Implementation of the Lisbon Treaty and the Swedish Presidency’s contribution

Her­man Van Rompuy was ini­tial­ly described as a per­son about whom lit­tle was known out­side Bel­gium. Prime Min­is­ter Fredrik Rein­feldt, when asked in March 2010 about his opin­ion con­cern­ing Van Rompuy, indi­cat­ed that he did not know him too well as of yet.11Fredrik Rein­feldt before the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on EU Affairs, 30 March 2010, p. 3. Among the news­pa­pers, judg­ments about Van Rompuy have gone from wait-and-see to describ­ing him more and more often, in the words of one news­pa­per, as “an accom­plished play­er in the pow­er game, deter­mined to take a lead posi­tion in Brus­sels.”22Ingrid Hed­ström: Rompuy tar rodret [Rompuy takes the helm], Dagens Nyheter, 27 March 2010. With­in a very short time, he has, among oth­er things, built up a cab­i­net of expe­ri­enced Bel­gian diplo­mats, called EU heads of state and gov­ern­ment to an extra meet­ing and sug­gest­ed far-reach­ing pro­pos­als on EU pol­i­cy.33Hen­rik Brors: Smut­sig mak­tkamp om EU:s utrike­spoli­tik [Dirty pow­er fight about the for­eign pol­i­cy of the EU], Dagens Nyheter, 5 March 2010.

Fredrik Rein­feldt, when asked about the changes tak­ing place after the Lis­bon Treaty, brought up the fact that he saw only heads of state and gov­ern­ment around the table as com­pared to the pre­vi­ous sit­u­a­tion in which for­eign min­is­ters were present. A pos­i­tive con­se­quence of hav­ing few­er per­sons present, as he saw it, was that the dis­cus­sion became freer. Anoth­er pos­i­tive con­se­quence expect­ed to take place with a Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, appoint­ed for two years, is to have greater con­ti­nu­ity. This effect is, of course, not yet pos­si­ble to see. A not so pos­i­tive con­se­quence of the present set-up, accord­ing to Rein­feldt, was the dis­cus­sion on who should be present at which meet­ings in which the pres­ence of Van Rompuy and José Manuel Bar­roso were set up against each oth­er. At this ear­ly stage, most of the changes have, how­ev­er, not yet come into place and not much more can be said at this point.44Fredrik Rein­feldt before the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on EU Affairs, 30 March 2010, p. 3.

Gen­er­al­ly, the Swedish com­ments about Cather­ine Ash­ton have cen­tred on describ­ing her tasks as very dif­fi­cult and the sit­u­a­tion sur­round­ing her posi­tion as a tough fight for pow­er in which dif­fer­ent actors do their utmost to increase their own influ­ence over the new Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice (EEAS). For­eign Min­is­ter Carl Bildt was, how­ev­er, high­ly crit­i­cal after her appoint­ment of Barroso’s aide, João Vale de Almei­da, as EU Ambas­sador to the Unit­ed States. He referred to the fact that mem­ber states had not been con­sult­ed and to the break of an “under­stand­ing” reached in 2004 that the Wash­ing­ton posi­tion should go to “a per­son with expe­ri­ence from a high polit­i­cal post.” Bildt repeat­ed his crit­i­cism at the fol­low­ing for­eign min­is­ters’ meet­ing in Brus­sels, at which Ash­ton defend­ed the appoint­ment, claim­ing that she had fol­lowed exact­ly the right pro­ce­dure.55Toby Vogel: Swedish Min­is­ter crit­i­cis­es Wash­ing­ton appoint­ment, Euro­pean Voice.com, 22 Feb­ru­ary 2010, avail­able at: www.europeanvoice.com/article/2010/02/swedish-minister-criticises-washington-appointment/67223.aspx (last access: 8 July 2010). Togeth­er with then British For­eign Min­is­ter David Miliband, Bildt wrote anoth­er let­ter to her, just before the for­eign min­is­ters’ meet­ing in Cor­do­ba in ear­ly March 2010. In this let­ter, the two gave her advice on which com­pe­tences they believed that the EEAS should have. “We want to strength­en Ash­ton vis-à-vis the Com­mis­sion. This is how the let­ter should be seen”, said Bildt. Indi­rect­ly, how­ev­er, the let­ter con­tained crit­i­cism towards her.66Hen­rik Brors: Pres­sad Ash­ton fick stöd efter hård kri­tik [Ash­ton under pres­sure got sup­port after hard crit­i­cism], Dagens Nyheter, 6 March 2010; David Char­ter: David Miliband tells EU’s for­eign chief how to do the job he reject­ed, TimesOn­line, 5 March 2010. Clear­ly, the Swedish For­eign Min­is­ter prefers to have Ashton’s posi­tion close to the Coun­cil rather than to the Com­mis­sion.

Swe­den, hav­ing the Pres­i­den­cy of the EU dur­ing the autumn of 2009, was also the author of the report out­lin­ing the EEAS. Two impor­tant fac­tors includ­ed in this report, which was accept­ed by the Euro­pean Coun­cil in late Octo­ber 2009, were the need for bud­get restric­tion and the man­ning of the EEAS. Accord­ing to the EEAS report, one third of the per­son­nel were to be mem­ber state rep­re­sen­ta­tives. As described by State Sec­re­tary Frank Bel­frage to the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on EU affairs, these two prin­ci­ples are an absolute demand from mem­ber states, includ­ing Swe­den. As he saw it, it would both be cost­ly and lead to a loss of exper­tise if, by not stick­ing to the lev­el of one-third being manned by present diplo­mats, expe­ri­enced diplo­mats would be left out­side the EEAS. Mem­ber states, again includ­ing Swe­den, do not agree with the Euro­pean Parliament’s idea that Ash­ton should also have three polit­i­cal aides in order to give the EEAS the pos­si­bil­i­ty to devote more time to the Par­lia­ment. Bel­frage expressed the hope that this could be set­tled ear­ly and that rival­ry among insti­tu­tions would not delay this ques­tion longer.77Frank Bel­frage before the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on EU Affairs, 23 April, p. 7.

On the pro­pos­al for a Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive (ECI), the Swedish stand­point in the debate in the Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union has been that it has to be user-friend­ly. Swe­den is there­fore argu­ing for a sim­pler mod­el than the one pro­posed by the Com­mis­sion. The risk with the present pro­pos­al, Swe­den argues, is that the ini­tia­tive becomes so com­pli­cat­ed that it might lose its pow­er as a new demo­c­ra­t­ic tool. In par­tic­u­lar, the so called “con­trol sta­tions” are seen as over­ly bureau­crat­ic. This view also found sup­port among the par­ties in the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on Euro­pean affairs. As stat­ed by mem­bers, the issues includ­ed in such Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tives would be restrict­ed to those that are with­in the com­pe­tence area of the Union (or actu­al­ly of the Com­mis­sion), but it was seen as impor­tant that the mech­a­nism for decid­ing this would not be of the kind in which con­sid­er­a­tions of polit­i­cal nature might play a part.88Ibid., p. 8.

    Footnotes

  • 1Fredrik Rein­feldt before the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on EU Affairs, 30 March 2010, p. 3.
  • 2Ingrid Hed­ström: Rompuy tar rodret [Rompuy takes the helm], Dagens Nyheter, 27 March 2010.
  • 3Hen­rik Brors: Smut­sig mak­tkamp om EU:s utrike­spoli­tik [Dirty pow­er fight about the for­eign pol­i­cy of the EU], Dagens Nyheter, 5 March 2010.
  • 4Fredrik Rein­feldt before the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on EU Affairs, 30 March 2010, p. 3.
  • 5Toby Vogel: Swedish Min­is­ter crit­i­cis­es Wash­ing­ton appoint­ment, Euro­pean Voice.com, 22 Feb­ru­ary 2010, avail­able at: www.europeanvoice.com/article/2010/02/swedish-minister-criticises-washington-appointment/67223.aspx (last access: 8 July 2010).
  • 6Hen­rik Brors: Pres­sad Ash­ton fick stöd efter hård kri­tik [Ash­ton under pres­sure got sup­port after hard crit­i­cism], Dagens Nyheter, 6 March 2010; David Char­ter: David Miliband tells EU’s for­eign chief how to do the job he reject­ed, TimesOn­line, 5 March 2010.
  • 7Frank Bel­frage before the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on EU Affairs, 23 April, p. 7.
  • 8Ibid., p. 8.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained there­in.