Security-political importance of enlargement

Malmö University/Stockholm International Peace

For a long time, all the major political actors in Sweden – for instance, all parties in the parliament – have been in favour of a broad and continued enlargement of the EU. Although the opposition parties are not as vocal as in previous years on this issue, there are no signs of redirection of policy – to take one example, the Green Party continues to argue that rather than the EU determining the outcome, it is to be decided (preferably in a referendum) by each individual country whether they would like to join the EU or not.[1] The government, for its part, has repeatedly stressed the security-political importance of enlargement as well as the natural progression to the Western Balkans and also Turkey. The reason, in the end, for this approach is to be found in the logic of enlargement as a security process (based on interdependence, democratization and economic growth) of historical proportions.[2] In the annul declaration on foreign policy, the government put it the following way: “Sweden will continue to be a clear voice for a Union open to European countries that want to and can meet the requirements made by membership. Ultimately this is about peace and freedom in our part of the world in our time.”[3]
 
In relation to the concluded negotiations on the reform treaty the government regards the outcome of keeping the enlargement process intact (although not articulating any specific speed for it) as very important – “No new obstacles were introduced to further enlargement, a very important issue to the Swedish government.”[4]
 
It should also be noted that the government makes an explicit connection between enlargement and the EU as a global power. Foreign Minister Carl Bildt argues: “I belong to those that hope that we will one day see Turkey as a full member of the European Union…Such a European Union would in my opinion be an even stronger global force than the one we can envisage today.”[5]
 
Regarding the future of Kosovo, following the declaration of independence, it was quite readily understood what the Swedish response would be, given Sweden’s history of underlining the importance of international law and national self-determination (for instance seen in relation to the fall of the Soviet Union and the recognition of the Baltic states) and its prior engagement for solutions to the political problems of the Western Balkans. The government waited, however, with its formal recognition until March 4, 2008, in order to discuss with and get the approval of the opposition parties in Utrikesnämnden (the formal foreign affairs council that includes the party leaders of all the parties in parliament). The fact that the government waited for three weeks before formally recognizing the new state led to criticism from among others the Social Democrats, who would have liked a much more rapid response. The Left Party, on the other hand, wanted to wait even longer, referring to the importance and severity of the issue.[6] 


[1] See http://www.mp.se (last accesss: 04.03.2008).

[2] Speech by Carl Bildt, Minister for Foreign Affairs, at “The Bosphorus Conference: The EU and Turkey – Drifting Apart?”, 2007-10-06, available at: http://www.regeringen.se; Speech by Cecilia Malmström, Minister for EU Affairs, in the Swedish parliament concerning the Swedish Council Presidency, 2008-01-24, available at: http://www.regeringen.se (last accesss: 04.03.2008).

[3] Statement of Government Policy in the Parliamentary Debate on Foreign Affairs, 2008-02-13, available at: http://www.regeringen.se (last accesss: 04.03.2008).

[4] Speech by Cecilia Malmström, Minister for EU Affairs, “The New EU Treaty – a Big Deal?”, 2007-09-17.

[5] Bildt, “The Bosphorus Conference: The EU and Turkey – Drifting Apart?”, 2007-10-06.

[6] See the government web-site for the latest information, available at: http://www.regeringen.se (last accesss: 04.03.2008); also ”Sverige erkänner Kosovo” [Sweden recognizes Kosovo], Dagens Nyheter, 2008-03-04, available at: http://www.dn.se (last accesss: 04.03.2008).