The global challenges of the Swedish EU-Presidency

, by Hannes Mård

The global challenges of the Swedish EU-Presidency

On 1 July 2009 Sweden took the place as holder of the six-month rotating EU- presidency. Broad smiles and firm handshakes characterized the first meeting between the Commission and the Swedish government led by Fredrik Reinfeldt during a ceremony at city hall in Stockholm. The leader of the Commission José Manuel Barrosso was quoted saying: “Those wanting a long summer on the beach, or a very quiet autumn, will be disappointed”. This is at least to say the truth, considering the challenges awaiting not just the Swedish presidency, but the EU as whole during the coming months.

One of the top priorities for the Swedish presidency will be the issue of reaching a unified voice, and rally other world economic and industrial powers such as China, USA and India behind an agreement to reduce carbon emissions during the climate summit in Copenhagen. But it is not only the big industrialized countries that will pose a challenging task for the Swedish presidency and the EU. One of the other main goals, with regard to the climate issue, is to get EU to agree on measures to help developing countries reduce emissions and actively work to obtain more energy from alternative, renewable sources.

Perhaps the most important and acute issue, the financial crisis, has been set to a high priority for the Swedish presidency. The realisation by most of EU leaders, in the aftermath of the financial breakdown, that the national supervisory bodies no longer are sufficient enough with regard to regulating and controlling the globalized, and cross border economy that today characterize most parts of the world, and in particularly the EU. On the agenda is to reach an agreement on a new structure for a European body up to the task of supervising the EU economy and monitor stability to prevent a future crisis of the same magnitude as the present one.

Europe will have to show that it is possible to have economic growth and stability that brings about a positive impact on the environment.

Although prevention of future crisis is an important issue, the issue of recovery will be widely observed and is an important topic during the presidency. The aim is to lay the foundation for a successor to the Lisbon Strategy, which will utilize the crisis as an opportunity to create and promote growth that ensures environmental sustainability, and also make it easier for consumers and entrepreneurs to take advantage of the internal market.

Immigration, crime and security were one of the first topics of the presidency, assembling the EU justice ministers to an informal meeting, to discuss the so called Stockholm Programme which will put the outline for the EU work on security and immigration matters for the next five years. The Stockholm Programme aims to reach consensus and a streamlined, to the extent to which it is possible, policy in all EU countries to deal with and treat the applications of asylum seekers. Cross border crime and cooperation between countries to deal with narcotics and human trafficking will also be on the agenda for the follow-up – formal meeting – set to take place in November.

The challenges of the EU and its presidency are big, and if we are to see any results from this presidency on these matters, Reinfeldt will have to be a strong and assertive leader. Also, the rest of the EU leaders will have to face up to their responsibilities to the EU citizens, in the end they are the ones who will have to pay the price if there isn’t a unified and collective effort to solve the financial crisis and prevent a new one, or put up a strong leadership in the world when in comes to combating climate change. Europe will have to show that it is possible to have economic growth and stability that brings about a positive impact on the environment if we are to gather the US and the upcoming industrial powers of Asia behind a climate deal.

Sweden is a small country in Europe, nonetheless Sweden has been very assertive when it comes to combating climate change and is one of the few countries that actually have reached to goals for the Kyoto agreement. Perhaps this will provide Reinfeldt with enough legitimacy in eyes of the EU and the world to be a leader on this matter? The only thing certain, is that the stakes are high and action is urgent, but what the outcome will be, we’ll have to wait for the climate summit in Copenhagen, and the Spanish presidency to see.

- Swedish EU presidency, source: google images

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