Sweden in favour of enlargements and co-initiator of the Eastern Partnership

The Swedish gov­ern­ment is strong­ly in favour of the con­tin­ued enlarge­ment of the EU and sought to bring the process of enlarge­ment for­ward as much as pos­si­ble dur­ing its Pres­i­den­cy in the lat­ter half of 2009. The West­ern Balkan coun­tries are seen to be the clos­est to acces­sion, albeit some are fur­ther ahead than oth­ers. Ice­landic talks are hoped to be ini­ti­at­ed soon as well.

For the first coun­try in line, Croa­t­ia, Swe­den act­ed to facil­i­tate the agree­ment to take the bor­der dis­pute between Slove­nia and Croa­t­ia to a court of arbi­tra­tion. Nine out of 35 Croa­t­ian nego­ti­a­tion chap­ters were closed dur­ing autumn 2009. Fur­ther­more, Ice­land sub­mit­ted its appli­ca­tion for EU mem­ber­ship in July 2009 and Ser­bia did the same in Decem­ber 2009. An impor­tant step in the process of inte­gra­tion lead­ing to mem­ber­ship is visa-free trav­el­ling. In July 2009, cit­i­zens of Mace­do­nia, Mon­tene­gro and Ser­bia, effec­tive from 19 Decem­ber 2009, were allowed to trav­el freely in most of Europe.11Euro­pean Union @ Unit­ed Nations: Croa­t­ia and Slove­nia agreed on bor­der issue – EU clos­er to enlarge­ment, 4 Novem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.eu-un.europa.eu/articles/en/article_9199_en.htm (last access: 16 June 2010); EurAc­tiv: Balkan visa deal hailed as ‘giant step’ for Mace­do­nia, 16 July 2009, avail­able at: www.euractiv.com/en/enlargement/balkan-eu-visa-deal-hailed-giant-step-macedonia/article-184185 (last access: 8 July 2019).

Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina has fall­en behind the oth­er coun­tries in the West­ern Balka­ns. Carl Bildt, in an inter­view, described how he had warned Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina that if they did not get their act togeth­er speed­ing up reforms, oth­er coun­tries would move ahead of them in visa lib­er­al­i­sa­tion and then again in the mem­ber­ship appli­ca­tion process. Still, Bosnia did not do so and the coun­try was con­se­quent­ly not includ­ed among those to receive visa lib­er­al­i­sa­tion. As the for­eign min­is­ter sees it, Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina risks falling a num­ber of years behind. One fac­tor that makes it even more risky is the upcom­ing par­lia­men­tary elec­tion sched­uled for Octo­ber 2010. Elec­tions are by nature divi­sive in every coun­try, but, in Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina, they are divi­sive along eth­nic lines, which makes the sit­u­a­tion worse. This is, how­ev­er, a prob­lem that the Bosni­ans must be able to solve them­selves: “The EU is a union of sov­er­eign democ­ra­cies, not pro­tec­torates. Bosn­ian lead­ers need to demon­strate that they are a coun­try and they can only do so by work­ing among them­selves. All in all, the EU has got­ten the Balka­ns mov­ing for­ward and Bosnia should be able to move for­ward as well.”22Carl Bildt: Inter­vju med Carl Bildt in Turk­ish Pol­i­cy Quar­ter­ly [Inter­view with Carl Bildt in Turk­ish Pol­i­cy Quar­ter­ly], 14 Decem­ber 2009.

Carl Bildt sees the South Cau­ca­sus region as hav­ing a Euro­pean per­spec­tive; how­ev­er, in his mind, it is at this stage too ear­ly to say whether this will ever lead to mem­ber­ship. Geor­gia is con­sid­er­ably ahead of the oth­er two South Cau­casian coun­tries, but it is not at EU stan­dard. It has also been han­dling eco­nom­ic issues rel­a­tive­ly well, but, in the words of the For­eign Min­is­ter, one should not under­es­ti­mate the eco­nom­ic dif­fi­cul­ties ahead in the econ­o­my. The Abk­hazia and South Osse­tia prob­lems will take time to resolve, Bildt believes. The EU will stay firm­ly com­mit­ted to Georgia’s ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty, but we will have to wait “for the con­stel­la­tion of stars to change in some sort of way” for a full solu­tion to be achieved. In the mean­time, Geor­gia should con­cen­trate on demo­c­ra­t­ic and eco­nom­ic reforms towards Euro­peani­sa­tion. This would also, he thinks, pro­vide the best pos­si­ble grounds for the solu­tion of the Abk­hazia and South Osse­tia prob­lems.33Ibid.

Azer­bai­jan and Arme­nia will also need to be involved, as the EU has no wish to cre­ate divi­sions in the area. Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ments with all three coun­tries are there­fore now on the agen­da, accord­ing to Bildt. The hope is that these agree­ments would cre­ate incen­tives for the coun­tries to move for­ward with the nec­es­sary eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal reforms. In addi­tion, it could also, hope­ful­ly, cre­ate an incen­tive for the res­o­lu­tion of region­al dis­putes. All three coun­tries would clear­ly have much to gain from work­ing togeth­er, also in eco­nom­ic terms.44Ibid.

Swe­den is also in favour of Turk­ish mem­ber­ship. Dur­ing the Swedish Pres­i­den­cy, nego­ti­a­tions with the EU were opened on 21 Decem­ber 2009 on the chap­ter of envi­ron­ment. Accord­ing to news­pa­pers, it took place only after strong pres­sure by Carl Bildt.55Dagens Nyheter, 12 Decem­ber 2009.

Swe­den, how­ev­er, sees Turk­ish mem­ber­ship as an issue for the future, after con­sid­er­able reforms have been made in Turkey towards ful­fill­ing the Copen­hagen Cri­te­ria. Carl Bildt expressed the Swedish view in the fol­low­ing way in the annu­al for­eign pol­i­cy declaration:

“We wel­come the con­tin­ued demo­c­ra­t­ic tran­si­tion in Turkey. We view arrests of demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed politi­cians with con­cern and see the country’s reforms – with their increased human rights pro­tec­tion – as a devel­op­ment of very great sig­nif­i­cance for the future. Although much remains to be achieved, not least a new and mod­ern con­sti­tu­tion with greater pro­tec­tion for polit­i­cal rights, we are con­vinced that the Euro­pean Union will be both more dynam­ic eco­nom­i­cal­ly and stronger polit­i­cal­ly with Turkey as a mem­ber. This would show even more clear­ly that our Euro­pean coop­er­a­tion can bridge the antag­o­nisms that in times past char­ac­terised our continent’s his­to­ry, and con­tin­ue to char­ac­terise parts of our world.”66Carl Bildt, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs: State­ment of Gov­ern­ment Pol­i­cy in the Par­lia­men­tary Debate on For­eign Affairs, Gov­ern­ment Offices of Swe­den, 17 Feb­ru­ary 2010, p. 5.

Swe­den has giv­en Turkey some praise but also seri­ous crit­i­cism for poli­cies under­tak­en dur­ing recent times, the crit­i­cism direct­ed at cer­tain acts by the polit­i­cal lead­er­ship, the Turk­ish Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court and the Turk­ish Army. Carl Bildt saw it, for exam­ple, as dis­turb­ing that the vote to out­law the Kur­dish Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty was tak­en by una­nim­i­ty with­in the con­sti­tu­tion­al court. The Kur­dish issue is seen as the most crit­i­cal one in the mod­erni­sa­tion and Euro­peani­sa­tion of Turkey. Cyprus is anoth­er issue, which, although not for­mal­ly con­nect­ed to the Turk­ish acces­sion process, is seen as very crit­i­cal for it. Reach­ing an agree­ment is in both Turkey’s and Greece’s inter­ests and the essen­tial require­ment is now seen to be lead­er­ship in Turkey and Greece.77Carl Bildt: Inter­vju med Carl Bildt in Turk­ish Pol­i­cy Quar­ter­ly [Inter­view with Carl Bildt in Turk­ish Pol­i­cy Quar­ter­ly], 14 Decem­ber 2009.

The East­ern Part­ner­ship (EaP), being orig­i­nal­ly a Swedish-Pol­ish pro­pos­al launched in 2008 and accept­ed by the EU in May 2009, con­tin­ues to be a strong Swedish inter­est. The EaP is con­sid­ered impor­tant for the con­tin­ued good coop­er­a­tion with and inte­gra­tion of the six coun­tries of Arme­nia, Azer­bai­jan, Belarus, Geor­gia, Moldo­va and Ukraine. The orig­i­nal pro­pos­al was, how­ev­er, watered down in order to be accept­ed by the EU: two of the most impor­tant ele­ments – visa free trav­el­ling and free trade areas – were no longer includ­ed. The for­mer met oppo­si­tion based on the fear of ille­gal work­ers and crim­i­nal ele­ments tak­ing advan­tage of it. The Swedish efforts dur­ing its Pres­i­den­cy were there­fore lim­it­ed to mak­ing visa process­es sim­pler and less bureau­crat­ic. The lat­ter was seen by some coun­tries as lead­ing to too much com­pe­ti­tion for their own agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts, and its intro­duc­tion was there­fore post­poned to a future stage of the EaP. Anoth­er dif­fer­ence was in the per­cep­tion of the EaP and relat­ed to tim­ing: after the Geor­gia con­flict of August 2008, many coun­tries came to inter­pret the EaP as a kind of bul­wark against Rus­sia, which increased sup­port for it, but was far from the orig­i­nal idea of the Pol­ish-Swedish proposal.

In the annu­al for­eign pol­i­cy dec­la­ra­tion, the Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs declared that, apart from the impor­tant steps tak­en dur­ing the Swedish Pres­i­den­cy for the imple­men­ta­tion of the EaP, the gov­ern­ment will also con­tribute to its fur­ther devel­op­ment dur­ing 2010 in order to pro­mote reforms and EU inte­gra­tion among these coun­tries. Accord­ing to Carl Bildt, “fund­ing of nec­es­sary reforms in our part­ner coun­tries, sim­pler oppor­tu­ni­ties for trav­el and work to and with­in the EU, trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion and a strength­ened role for civ­il soci­ety are all pri­or­i­ty areas.”88Carl Bildt, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs: State­ment of Gov­ern­ment Pol­i­cy in the Par­lia­men­tary Debate on For­eign Affairs, Gov­ern­ment Offices of Swe­den, 17 Feb­ru­ary 2010, p. 5.

For­eign Min­is­ter Carl Bildt has brought up the visa issue as regards Ukraine in the EU. This was done in con­nec­tion with the Span­ish pro­pos­al for visa-free reg­u­la­tion as con­cerns Rus­sia. Bildt did not object to this, but argued that there has to be a region­al approach to the whole set of prob­lems regard­ing visa-free reg­u­la­tions. For exam­ple, we should have approx­i­mate­ly the same approach towards the east as we have towards the Balka­ns. As con­cerns the Balka­ns, we have put up cri­te­ria for visa-free trav­el­ling, say­ing to them that if they com­ply with these cri­te­ria they will get visa free trav­el­ling. Swe­den argues that this should also con­cern coun­tries like Rus­sia, Ukraine, Moldo­va, Geor­gia and, the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, also Belarus. This will prob­a­bly ulti­mate­ly be the Euro­pean pol­i­cy too but not yet. Right now, Bildt argues that this is a politi­cised issue. Rus­sia has a bet­ter arrange­ment than Ukraine, in spite of the fact that EU cit­i­zens are not required to have visas when vis­it­ing Ukraine, where­as the dif­fi­cul­ties for EU cit­i­zens vis­it­ing Rus­sia have increased dur­ing the last few years. The Swedish claim is that this sit­u­a­tion should be har­monised.99Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on EU Affairs, 7 May 2010, p. 8.

In May 2010, Carl Bildt act­ed togeth­er with the Pol­ish For­eign Min­is­ter to gath­er a num­ber of EU for­eign min­is­ters and the Ukrain­ian For­eign Min­is­ter to a meet­ing to learn more about how the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment sees its rela­tion­ship with the EU.1010Ibid., p. 11.

The Union for the Mediter­ranean as it looks today is con­sid­ered an impor­tant part of the EU’s broad Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy. The ver­sion first launched by France was crit­i­cised in Swe­den as in sev­er­al oth­er coun­tries, but, in the present ver­sion anchored with­in the EU, it is seen as hav­ing a pos­i­tive impact. In the words of Carl Bildt: “Coop­er­a­tion with part­ner coun­tries around the Mediter­ranean is mul­ti­fac­eted and of strate­gic impor­tance for the Euro­pean Union. It also means bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ties for strong Euro­pean com­mit­ment with­in areas that are impor­tant to Swe­den, such as human rights, democ­ra­cy, gen­der equal­i­ty, trade, invest­ment and the envi­ron­ment.”1111Carl Bildt, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs: State­ment of Gov­ern­ment Pol­i­cy in the Par­lia­men­tary Debate on For­eign Affairs, Gov­ern­ment Offices of Swe­den, 17 Feb­ru­ary 2010, p. 6.

    Footnotes

  • 1Euro­pean Union @ Unit­ed Nations: Croa­t­ia and Slove­nia agreed on bor­der issue – EU clos­er to enlarge­ment, 4 Novem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.eu-un.europa.eu/articles/en/article_9199_en.htm (last access: 16 June 2010); EurAc­tiv: Balkan visa deal hailed as ‘giant step’ for Mace­do­nia, 16 July 2009, avail­able at: www.euractiv.com/en/enlargement/balkan-eu-visa-deal-hailed-giant-step-macedonia/article-184185 (last access: 8 July 2019).
  • 2Carl Bildt: Inter­vju med Carl Bildt in Turk­ish Pol­i­cy Quar­ter­ly [Inter­view with Carl Bildt in Turk­ish Pol­i­cy Quar­ter­ly], 14 Decem­ber 2009.
  • 3Ibid.
  • 4Ibid.
  • 5Dagens Nyheter, 12 Decem­ber 2009.
  • 6Carl Bildt, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs: State­ment of Gov­ern­ment Pol­i­cy in the Par­lia­men­tary Debate on For­eign Affairs, Gov­ern­ment Offices of Swe­den, 17 Feb­ru­ary 2010, p. 5.
  • 7Carl Bildt: Inter­vju med Carl Bildt in Turk­ish Pol­i­cy Quar­ter­ly [Inter­view with Carl Bildt in Turk­ish Pol­i­cy Quar­ter­ly], 14 Decem­ber 2009.
  • 8Carl Bildt, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs: State­ment of Gov­ern­ment Pol­i­cy in the Par­lia­men­tary Debate on For­eign Affairs, Gov­ern­ment Offices of Swe­den, 17 Feb­ru­ary 2010, p. 5.
  • 9Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on EU Affairs, 7 May 2010, p. 8.
  • 10Ibid., p. 11.
  • 11Carl Bildt, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs: State­ment of Gov­ern­ment Pol­i­cy in the Par­lia­men­tary Debate on For­eign Affairs, Gov­ern­ment Offices of Swe­den, 17 Feb­ru­ary 2010, p. 6.

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.