represented by a qualified lawyer; individuals can plead their own cases. It is only lawyers, however, who can act as court-appointed counsel for a criminal defence. A qualified and registered lawyer (advokat) in Sweden is a person who is a member of the Swedish Bar Association (Sveriges advokatsamfund). Members must satisfy certain formal requirements and have the necessary competence, experience and qualifications.
Anyone may set up a legal practice, but only registered lawyers can set up a law firm (advokatbyrå). No specific training or experience is required in order to call oneself legal adviser (jurist), and to offer legal advice on a professional basis. The work of lawyers is regulated primarily by law (Chapter 8 of the Code of Judicial Procedure). The legislation regulates the requirements for admission to the Bar Association. In addition to the legislation, good practice is also governed by the charter (stadgar) of the Bar Association and the guidelines it issues.
Lawyer activity and the establishment of lawyers is specifically dealt with in Directive 77/249/EEC to facilitate the effective exercise by lawyers of freedom to provide services (the “Lawyers Directive”) and in Directive 98/5/EC to facilitate practice of the profession of lawyer on a permanent basis in a Member State other than that in which the qualification was obtained (the “Establishment Directive”).