Crucial issues for Europe and challenges for Sweden

1. How does the future of the EU after the Irish ‘No’ look like?

 

For Swe­den, which is to assume the pres­i­den­cy of the EU on 1 July 2009, the issues relat­ed to the fate of the Lis­bon Treaty and the events sched­uled to take place dur­ing the year are seen both in the per­spec­tive of the devel­op­ment of the Union and in the per­spec­tive of their influ­ence on the work of Swe­den dur­ing the last half of the year 2009.

The Swedish par­lia­ment rat­i­fied the Lis­bon Treaty on 20 Novem­ber 2008 with 243 mem­bers sup­port­ing the pro­pos­al and 39 mem­bers against it. This out­come had been pre­dict­ed – the fact that Swe­den was one of the last coun­tries to rat­i­fy did not sig­ni­fy that there was any doubt about the outcome.[1] 59 per­cent of Swedes see mem­ber­ship as pos­i­tive (as com­pared to the EU aver­age of 53 percent).[2] Some groups are, how­ev­er, for var­i­ous rea­sons crit­i­cal against the Lis­bon Treaty.[3]

Dur­ing the autumn of 2008, the cli­mate issue and the finan­cial cri­sis were at the focus of EU-relat­ed ques­tions dis­cussed in Swe­den. Among the con­clu­sions at the Euro­pean Coun­cil 11–12 Decem­ber, the deci­sions on the Lis­bon Treaty, tak­en in order to make the sit­u­a­tion eas­i­er for the Irish, were report­ed rather than dis­cussed. The news arti­cles con­cen­trat­ed on the cli­mate issue deci­sions. As for the deci­sion on the con­tin­ued right for mem­ber states to have its own Com­mis­sion­er, Swe­den has pre­vi­ous­ly declared that, while being aware that this will at times mean hav­ing no Swedish Com­mis­sion­er, for effi­cien­cy rea­sons the size of the Com­mis­sion and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment can­not grow in pro­por­tion to the admis­sion of new members.[4]

The elec­tions to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment have as yet been sub­ject to very lit­tle publicity.

The polit­i­cal par­ties are now start­ing their work to try to engage peo­ple to vote and to exceed the par­tic­i­pa­tion, which was only 38 per­cent at the pre­vi­ous elec­tion. The Social Democrats’[5] argu­ment is that peo­ple should vote in order to pre­vent the xeno­pho­bic “Swe­den Democrats”[6] and the strong­ly EU-crit­i­cal “June List”[7] from get­ting seats in the par­lia­ment. (None of them are rep­re­sent­ed in the Swedish Par­lia­ment but the “Swe­den Democ­rats” have late­ly received increased sup­port in local elec­tions). The Social Democ­rats’ ambi­tion is to project this elec­tion as a ‘right-left’ one, which is a prob­lem since the par­ty is divid­ed on EU issues. Claim­ing that EU views are not divi­sive with­in the par­ty, they have put one of the promi­nent strong crit­ics on its lists. The Chris­t­ian Democrats[8] have sim­i­lar prob­lems with some EU crit­i­cal mem­bers and seek to keep the core group vot­ing by putting a for­mer par­ty leader on the list.[9]

As shown in an opin­ion poll, dur­ing the autumn 2008, only one of three Swedes was aware of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions tak­ing place in 2009. Gen­er­al­ly, accord­ing to the poll, Swedes have a pos­i­tive view on the par­lia­ment and most of them think that it has an impor­tant role in the EU. How­ev­er, the knowl­edge about the par­lia­ment and the inter­est for the elec­tions remain low.[10]

The elec­tions to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and the insti­tu­tion­al changes that will take place dur­ing the autumn will be a major chal­lenge for the admin­is­tra­tive han­dling of the pres­i­den­cy and is there­fore giv­en some atten­tion from this point of view. Swe­den is mak­ing con­tin­gency plans for a poten­tial shift to the Lis­bon Treaty.[11] How­ev­er, the Irish have asked that no major projects are ini­ti­at­ed at this stage based on a Lis­bon Treaty already accept­ed and this should be respect­ed says Cecil­ia Malm­ström, Min­is­ter for EU Affairs. We should also, she says, not start nego­ti­a­tions on who will become the new High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Com­mon For­eign and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy, con­sid­er­ing that there are sev­er­al coun­tries that have not yet rat­i­fied the Treaty.[12]

Gen­er­al­ly, the Swedish gov­ern­ment sees the Lis­bon Treaty as a good bal­ance between the insti­tu­tions and the new func­tions and rules as ben­e­fi­cial for the Union. Typ­i­cal for the Swedish view on the EU is that it is eval­u­at­ed not pri­mar­i­ly in terms of inte­gra­tion but instead in terms of open­ness, effi­cien­cy and demo­c­ra­t­ic legitimacy.[13]

How­ev­er, the present sit­u­a­tion is con­sid­ered to be dan­ger­ous, as stat­ed by Cecil­ia Malm­ström. The “insti­tu­tion­al lim­bo” sur­round­ing the Lis­bon Treaty may lead to “new euroscep­ti­cism across Europe” dur­ing next year’s Euro­pean elec­tions. [14]

2. Transatlantic relations renewed after President Bush: top priorities

 

Swedish views on top priorities in transatlantic cooperation

Rela­tions between Europe and the Unit­ed States are gen­er­al­ly in Swe­den con­sid­ered as fac­ing a par­tic­u­lar oppor­tu­ni­ty for improve­ment with the new Pres­i­dent, who in Swe­den, as else­where in Europe, has become very popular.

Three par­tic­u­lar issues can be envis­aged. One of them is the Amer­i­can role in regard to glob­al secu­ri­ty. Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs, Carl Bildt, sees few things as more impor­tant dur­ing the com­ing year than to strength­en under­stand­ing between this new Unit­ed States and the Euro­pean Union. It is only through this part­ner­ship, he claims, that we have the pos­si­bil­i­ty to take on the big glob­al chal­lenges – and to engage the oth­er coun­tries that are also deci­sive for success.[15]

Anoth­er issue often men­tioned con­cerns the Amer­i­can role in over­com­ing the present finan­cial cri­sis. For this, Swe­den sees it as essen­tial that the US choose a non-pro­tec­tion­ist approach.[16]

A third issue, which for Swe­den is very impor­tant dur­ing 2009, con­cerns the cli­mate issue. Hold­ing the EU-pres­i­den­cy dur­ing the peri­od at the end of which the UN cli­mate con­fer­ence in Copen­hagen is tak­ing place means that Swe­den sees the respon­si­bil­i­ty to bring along the Unit­ed States in the process. This far, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has only said that his ambi­tion is to reduce Unit­ed States’ emis­sions by 20 per­cent com­pared to the lev­el of 1990.[17]

3. Financial crisis and challenges of global governance: the EU response

 

Financial crisis: unanimity and tension

The Euro­pean Coun­cil of 16 Octo­ber 2008 is com­ment­ed on pos­i­tive­ly, Min­is­ter of Finance, Anders Borg, sees it to con­tain basic issues that Swe­den sees as impor­tant, such as the nation­al respon­si­bil­i­ty and nation­al meth­ods; the lat­ter is seen as nec­es­sary because of the speed that is required in which there is no time for devel­op­ment of com­mon ones. The third method is to sup­port through gov­ern­men­tal share­hold­ers’ con­tri­bu­tions, rather than loans. A fourth impor­tant point is the need for openness.[18]

In the con­tin­ued dis­cus­sions dur­ing the autumn, Swe­den has fought against indus­try sup­port ini­tia­tives pro­posed by the French Pres­i­den­cy. As described by Prime Min­is­ter, Fredrik Rein­feldt, the Swedish pre­ferred pol­i­cy is to invest instead in increased com­pet­i­tive abil­i­ty and sup­port for peo­ple to get new jobs.[19] The gov­ern­ment fears that in times like these, some EU mem­ber states are tempt­ed to sup­port their own major com­pa­nies and it also wor­ries about pro­tec­tion­ism among some mem­ber states of the EU. In this pol­i­cy, the gov­ern­ment gets wide sup­port from oth­er polit­i­cal parties.[20]

Swe­den is pos­i­tive to the back­ground paper by the Czech Pres­i­den­cy and the EU Com­mis­sion in which they out­line the dan­gers of pro­tec­tion­ism in a sit­u­a­tion of unem­ploy­ment and argue for con­tin­ued open markets.[21] Anoth­er com­mon inter­est between Swe­den and the Czech Repub­lic, relat­ed to the finan­cial cri­sis, is the inter­est for a bud­get reform. In order to be able to ini­ti­ate this, the Czech gov­ern­ment is wait­ing for a dis­cus­sion paper from the Com­mis­sion. The Swedish and Czech hope is to receive it very soon in order to start the discussions.[22]

On the glob­al lev­el, Swe­den is eager to revive the Doha Devel­op­ment Round that failed in July 2008. In this, the Swedish gov­ern­ment ful­ly sup­ports the direc­tor-gen­er­al of WTO, Pas­cal Lamy, in his efforts to come to an agreement.[23]

 

 

 

[1] Gov­ern­ment Offices of Swe­den: Cecil­ia Malm­ström om riks­da­gens god­kän­nande av Liss­abon­för­draget [Cecil­ia Malm­ström on the approval by the Par­lia­ment of the Lis­bon Treaty], avail­able at: www.regeringen.se/sb/d/118/a/116156 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[2] Stan­dard Euro­barom­e­ter 70: First Results, Decem­ber 2008, p. 32, avail­able at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb70/eb70_first_en.pdf (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[3] One of the more fre­quent argu­ments con­cerns the ver­dict against Swe­den in the so called “Laval Case”, con­cern­ing the right for a Lat­vian com­pa­ny to work in Swe­den pay­ing wages far below Swedish ones. See Gunil­la Herolf: Report for Swe­den, in: Insti­tut für Europäis­che Poli­tik (ed.): EU-27 Watch, No. 7, Sep­tem­ber 2008, Berlin, avail­able at: http://www.eu-consent.net/content.asp?contentid=522 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[4] Gov­ern­ment Offices of Swe­den: Liss­abon­för­draget: Så ska EU bli mer öppet, mer effek­tivt och mer demokratiskt [The Lis­bon Treaty: In this way the EU will become more open, more effec­tive and more demo­c­ra­t­ic], avail­able at: www.regeringen.se/sb/d/108/a/100615 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[5] Socialdemokraterna.
[6] Sverigedemokraterna.
[7] Junilistan.
[8] Kristdemokraterna.
[9] Dagens Nyheter: Partier­na mobilis­er­ar inför EU-valet i juni [The Polit­i­cal Par­ties Mobi­lize for the EU Elec­tions in June], 3 Feb­ru­ary 2009.
[10] Han­na Hallin/Björn Kjell­ström: Två av tre sven­skar ove­tande om Europaval, [Two out of three Swedes Igno­rant about Euro­pean Elec­tions], Dagens Nyheter, 19 Jan­u­ary 2009. The poll was made by “TNS Gallup” for the Euro­barom­e­ter, the field work being done between 13 Octo­ber and 3 Novem­ber 2008. The Swedish results are avail­able at: www.europaparlamentet.se (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[11] Gov­ern­ment Offices of Swe­den: Inter­view with the Min­is­ter for EU Affairs, Cecil­ia Malm­ström: Ett proff­sigt ord­föran­deskap och ett EU som lev­er­erar [A pro­fes­sion­al pres­i­den­cy and an EU that deliv­ers], avail­able at: http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/9247/a/94853 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[12] Cecil­ia Malm­ström, Min­is­ter for EU Affairs, in: Com­mit­tee on Euro­pean Union Affairs of the Swedish par­lia­ment: Stenografiska uppteck­ningar vid EU-näm­n­dens sam­manträ­den, 23 Jan­u­ary 2009, p. 6, avail­able at: http://www.riksdagen.se/webbnav/?nid=3751&doktyp=eunprot&rm=2008/09&bet=18&dok_id=GW0A18 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[13] Gov­ern­ment Offices of Swe­den: Liss­abon­för­draget: Så ska EU bli mer öppet, mer effek­tivt och mer demokratiskt [The Lis­bon Treaty: In this way the EU will become more open, more effec­tive and more demo­c­ra­t­ic], avail­able at: www.regeringen.se/sb/d/108/a/100615 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[14] Cecil­ia Malm­ström: Inter­view: ‘Insti­tu­tion­al Lim­bo’ to Over­shad­ow 2009 elec­tions, EurAc­tiv, 18 Novem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.euractiv.com/en/eu-elections/interview-institutional-limbo-overshadow-2009-elections/article-177289 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[15] Carl Bildt, For­eign Min­is­ter: Kli­mat­frå­gan försvåras av den ekonomiska krisen [The Eco­nom­ic Cri­sis Makes the Cli­mate Issue More Dif­fi­cult], Dagens Nyheter, 2 Jan­u­ary 2009.
[16] Ewa Björ­ling, Min­is­ter for Trade, in: Com­mit­tee on Euro­pean Union Affairs of the Swedish par­lia­ment: Stenografiska uppteck­ningar vid EU-näm­n­dens sam­manträ­den , 23 Jan­u­ary 2009, p. 4, avail­able at: http://www.riksdagen.se/webbnav/?nid=3751&doktyp=eunprot&rm=2008/09&bet=18&dok_id=GW0A18 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[17] Dagens Nyheter: Nu tar Rein­feldt över klub­ban [Rein­feldt Takes the Gav­el], 31 Dec.2009.
[18] Anders Borg, Min­is­ter for Finance, in: Com­mit­tee on Euro­pean Union Affairs of the Swedish parliament:Stenografiska uppteck­ningar vid EU-näm­n­dens sam­manträ­den, , 31 Octo­ber 2008, pp. 2–3., avail­able at: http://www.riksdagen.se/webbnav/?nid=3751&doktyp=eunprot&rm=2008/09&bet=8&dok_id=GW0A8 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[19] Fredrik Rein­feldt, Prime Min­is­ter, in: Com­mit­tee on Euro­pean Union Affairs of the Swedish par­lia­ment: Stenografiska uppteck­ningar vid EU-näm­n­dens sam­manträ­den, 7 Novem­ber 2008, p. 6, avail­able at: http://www.riksdagen.se/webbnav/?nid=3751&doktyp=eunprot&rm=2008/09&bet=9&dok_id=GW0A9 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[20] Maud Olof­s­son, Min­is­ter for Enter­prise and Ener­gy: Com­mit­tee on Euro­pean Union Affairs of the Swedish par­lia­ment: Stenografiska uppteck­ningar vid EU-näm­n­dens sam­manträ­den, 28 Novem­ber 2008, pp. 1–12, avail­able at: http://www.riksdagen.se/webbnav/?nid=3751&doktyp=eunprot&rm=2008/09&bet=12&dok_id=GW0A12 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[21] Ewa Björ­ling, Min­is­ter for Trade, in: Com­mit­tee on Euro­pean Union Affairs of the Swedish par­lia­ment: Stenografiska uppteck­ningar vid EU-näm­n­dens sam­manträ­den, 23 Jan­u­ary 2009, p. 3, avail­able at: http://www.riksdagen.se/webbnav/?nid=3751&doktyp=eunprot&rm=2008/09&bet=18&dok_id=GW0A18 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[22] Cecil­ia Malm­ström, Min­is­ter for EU Affairs, in: Com­mit­tee on Euro­pean Union Affairs of the Swedish par­lia­ment: Stenografiska uppteck­ningar vid EU-näm­n­dens sam­manträ­den, 23 Jan­u­ary 2009, p. 9, avail­able at: http://www.riksdagen.se/webbnav/?nid=3751&doktyp=eunprot&rm=2008/09&bet=18&dok_id=GW0A18 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[23] Ewa Björ­ling, Min­is­ter for Trade, in: Com­mit­tee on Euro­pean Union Affairs of the Swedish par­lia­ment: Stenografiska uppteck­ningar vid EU-näm­n­dens sam­manträ­den 5 Decem­ber 2008, p. 19, avail­able at: http://www.riksdagen.se/webbnav/?nid=3751&doktyp=eunprot&rm=2008/09&bet=13&dok_id=GW0A13 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).