Praise and some criticism for the French Presidency

The French Pres­i­den­cy received praise over­all for its effi­cien­cy in gath­er­ing a unan­i­mous EU view on impor­tant issues but also some criticism.

The cli­mate issue agree­ment, while not the opti­mal seen from a Swedish per­spec­tive, was on the whole con­sid­ered a suc­cess. Prime Min­is­ter, Fredrik Rein­feldt, called it a his­toric agree­ment and stat­ed that tak­ing on the cli­mate change so rapid­ly was one of the EU’s great­est accom­plish­ments ever. With­out this agree­ment, he claimed, many coun­tries would not have done anything.[1]

The speed with which the EU under French lead­er­ship answered to the finan­cial cri­sis has also been praised in Swe­den. There are, how­ev­er, also some neg­a­tive points. The Min­is­ter for EU Affairs was crit­i­cal of the French idea to install Pres­i­dent Sarkozy as the Euro­zone leader: “We should not build new insti­tu­tions that divide Europe – in this moment we need uni­ty, not division”.[2]

The Swedish view on the first ver­sion of the Mediter­ranean Union was neg­a­tive, see­ing this as an ini­tia­tive that dealt with the same issues as the Barcelona Process, and there­fore com­pet­ing with it. With the changes under­tak­en, it is now rather seen as a ‘beefed-up’ ver­sion of it. The cru­cial fac­tor is that the whole of the EU is now involved in the decision-making.[3]

As stat­ed by one mem­ber of the Swedish par­lia­ment, it was a suc­cess­ful pres­i­den­cy, but two issues were less pos­i­tive. One was the stat­ed views by the French admin­is­tra­tion that small mem­ber states should not hold the pres­i­den­cy of the Euro­pean Union and the oth­er was the fact that France had bro­ken the cus­tom of not pur­su­ing its own par­tic­u­lar issues dur­ing its pres­i­den­cy. The lat­ter referred to the French pol­i­cy on seek­ing to estab­lish the bud­get of the Com­mon Agri­cul­tur­al Pol­i­cy (CAP) after 2013. [4]

As to the first point, the French remarks claim­ing that the French Pres­i­den­cy has proved that only major mem­ber states can hold pres­i­den­cies, have not gone unno­ticed in Swe­den. A num­ber of com­ments have been made, includ­ing from Prime Min­is­ter Rein­feldt, voic­ing a dif­fer­ent view on this and the ambi­tion is to prove oth­er­wise. As to the sec­ond point, the opin­ion of the Prime Min­is­ter was that due to the sup­port of a num­ber of oth­er coun­tries, the for­mu­la­tions on the CAP were now accept­able to Swe­den, which has a strong inter­est in reduc­ing the size of the EU bud­get used for this policy.[5]

Fur­ther, on the neg­a­tive side, sev­er­al com­men­ta­tors have referred to the mis­takes made in the Geor­gia nego­ti­a­tions and the fact that details remain to be sort­ed out in the cli­mate deal. The style itself, it is said, also gives small mem­ber states a great deal to think about.[6]

 

 

 

[1] Dagens Nyheter: EU’s ledare enades om kli­mat­paket [EU Lead­ers Agreed on Cli­mate Pack­age], 13 Decem­ber 008.
[2] 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).
[3] Carl Bildt, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs, in: Com­mit­tee on Euro­pean Union Affairs of the Swedish par­lia­ment: Stenografiska uppteck­ningar vid EU-näm­n­dens sam­manträ­den, 12 March 2008, p. 23, avail­able at: http://www.riksdagen.se/webbnav/?nid=3751&doktyp=eunprot&rm=2007/08&bet=25&dok_id=GV0A25 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[4] Bengt-Anders Johans­son, Mod­er­ate Par­ty, in: Com­mit­tee on Euro­pean Union Affairs of the Swedish par­lia­ment: Stenografiska uppteck­ningar vid EU-näm­n­dens sam­manträ­den, 10 Decem­ber 2008, pp. 12–13, avail­able at: http://www.riksdagen.se/webbnav/?nid=3751&doktyp=eunprot&rm=2008/09&bet=14&dok_id=GW0A14 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[5] Fredrik Rein­feldt, Prime Min­is­ter, Ibid., , pp. 14 and 20.
[6] Ingrid Hed­ström: Pres­i­dent Sarkozy vis­ar vägen till snabb­fo­tad union [Pres­i­dent Sarkozy shows the way to a quick-reac­tion Union], Dagens Nyheter, 13 Decem­ber 2008.