Gunilla Herolf



1. Euroscepticism and European Parliament elections

The EU should focus on important issues

Security-political importance of enlargement

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]

Ratification process continued, opposition divided

The view of the government is that the Irish ‘No’ is a setback for the EU, which according to the Minister for EU Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, has accomplished to produce a draft treaty that is open, democratic, more efficient and better than any previous one.[1] Urban Ahlin, foreign policy spokesman for the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, agrees with her, seeing the Lisbon Treaty as better fit for a large Union, thus giving the EU better possibilities than the Nice Treaty to work with the important issues of continued enlargement, a new climate change agreement, stimulating growth, and building a socially fairer Europe.[2]
The views on Swedish ratification differ. Urban Ahlin argues that there are reasons to wait. The Polish President’s ‘No’to sign the ratification document and the German decision to let ratification be decided by the constitutional court underline the concerns that exist in Sweden after the verdict in the Laval case, and Sweden should therefore take its time to deliberate on whether it should ratify the treaty.[3] However, the Swedish government in early July decided to continue its process of ratification, Cecilia Malmström stating that, in spite of the Polish and the German decisions, the Swedish procedure, aiming at a decision in the parliament on 20 November, will not be delayed.

Getting the Lisbon Treaty ratified – Swedish Presidency 2009

Sweden has historically been rather hesitant of far-reaching supranational cooperation within the EU and has to a large extent approached the EU from an intergovernmental perspective. This characterization has been gradually changing in recent years, especially so in the last two years since the centre-right coalition government has been in office. The current government has repeatedly stated that Sweden is to belong to the core of European integration.[1] Among the priorities is of course to get the reform treaty ratified, a treaty that is perceived by the government to be substantially positive. “We are very satisfied with the result”, proclaimed Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt already after the European Council meeting in June 2007.[2] In the government’s work program for EU affairs for the fall of 2007, it was further noted that it was to be a Swedish priority to work actively for the intergovernmental conference on treaty reform to execute the mandate given by the European Council.[3] The Social Democrats are equally positive to Sweden’s ratification of the treaty and neither the government nor the Social Democrats want a Swedish referendum on the issue. In contrast, as has been the repeatedly the case regarding EU issues in Sweden, the Green Party and the Left Party are of a different opinion.[4]

A Eurozone outsider ready to give financial support

Gunilla Herolf
The financial package regarding Greece, which was agreed on by the Euro countries at the European Council meeting on 25/26 March 2010, and their preparedness to support Greece if asked to do so was assessed positively. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, when commenting on this agreement, also saw IMF participation in such a rescue operation as very positive, since the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has the expertise needed and is a long-term partner that can assist a country in need of vast and difficult reforms. He had problems, he said, in understanding why some countries were against this, not least since Iceland and Latvia, as well as other countries, are already using IMF programmes. Sweden, being outside the Euro area, had minimal influence on the package; nonetheless, the Prime Minister was quite content with the substance of this agreement.[1]

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

Gunilla Herolf
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.[1]

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

Gunilla Herolf
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.[1] 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.”[2] 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.[3]

The upcoming general elections

Gunilla Herolf
The Swedish political discussion was already, during the spring, dominated by the general elections to be held in September 2010. Both the opposition (the Social Democratic Party – s, the Green Party – mp, and the Left Party – v) and the governing Alliance for Sweden (the Moderates – m, the Liberal Party – fp, the Centre Party – c, and the Christian Democrats – kd) have put forward their main ideas for the future government. Prominent areas of the ongoing discussion have, as usual, been jobs, welfare and taxes.[1] This year, proposals dealing with the environment have been more prominent than before, most probably due to the more important role of the Green Party in the opposition, following sharp increases for this party in opinion polls.
Reactions to the economic crisis in Europe have not become a divisive issue thus far. In the first big debate, both Fredrik Reinfeldt and Mona Sahlin (social democrat and opposition leader) agreed that, while the Euro countries had the primary responsibility, Sweden should do what it can to help.[2] Even though Sweden is outside the Euro, its small, open and global economy makes it vulnerable to crises in other countries and it is therefore in Sweden’s interest to do so. Since the Swedish economy is in very good shape, there is no discussion on austerity measures.

Swedish EU Presidency and Swedish defence issues

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
The presidency issues
Many of the issues to be put in focus during the Swedish Presidency have been mentioned above. Climate, energy and environment are often mentioned as the most important issues. Another one is employment, growth and competitiveness; a third one is a safer and more transparent Europe; a fourth one is the Baltic Sea region and relations with neighbouring countries; and a fifth one is the EU as a global actor together with continued enlargement. A further theme is that of efficiency: making the EU work better. This has been brought up by Cecilia Malmström, Minister for EU Affairs, mentioning crisis management, which today is a responsibility shared by several Commissioners rather than having one person responsible for it.
Baltic Sea initiative